Going along with the theme of new beginnings I decided to give a new company a try. Here at S&S we tend to stick to the traditional names with decades to hundreds of years of experience and tradition. But while at the local purveyor of fine spirits I was turned on to this bottle by a kindly clerk. This company was started by John Glasser, an American who cut his teeth in the wine industry. He now runs Compass Box and specializes in creating blended scotch malt whiskys for the discerning palatte.
I know my way around a whisky section and was looking for something good at a good price. (Being back in the mother country now, I have to shell out a bit more for the good stuff.) A clerk approached me and asked if he could help. I was told the employees at this particular store know their stuff so I was eager to put him to the test. I informed the gentleman at the liquor store that I was looking for something peaty. Imagine my surprise when he asked if I was looking for something which got its peat flavor from the water source, or one that got the peat flavor from the smoke.
Impressed, I told him I was looking for something with a good blend of peat and smoke, not sweet, with a bit of bite, but an over-all lighter body, but price was an issue. This cat immediately goes for this bottle, and informs me that it is a blend of big name whiskys from Islay and Speyside. Although the website doesn’t let on, this particular bro let me know that the Speyside was Tamnavulin and the Islay was Bowmore, or so he had been told.
This bottle is clear glass with nothing to adorn it but a modest label and a small picture of the peat monster itself. The colour (that was for you Bertrum) of this whisky is a light straw gold. (This light color bemoaned the previously stated Tamnavulin birth) But don’t let its light hue and seemingly thin body fool you. The aroma hits you right after opening the bottle. Very smoky, very peaty, and little else. There are some hints of dried fruit and alcohol in the aroma, but this monster doesn’t fuck around when it comes to the peat.
A single rock clouds up this non-chill filtered drink with ribbons of oil and a pale haze, like a rainy fog over a field of drying hay. The first sip is reminiscent of the kool-aid man bursting through a wall. There is a smoky, peaty explosion leaving you with nothing else to say but “oh yeah”, and with nothing else to do but rebuild your preconceptions, which lay in rubble on the floor about you. The front is all smoke and all peat, but after a second or two a grainy, honey and spice-like taste warms up on the tongue. The last, and arguably best, sensation is the lasting burn. Not just in the mouth, but all the way down.
I was a bit skeptical about this one. But at the International Wine & Spirit Competition it won the Gold Medal back in 2005 and Best in Class in 2006 for a damn good reason. This Whisky is wonderful to drink, a delight to smell, and most importantly it’s a break from the norm and an interesting step in a new-ish direction. I had not realized how mired down in archaic whiskys with unpronounceable gaelic spellings I had become. This was a breath of fresh (albeit smoky and peaty) air.
I look forward to trying some of the other Compass Box offerings, the Spice Tree in particular. I can say that this company not only cares deeply about the artistry of their blends, but also in the artistry through which it is presented. I must say I am glad I made this new discovery, and I hope it leads to more of the same… or more of the different, as it were.
Beware drinkers, if you don’t like smoke or peat, THIS WHISKY IS NOT FOR YOU. This will leave you feeling like Tollund Man if he smoked 4 packs a day. Enjoy.