The Whisky Exchange and boutique whisky blender Compass Box have a few things in common: we started out from one person’s idea, we’re based in west London and we have fewer employees than most people assume. We’re also both celebrating our 15th anniversary this year.
Compass Box have been known for doing things differently since the beginning. Their first whisky was the initial release of Hedonism, a boutique-blended grain whisky at a time when hardly anyone was drinking grain whisky. The first edition of Spice Tree, despite critical acclaim, was withdrawn due to complaints by the Scotch Whisky Association that it was made using non-traditional methods. The Last Vatted Malt and Last Vatted Grain were bottled just before the laws forbidding the use of the word ‘vatted’ on whisky labels came in to effect, complete with a party by the Thames and John Glaser slamming the corks home on a pair of bottles just as Big Ben struck midnight on the last day. From the whisky in the bottles to the presentation and ideas behind each release, Compass Box have been making great tasting and interesting whisky since day one.
For their 15th birthday, they have produced a limited edition that harks back to their first release, a special version of Hedonism: Quindecimus, the 15th. It’s a blended grain whisky, and in their usual rule-bending fashion, they have revealed its recipe:
- 17.6% North British 20yo from first-fill American standard barrels
- 36.6% Port Dundas 25yo from rejuvenated hogsheads
- 8.4% Dumbarton 28yo from American standard barrels
- 19.4% Port Dundas 20yo from first-fill American standard barrels
- 18% 32yo Loch Lomond mystery blended grain from American standard barrels
So, it’s a 20yo blended grain whisky, with almost two thirds of the spirit coming from closed distilleries. But what does it taste like?
Nose: Salted caramel, Playdoh, royal icing, vanilla extract and candied lemon peel – lemon drizzle cake, perhaps? Fruit hides behind, with sultanas and sweet grapes. There’s a distinctly bourbon-like spiciness hidden in the depths, with nutmeg and some darker clove notes providing a backbone.
Palate: Spicy and rich, with the salted caramel from the nose joined by black pepper, cinnamon and milk chocolate. There are darker notes behind, with treacle toffee, cardamom and clove, as well as damp earth and some green leafiness.
Finish: Long and spicy, with the darker notes from the palate sticking around the longest – clove, treacle toffee and a hint of barrel char, fading through apple skin to gentle toffee.
Comment: A very different beast to the 10th anniversary Hedonism‘s lighter, more floral style, going for a rich, old and spicy character. A great demonstration of how Compass Box have developed their blending skills over the years, balancing older, spicy notes against the fresher, fruitier and sweeter to produce a complex whisky. Good work.
If that doesn’t float your boat, then don’t miss their other birthday release – magnums of cask-strength Peat Monster. We don’t have many left, having sold a few at The Whisky Lounge festival last weekend, so don’t delay.
Happy birthday, Compass Box! Long may you continue.