Compass Box Peat Monster 10th Anniversary
In celebration of the ten year anniversary of their best selling whisky, Compass Box tweaked the recipe a tad and gave us loyal followers a little bit of a treat. A limited edition (whatever that means in this day and age) of The Peat Monster dressed up in sexy Bosch meets Dali-esque artwork. Love it. Compass Box has always wowed with presentation, and this version of The Peat Monster is no exception.
The initial release of this expression was built on an amalgamation of Caol Ila and Ardmore. Later on, Laphroaig was added to the mix. And now…while I’m uncertain as to the continued inclusion of the latter two (I’ll assume the recipe is consistent), there is apparently an additional few casks of Clynelish. Peated Clynelish at that. Hmmmm…does that sound suspiciously like Brora to any of you? Highly doubt that’s what it is but, man…what I wouldn’t give to taste those peated Clynelish casks anyway.
Having said all of this…The Peat Monster story has been told before, so let’s get on to the dram.
For the sake of compare/contrast I tasted this side-by-side with the standard edition of Peat Monster (albeit one from a couple years back). The differences are subtle, but appreciable. Let me add though…one could be worse served than to relax with two different variants of this dram in front of them, as I am this eve. To quote the late, and especially great, Shannon Hoon: “Life ain’t so shitty”.
Nose: All that you’d expect in terms of peat and smoke. Initially I thought this was a little bit creamier than the regular edition, but as it develops the citrus comes forth and sharpens things up a bit. Malty with some beautiful natural caramel notes. Oily and briny. Pepper. Kippers and capers. Aside from a little bit of lemon and orange there’s not a lot in the way of fruit here. If anything…granny smith apple.
Palate: Smoke and earthy peat. Lemon, salt and melted vanilla ice cream. Something kinda tart, tangy and zippy. Not sure what that is exactly, but it works a treat in opening up every sensor on the tongue. Pepper. Tar. Black candies…or almost (but not quite)salt licorice. Yeah…this is a little creamier than the standard edition. Knowing ahead of time that the mainIslay component in here is Caol Ila is entirely unnecessarily, as it’s nearly unmistakeable off the cuff.
Thoughts: Different, but I can’t say better or worse than its predecessor. No need to split hairs on marks then; let’s score it the same as the other. Another great whisky from Glaser and co.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Opened one of my stashed bottles of this a couple of weeks ago. Like Ardbeg and Glenmorangie, if Glaser keeps putting out stuff like this, I’ll keep buying and drinking, NAS be damned! Different from his more recent Lost Blend, but both are good (I’d give an edge to the PM-10th). I need to open the newish Glasgow blend and an Oak Cross I have and have a HTHTHTH. Maybe I’ll also pick up a regular PM for another comparison. Wow! That’s 5 NAS whiskies! I feel like a heretic, but a happy one! I’ve also been enjoying a Companta and Tusail, but I must say my currently favorite open bottles are Lagavulin 12 (2014) and Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof (Batch 6; 70.1% ABV), so I do agree that age matters in many cases. And I do think they could put a breakdown for us geeks, as it would make for interesting reading. And it might help promote interest in the face of declining sales.
Age matters in many cases? In what case doesn’t it matter? I think you’re confusing not knowing a whisky’s age with a whisky not having one and/or it not being important. If Lag 12 and Elijah Craig 12 lost their age statements tomorrow, would that mean their age no longer matters because some marketer said so, or if/because they became Compass Box products?
A lot of Compass Box products are good, but in what way are they good, or even just the whiskies they are, outside of their age/composition (that you just don’t have information about in their case)?
Compass box produces good blends and vatted malts. An age statement won’t make them taste better or worse.
Lag 12 would taste the same if it were called Lagavulin CS, as long as it had the same ingredients.
I think age is one of the things that matters. We know that. But there is something to be said that a number on the bottle actually does not enhance the flavour IN the bottle.
I think the Bowmore 25 recently reviewed is a prime example of that.
Well…EJ12 regular is not anywhere as good as the BP, so age is not the end-all. I would rather buy WT NAS 101 any day. The best buy among Macallan was the CS (an NAS), which was $55-$65 before being phased out, not the $200 18 nor $125 15FO. Most Ardbeg’s are NAS and are both very good and reasonably priced. Same with Glenmorangie Annual releases. Some distillers blend young and old wisely. Others, such as with the new Glenlivet Nadurra, don’t. Aging only helps if the base spirit and casks are good. But again, I see no reason to not release such information on the bottle, so I somewhat agree. It’s a problem the SWA needs to rectify.
With all due respect to everyone, I’m getting frustrated with what is seeming an almost willful ignorance to the true issue. NO ONE IS SAYING SOME NAS WHISKY ISN’T GOOD. PERIOD. PLEASE STOP JUSTIFYING EVERY DECENT ONE YOU TRY. Quite frankly any of us who are opposed to the concept don’t give a shit about either good or bad examples. It’s irrelevant to the point of protest. There’s no reason to be surprised that some are good or even great. The point being made is that these companies could still put an age on the bottle, albeit it would certainly be younger than they would hope you believe through the act of omission, yet choose not to in order to keep you blind. There is no pretense of assurance that declining quality will never be an issue, nor that the brands won’t incrementally creep the age in more and more youthful directions.
NAS is marketing. That is it. The big brands want the freedom to mask their lack of foresight in sustaining mature stock and to continue on unchecked in their outdated belief that consumers are too stupid to look past a number on the bottle and try it if it is young. They painted themselves into a corner years ago by telling us age mattered and now cannot get out with making a mess.
To be clear…No, I do not believe there is some big conspiracy. This is simply a matter of someone discovering a loophole and others following suit. Short term financial benefit…to be sure. Long term breach of trust…unquestionably.
Breach of trust…WOW!
If you were the prosecutor at the Duffy trial, he wouldn’t stand a chance!
Exactly! Take all the labels off all the best whiskies in your collection and then they’re all NAS – as well as N-ABV, N-Filtration Information, N-Caramel Information, N-Cask Information, N-Bottler Information and N-Distillery Information. They now all win, hands down, compared to anything that you have left, but they aren’t better whiskies for taking that information away, so what is the justification for doing it? Do you keep your labels on your bottles at home? If so, why? Not because it makes them better or worse whiskies, but because you occasionally like to know something about what you’ve just bought/poured? Hey, we’re on the same page! Would you accept buying whiskies that only said “whisky” on their label just because someone found it convenient for them to sell it to you that way as some of the information wouldn’t promote sales or, importantly, promote sales at prices offered? I don’t really care what anyone thinks of age as an influence on their buying, I just think that they should have the information TO consider instead of a marketer preempting that decision for them.
Age isn’t a panacea in that more is always better; there is such a thing as miscasking and overcasking. Some young whiskies are good but, just as that’s true, it’s also true that they are the whiskies they are, for better or worse, because they are young. I really like both Octomore and Hazelburn 8 but, much as I like them, no one can tell me that they wouldn’t be different (whether improved OR degraded OR just different) if they were only half as old or twice as old (and, yes, Octomore would then become some kind of “spirit drink” at 2 1/2). Age doesn’t mysteriously become “irrelevant” to whisky just because it isn’t disclosed by Ardbeg, Compass Box, or anybody else.
“With all due respect” it is not a case of “willful ignorance”, but a desire to present a counterpoint to what seems on the surface as somewhat shrill protestations by a extreme segment of the whisk(e)y community. I do not deny the right of those to present lengthy diatribes on the sins of NAS, but I also do not want the baby thrown out with the bath water (i.e. good NAS, if such exists). As you say, it’s just marketing. Why get so wound up? There are much more important things about which to gnash your teeth. I know there are in my life. But, sincerely, best of luck on your crusade. More info would be nice.
Well then actually provide the counterpoint, if you can, and move the debate forward – on what whiskies doesn’t age matter (and not just what whiskies you like but don’t know the age of because someone else made that decision for you)? If Lag 12 and Elijah Craig 12 lost their age statements tomorrow, would that mean their ages somehow no longer mattered just because they’re hidden yet, as you say, their ages matter now? If you take the label off your Lag 12 and make it NAS, does its age still matter? What factors would suddenly matter more and why? So far all I’ve heard is that “there are some good whiskies with NAS labels”, yet no one can show that their quality is dependent on their labeling or independent of their undisclosed age, but that amounts to the argument for “good NAS”.
It’s not willful ignorance to say ‘I’m gonna drink NAS whiskies’. I get that, even if I don’t agree with it. It IS willful ignorance, however, to continually bring up examples of good NAS malts in a ‘well, here’s another good one, so…’ type of manner. The point isn’t to do with good or bad whisky. It has to do with being backed into a corner by the brands to the point where we have to trust them regarding quality, because they have stripped away our objective metrics.
Here’s my analogy (albeit taken to a somewhat inappropriate extreme for the sake of clarity of the argument):
Joe: “I can’t support brand x shoes. Sweatshop labour, inhumane conditions, etc”
Bill: “Man…I love my shoes. Forget that other stuff. These are COMFY!”
Joe: “But don’t you see how wrong it is to allow this to continue?”
Bill: “As long as they’re always this comfy…I’ll keep buying!”
It seems like there are two sides speaking very different languages.
On the one hand, there are some good NAS whiskies so essentially the bad ones are ruining it for the good ones. I can see a point there. No one complained that Amrut had no age statements, and A’Bunadh and Ardbeg “something unpronounceable”, UNTIL NAS became such a fashion that they started throwing bad whiskies at us.
On the other hand (and Jeff I know you are very particular about not being misrepresented so I will try to generalize and not specifically attribute to you), there is an argument that there is no reason that age should not be on the label, and that the smart consumer will not be swayed by a low age statement.
Both arguments have merit. Both have flaws. Curt, you have more than eloquently pointed out that just because there are good NAS whiskies out there, it does not justify not stating the age. They would be just as good, and have the same contents, with a number on the label.
And yet, there are so many things in life where we don’t get such detailed information. What is the fat content of your steak at a steakhouse? How many days was the meat aged? Age matters in beef too but most of us seldom was check. For the “blends” in the supermarket, no one asks how old the ground beef is (except if it is past the “sell by” date. Same with cheese. They could provide that information. We’ve even been told that age matters with the beef example. So why do we accept that and not NAS whisky.
The way I see it, it would be nice to have age statements, but for the serious consumer who understands that there are many factors that go into quality whisky, length of maturation being just one of them, an age statement on the bottle is unlikely to affect our buying habits (unless we are leading a boycott).
When I buy whisky, age or NAS, it is based on one of 3 things:
1. Have I had it before and can I expect it to be good again (ie- is it the same batch?)
2. What are the reviews saying, should I take a chance? Again, batch specific.
3. Try before I buy, either in store, in a whisky club or sample from a friend.
To embrace NAS, you really have to believe that the whisky that it’s applied to isn’t a product of its age; that age can be omitted from the label because, for this given whisky, for better or worse, it would be the same at 3, 13 or 30. What are these whiskies? If whisky maturation is accepted as a time-sensitive process, then that’s what it is, and a label, or a marketer’s reluctance to discuss age for sales purposes, doesn’t change that.
There are indeed “so many things in life where we don’t get such detailed information”, but how is that an argument that such information should be provided on some whiskies but not on others chosen at the industry’s discretion, particularly when the industry maintains age information on ALL of its stock, whether it’s to be bottled as NAS or not? Is the information relevant or not? The industry seems to believe one thing but (occasionally) say another. Information always benefits the consumer and people didn’t get the increased level of product information (in all things) that they currently enjoy because anyone sat back and said “but it doesn’t really matter” or that a lack of information here justifies a lack of information there. Age statements won’t fix everything wrong with whisky, much less everything wrong with the beef industry? OK, but I think it’s a start with whisky anyway, and accepting NAS sure won’t fix either.
And as Curt has touched on, above, it is more than just the growing lack of product age information itself; it’s the growth/momentum of the idea that metrics, and the frame of reference they provide, don’t matter, and that’s not something to be embraced with any product. Some old cars are better than some new ones (depending on how you want to measure better), so should cars go NAS? After all, accident history, maintenance records, mileage, horsepower, safety rating, etc. “don’t tell the whole story” in terms of how much you’ll like an automobile, so maybe a car’s age, like those other metrics, is irrelevant.
“The way I see it, it would be nice to have age statements, but for the serious consumer who understands that there are many factors that go into quality whisky, length of maturation being just one of them, an age statement on the bottle is unlikely to affect our buying habits (unless we are leading a boycott).”
Age is not the only thing affecting a whisky’s quality/character, but it does have a large impact on almost every other factor, such as the influence of source water, barley, peating, cask type/size selection, and maturation environment – and the serious whisky consumer knows that. As Serge Valentin has said on Whiskyfun, “age is one of, if not the most important bit of information regarding any single malt whisky (it’s simply consubstantial)” so, again, if age isn’t to be termed “important”, what is – and so what else doesn’t the consumer “need to know” if they don’t need to know age, and why only on certain whiskies?
Age statements don’t just affect the choices of those “leading” or even advocating the boycott, they are affecting the choices of those participating in it – and that is key because, unlike those who just think that more age statements “would be nice” but do nothing to help bring them about it, others are taking action. We may or may not be successful, but it won’t be for lack of trying, which is something that some others can’t say.
And if you can answer any of the questions that I’ve asked Robert, please feel free.
Although somewhat sympathetic originally to this NAS crusade taken up by you guys, Ralfy and others, it now just bores me. You wish me to debate the topic, but I could only skim over a few parts of your very lengthy response, as it reminds me there is no sense in engaging with anyone with such extreme and narrow beliefs. And all over a drink! Whisk(e)y is meant to be enjoyed at the end of your workday, to relax you and make you smile. As long as the drink is good, I really don’t give a sh#t if it’s got an age or not. (Yes, I do understand the issue but do not find it important).
I probably had my first whisk(e)y before many of you were born. Back then the only single malts available in my area were the base 12’s of Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, neither of which I have ever liked. Then I had Glenmorangie 10 and was totally sold. Now we have multiple bottlings from a seemingly endless list of distillers, not only of Scotch, but also Bourbon, Irish, Canadian, etc. We are spoiled with a huge variety, but for some this is not enough. For me it is. However, in the spirit of protest, I will draw a line in the sand concerning the issue. From now on I pledge I will never buy a whisk(e)y that doesn’t come in a bottle, does not have a label on it somewhere, and is not at least 30% ABV!!! Now let’s all have a dram (or two!) and agree to disagree!
I know – you don’t have time to read, much less refute, the arguments that you have no answer for anyway (and it’s a fair point, because time wouldn’t help you; we both know that if age matters to any whisky, it matters to them all and a bottle doesn’t know what label’s on it), but you’ve got lots of time to talk about your first whiskies. My “very lengthy” response to you was 7 lines (but I did go on longer talking to Athena); yours is more than 12 and doesn’t deal with any of the issues. Nick Morgan is “bored” with the debate too, and for much the same reason: he doesn’t have much to say in defense of his POV.
A lot people do understand the argument against NAS and would like more product information (as you’ve said yourself), but the issue then boils down to what are they prepared to do to get it. When the answer for some is “nothing”, THEN people start to work backwards to justify their inaction and suddenly find NAS isn’t so bad – “there are some good ones” – but they’d still like more info if others can get it for them. Many will then go on to complain about this or that individual whisky as if it’s a crime against consumers while continuing to support a systematic form of marketing which they know to be dishonest at its core but “don’t care about”.
Anyway, take care
I like the dram or two idea.
Curt, what’s your source on this old Peat Monster containing peated Clynelish? Like you, I find that intriguing.
A little targeted Googling turned up no other references to the Clynelish portion of this being peated.