The finest grain whisky I ever tasted was a stunning 45 year old Clan Denny Girvan from 1965. It was enjoyed over a rather magical (read: drunken) evening out with Mark Connolly and the fine folk of the Glasgow Whisky Club. The clean crispness and utterly pristine profile of that dram were a lesson learned in just how incredible very mature grain whisky can be.
In terms of all grain whiskies I’ve tried to date, Compass Box Hedonism Maximus is second only to that one particular Girvan. Prestigious company to keep, in my humble opinion.
Long time ATW readers may recall my waxing poetical in an old Compass Box tasting event write-up about how I was quite taken with the first editions of Compass Box Hedonism. If so, try to imagine the personal appeal of an uber-aged variant. Maximus is built of 42 year old Invergordon distilled in 1965, and 29 year old Cameron Bridge distilled in 1979. (I’ve read Carsebridge, as opposed to Cameron Bridge, in a few write-ups now, but that seems unfounded, especially in light of the CB website itself mentioning the two contributing distilleries). Age has again worked her magic on this spirit, and such a lengthy slumber has done amazing things to this blend of grains.
I concede it is highly possible many of you would score this higher than I do. It’s important to recognize that this is not my favorite profile (being so close to a bourbon or a rye, as it is), so any score posted above will carry some bias. At the end of the day though…it’s just a number. Hopefully the words will help convey that this is an exceptionally composed whisky.
Ok…one final note. This review, like many here on ATW, is not exactly timely. By that I mean that it’s not exactly timely from a marketing perspective (’cause that’s not the point of this website). This whisky was limited to 1,500 bottles and by now is most likely but a distant memory for most retailers. Having said that…please do recognize the relevance of discussion on this one, and let this be something of an overt endorsement of the Compass Box brand. Their core releases are leaps and bounds ahead of so much of what is out there on the market, while their special releases (Maximum, The Last Vatted Malt, The General, etc) are utterly brilliant.
Nose: Such sweet vanilla and coconut. I’d actually guess this was a bourbon, based on first nosing. A lot of oak…a lot of spice. Cinnamon and nutmeg over toasted marshmallow. Distant hint of cherry lip balm…like the smell you cling to as she’s walking away. A touch of orange, tangerine with white chocolate and faint smoke. Frothy, creamy, buttery toffee foam.
Palate: Waxy, spicy, oaky bourbon. It’s not bourbon, of course, but that would be my first guess. Very sweet, but incredibly well-composed. Barfi (Indian sweets). More spice…more oak. Touch of rosewater.
Thoughts: Another one of the high-end compass box releases that is unequivocally worth your hard-earned dollars. I believe I’ve referred to CB mainman, John Glaser, as an alchemist at some point in the past. Case in point.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
“By that I mean that it’s not exactly timely from a marketing perspective” – that depends what the goal of the marketing is: to actually sell the whisky at hand, or to raise brand awareness and prestige, which seems to sort of be the focus of the remainder of the paragraph, “something of an overt endorsement of the Compass Box brand”. I don’t think the goal of your blog is marketing; I’m only pointing out that marketing, while only serving one master, can do so in many ways. Nice review otherwise, even though the whisky might well be hard to find.
I hear tap water has little in the way of marketing, though I did see a now dated review video tribute to Ralfy that included specifically Sidney water.
I hear that after that video the profile of tap water was raised, but the price was relatively static.
From what I hear, tap water, unlike whisky, isn’t going to need any marketing for some time to come – and the price isn’t stable at all.
Not really the point…
I admit I’m not clear on it, so what was the point?
Jeff, I think the point is that Skeptic was trying to gently, sarcastically, and unsuccessfully suggest that he would be more interested in positive comments that speak to the enjoyment of whiskies than consistently negative ones. But that’s just my guess.
It’s apparent you have concerns with certain aspects if the industry. Perhaps it bears repeating less often.
I think that’s what he was suggesting.
Thanks for your theory, Dave – it’s interesting, although it reads a good deal into two sentences which, to me, remain a bit of a non sequitur, even on the topic of tap water in Australia. My own theory is that Skeptic’s comment was just an attempt at one-upsmanship which saw the wheels fall off – but that, my friend, if I can be permitted to say so, is the beauty of debate and differing perspectives. But even if you’re right, those looking for positive comments on whisky should, I think, either usually find a decent number here to suit their taste or find it well within their power to write some. More power to them, I say, and far be it from me to ever say that perhaps such sentiments, common as they may sometimes be, ever bear repeating less often.
Y’know what though?
While increasingly more curmudgeonly by the day as I settle comfortably into my mid-30s, I do come from a slightly more laid back Western Canadian vantage (read: hippie-ish). In other words…I’m a rather positive cup-half-full kinda guy. Or at least publicly.
Having said that, there are some incredibly valuable voices out there, such as Jeff’s and that of the anonymous “V”-like figurehead (aka Mongo) of My Annoying Opinions, that need to be not only heard, but respected. They provide food for thought for so many out there who may be less critical as thinkers, or who don’t necessarily know where to go for some of the less…errr…pro-industry whisky natter.
I’m on a soapbox here with the site to a degree. I don’t care to outwardly offend if I can help it, but I also try to rein it in a little. The delete key is VERY often my friend. This means I sort of toe the line a little. While I may often think cynically, I may not always post so. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking it. In fact…much of what the so-called negative or cynical voices out there post is almost identical with my own line of thinking. Again…whisky politics get in the way a bit. And no…not meaning that if I offend, my whisky taps get turned off.
Anyway…don’t forget that Aristotle, Galileo and Jesus (if you’re a believer) were all dissenters. And all worth hearing. 😉
I find it very refreshing and courageous (almost on the level of Dominic Roskrow’s observation that what professional whisky writers do “isn’t journalism – it’s marketing”) to have it acknowledged that sometimes naysayers will express what others are thinking but don’t write, or that there even IS such a thing as “whisky politics” and that it might not always be beneficial to open whisky debate.
Looking at current whisky trends, I do see the subject from a generally “glass-half-empty” POV. I really do wish it were not so, but that would require a change in the trending itself so, failing that, I do actually believe (not just for the sake of argument, or pulling anyone’s chain) that things will get worse for consumers before they get better. Yet even more discouraging to me than any level of disagreement that I could ever experience in any discussion of these issues is the general acquiescence and lack of debate the issues themselves enjoy given the huge number of consumers they directly affect. I don’t see how consumers can possibly help themselves by staying quiet (but maybe most don’t think anything can be done anyway – and they may be right) but, again, that’s just an opinion.
But finally, and by far most importantly to me, thank you very much, and very sincerely, Curt, for the comment in general and for the sentiments behind it. I wasn’t looking for any kind of “last word” – just to publically give credit and thanks where it’s clearly due in the same venue where I have publically leveled criticism.
All, fine, Jeff, but I need to ask you, what is it you LIKE about Whisky?
It’s fine to be critical, especially when it’s in terms of whether you like or do not like a product or concept, but, and maybe I haven’t been around long enough to see this, my impression is you criticize the industry but I never hear you say anything you like about Whisky.
If I don’t like an author, I may make this known once or twice…then I don’t buy his/her books. I go to something I like.
I stopped watching the Harry Potter series because I liked the books better, but I didn’t go on about it.
I like Whisky. I drink it moderately (or mildly), but I read about it voraciously. It’s an enjoyable hobby. I like reading about casks, finishes, new and exciting experiments, craft distilleries, etc…
I like reading reviews because I like to read other people’s opinions, and I “drink vicariously” through them. Even if I had access to the “taps” or just the variety that some people like our host have, I still wouldn’t drink more than I do now. I have a long to do list of bottles myself, and knowing it could take a lifetime to get through them I still get excited about new interesting things.
But if I didn’t like the industry or the product,and didn’t feel I could effect change, I’d probably drop it for something worth more of my time.
So I appreciate Curt’s patience and support of your posts, and I understand your position on the industry (maybe I should pass you my handle…), but do you think you might share what it is you like about Whisky, so that I can put your comments in context?
I’ll answer the question, but I do find the context just a little silly – as if I’m to somehow justify the validity of my commentary by “proving” that I like whisky as opposed to just a good argument. I also find your idea “but if I didn’t like the industry or the product, and didn’t feel I could effect change, I’d probably drop it for something worth more of my time” a little bizarre (and extreme) for a couple of reasons. First, and most directly, change is what I’m trying to effect and I never said it couldn’t be done; I only acknowledge that as a possibility. But short of the possibility of effecting that change, however, the sentence makes no real distinction between liking the industry and its product (in general) – between the bathwater to be reformed and the baby to be retained – as if the two are to be accepted or rejected together. It’s possible to dislike aspects of the industry, and some of its current trending, without “disliking whisky”. It is, in fact, BECAUSE I like whisky that I want to see some reform.
But, OK, WHAT do I like about whisky?
The complexity and wide spectrum of smells and flavours to be found in the spirit as a whole, and that whiskies have different paces of arrival and departure all their own – seeing expressions change and develop after being opened or poured.
The pursuits of the hobby itself – being in contact with people I otherwise might not have met except through mutual interest in whisky – swapping samples, tips and info – reviewing and reading reviews of whisky (but real criticism, not just adjective-laden tasting notes without any real score or opinion) – handicapping review scores and QPR and some of the interesting patterns that reveals – researching and chasing down expressions I’m interested in and sharing those expressions – making and tracking my own vats.
Some product moves within the industry – primarily finish and blending experimentation (even if only to show the limitations of them), even the occasional bit of truth in advertising by actually applying age statements to young whisky.
I don’t think that the above, while true, is really unusual (or even a complete list), but you wanted to know.
Thank you Jeff. That actually helps a lot. I see that you enjoy some of the same things that I do, especially the sharing part.
Now I can better put your comments in context.