This is a special dram. Momentous, really. One of those whiskies that stands to define a place and time. That moment (midnight of November 22nd, 2011) can be witnessed here, for those with a bent to history (however recent).
John Glaser’s ‘get in the ring’ approach to whisky making has led to a reputation as sort of the people’s champion of thumbing your nose at authority (or antiquated and self-serving authority anyway). For this alone, the rebellious side of me will always hold him, and Compass Box, in high regard. Now, couple that attitude with a damn fine run of whiskies and, well…
We’re fans of Compass Box. Let’s leave it at that.
In 2009, new legislation (‘The Scotch Whisky Regulations’) decreed, among other things, that the term ‘Vatted Malt’ was to be invalidated. Enforcement of the new mandate was to go into effect as of the back end of 2011. This semantic reformation, while of negligable impact to some, was monumental to Compass Box.
From the pen of Glaser: “At midnight on November 22nd, 2011, an era ends. After that point, it will be illegal for whiskymakers to use the term Vatted Malt to describe a Scotch whisky made from the combination of two or more single malts. From 23rd November 2011, this style of whisky will by law have to be labelled as a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky. Vatted Malt is a term that has been in use since at least the 19th century. It represents a style of whisky in which Compass Box specialise, so it has special meaning for us. Therefore we have decided to take a lead in the education of whisky drinkers about the new legal definitions of the 5 styles of Scotch whisky. We feel that this is an important change to the law that needs to be explained to whisky lovers. As the new laws come into effect, we want to take this opportunity to educate, to look to the future and to help the industry as a whole.”
The Last Vatted Malt is Compass Box’s eloquently expressed response to this new approach. A commemoration of the end of an era; a final ‘F U’ to the powers that be; and an acceptance of the challenge. All of which would have been mere ceremony if Scotland’s last vatted malt wasn’t such a phenomenally executed piece of work.
I’ll go one further, and say that this is unquestionably John Glaser’s most impressive offering to date (at least as far as I have been able to taste). It is a marriage of 36 year old Glenallachie (22% of the malt) and 26 year old Caol Ila (78% of the malt). And, man…does this work a treat! One of the most subtlely sublime older peated drams I’ve ever tasted. A beautiful one-off I’d love to see repeated at some point (albeit under a different name, of course).
Nose: Gorgeous and rich. So mature. So much balance. So much class. Smoke and smooth natural caramels. Creamy sweetness and mildly spiced white bread dough. Fruit salad in sugar syrup (think canned fruit cocktail). Now some more mature dried fruit notes. This is really an astounding nose. The earthiness of peat has been softened to allow the smoke to show through. Just the slightest bit of the typical Caol Ila briny citric edge. Immaculate.
Palate: Creamy…caramel-y…smoky…fruity…sexy…sassy. Oh, man…I truly love this whisky. Fruits in melted toffee. The perfect harmony struck here between spice, smoke, wood and cereal. Almost too easy a drinker, even at 53.7%. I could happily curl up with this bottle and a great book until the wee hours.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt