Posts Tagged ‘Compass Box’

Top 10 Whiskies Reviewed in the Summer 2014 Issue Buying Guide

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Here’s a sneak preview of our Summer 2014 issue’s Buying Guide. A total of 117 whiskies were reviewed for this issue. We welcomed two new members to our review team: Jonny McCormick (blended scotch, blended malts, grain, Irish, and world whisky) and Geoffrey Kleinman (flavored whiskies and U.S.-exclusive imports).

Crown-Royal-XO-bottle#10 - Crown Royal XO, 40%, $45

A rich luxurious whisky finished in cognac casks, as was the crisper, brighter Cask No. 16 that it replaces. This is the cedary, leathery, tobacco-ish sipping whisky of the private club. Simple toffee and the cherry essence of Beaujolais nouveau evolve into ripe red apples and heavy, dusky, dark fruit with candied citrus peel, bitter almond skins, and hints of oak. Sizzling gingery spice and white pepper linger over textured sandalwood. Defined by its heavy, creamy body. —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#9 - Evan Williams Single Barrel (Barrel No. 1) 2004, 43.3%, $27

Polished and nicely balanced, with caramel as the main note, followed by candied fruit, soft vanilla, sweet corn, and nougat. Subtle spice (ginger, cinnamon) and gentle oak on the finish round out the sweet notes. Easygoing demeanor and very drinkable. Great value too! A very pleasing, versatile bourbon. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93JW Odyssey

#8 - Johnnie Walker Odyssey, 40%, $1,100

Jim Beveridge delivered these aromas of toffee apple, peach, and rich berry fruits by working with European oak casks. The smoke is timid, with hints of background salinity. The finely structured mouthfeel is where this triple malt whisky truly shines: the polished smoothness is exceptional. The flavor journey begins with honey, citrus, and swirling melted chocolate, building to a fire of squeezed orange oils, dry fruits, and pecan nuttiness before concluding with rich espresso, dark caramels, and plain chocolate. Immaculate.—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7 - Cragganmore Triple Matured Edition, 48%, £80

This is Cragganmore in early autumnal guise. Dry leaves underfoot, ripe black fruits on the bushes, waxed jacket, chestnut, and a whiff of cedary smoke, opening into dried peach. The palate is thickly textured, with those fruits, dark chocolate, and pomegranate molasses. The immensely long finish gives you light pepper, smoke, and blackberry jam. Cragganmore at its very best, and at a great price. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93mortlach_18yo

#6 - Mortlach 18 year old, 43.4%, £180/500 ml

Deep amber in color with the green glints of first-fill sherry, this has bosky notes and meat—mutton and venison—plus graphite, bitter chocolate, and wet rock before layers of dried stone fruits and date. This is the most savory and Bovril-like of the new range. The palate is feral and earthy; think mushroom with game pie, and rowan berries. Deep, but with more dimensions than the previous 16 year old which, in comparison, seems like a blunt instrument.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#5 - Brora 40 year old Single Cask 1972 Vintage, 59.1%, £7,000

Just 160 bottles of 1972 Brora are available through UK World of Whiskies and World Duty Free Group stores. The oldest bottling of Brora to date was distilled using heavily-peated malt. A big hit of oily peat on the early nose, with malt, dried fruit, and black pepper. Mildly medicinal. The palate yields bonfire ash, licorice, honey, more pepper, and well-integrated oak. The finish is long, with peat smoke, plain chocolate, and tannins lingering in harmony. Complex and rewarding. —Gavin D Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4 - The John Walker, 40%, $3,500

The pinnacle of the current Johnnie Walker range, this is a rare, inimitable blend of just nine whiskies. It exudes the aromas of ripe bananitos, whole mango, satsuma, vanilla seeds, barley awns, butter biscuits, and crystallized pineapple. The supple grain sustains indulgent, characterful malts creating a weighty, smooth mouthfeel. I’m smitten by the vanilla creaminess, burgeoning deep fruit layers, how it swells with a satisfying snuffbox smokiness. A beautifully styled blend delivering a captivating, sensuous experience. (330 bottles only)—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94Last Drop 50 year old

#3 - The Last Drop 50 year old, 50.9%, $4,000

Would you have gambled The Last Drop 1960 liquid in new sherry wood for four more years? The indulgent nose proffers maple syrup, buckwheat honey, roasted spices, blue grapes, pomegranate, raspberry compote, cilantro, pandan leaf, and beefsteak juices soaking into mushroom gills. The complex, lustrous mouthfeel is replete with a sheen of rich maltiness, molasses lashed by sherry before a dry, resinous finish. Water brings an oily nuttiness, then further drops produce a silky, clingy texture. Glorious. Miraculous. Victorious. (388 bottles only) —Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

peatmonster_park-avenue_front2#2 - Compass Box The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Special Cask Strength Bottling, 54.7%, $120

As you’d expect, solid peat is the first thing out of the glass, but this isn’t just a peat beast. Underneath are honey, dried fruit, and malt. The palate is all about balance with honeyed malt, raisin, and oak spice all complementing smoky peat. A lush mouthfeel makes you forget it’s cask strength. A pure love note in a glass from Compass Box to Park Avenue Liquor.  (Park Avenue Liquor only.) —Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95
Bookers 25th Anniv Bottle

#1 - Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon Batch No 2014-1, 65.4%, $100

The complete package: uncut, unfiltered, full-flavored, richly textured (almost chewy), and very complex. Notes of toffee-coated nuts, vanilla fudge, polished leather, cedar-tinged tobacco, barrel char, cocoa powder, and a hint of fig, wrapped up with a firm oak grip on the finish. Worth every penny of the premium price being charged for this commemorative release. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

Whisky Advocate’s Spring Issue Top 10 Buying Guide Reviews

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Here’s a sneak preview of Whisky Advocate magazine’s spring 2014 issue Buying Guide. Today we reveal the ten top-rated whiskies. We begin with #10 and conclude with the highest rated whisky in the issue.

BT Extended Stave Drying experiment#10: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Extended Stave Drying Time, 45%, $47/375 ml

Richer and fuller when compared to the Standard Stave Drying Time variant in this Experimental Collection. Sweeter too, with creamy layers of vanilla and caramel. The extended drying time influence tames the dried spice and oak resin and is proof that extended stave aging really benefits older bourbons that might otherwise be dominated by oak. Sadly, with whiskey in such demand, I doubt many bourbon producers will take the time to age the staves longer.—John HansellPM10 BottleShot

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

#9: Compass Box Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Limited Edition, 48.9%, $130

Peat Monster is a staple Compass Box blended malt whisky, but this raises the bar significantly. The nose is “as you were”: peat reek, seaside, very Islay. But on the palate John Glaser’s added some peaty Highland whisky—probably a signature Clynelish—to add a hint of licorice, a softer, fruitier smoke base, and through some virgin French oak, a delightful spiciness. Compass Box is in a purple patch. Again.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

35YO_Dec_Box_White_Front2#8: Glengoyne 35 year old, 46.8%, $4,640

Glengoyne 35 year old has been aged in sherry casks and just 500 decanters have been released. The nose offers sweet sherry, maraschino cherries, honey, sponge cake, marzipan, and soft fudge, turning to caramel in time, with a whiff of worn leather. Slick in the mouth, with spicy dried fruit, and more marzipan and cherries. Long in the finish with plain chocolate cherry liqueur; still spicy. Finally a buttery, bourbon-like note. No negative cask connotations in this well-balanced after-dinner dram.—Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

#7: Aberfeldy Single Cask (Cask No. 5) 16 year old, 57.4%, $250

From a sherry cask. Bright and lively. Quite fruity, with notes of golden raisin, pineapple, nectarine, and tangerine. The fruit is balanced by honeyed malt and light caramel. A dusting of vanilla, cinnamon, and hint of cocoa, with black licorice on the finish. Lush and mouth-coating. The best of the Aberfeldy whiskies I’ve tasted to date. (New Hampshire only)—John Hanselltalisker1985

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

#6: Talisker 1985, 56.1%, $600

This 27 year old Talisker has been aged in refill American oak casks, and the nose offers brine, wood smoke, wet tarry rope, slightly medicinal, with the emergence of milk chocolate. Big-bodied, with lots of peat accompanied by chili and smoked bacon, with sweeter notes of malt, fudge, and apple. A hint of fabric Elastoplast. Long in the finish, with rock pools, bonfire ash, and sweet, tingling spice notes which carry to the very end. A powerful beast, even by Talisker standards. (3,000 bottles)Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

#5: Signatory (distilled at Laphroaig) 1998, 60.8%, £100

Any sherried Laphroaig is welcome, and this does not disappoint. Rich, resinous, medicinal, with underlying soft fruits, the smoke is all-pervading, but never dominant. In other words, it isn’t just complex and balanced, but has that other dimension which elevates it in mind (and marks). With water, there’s antiseptic cream mingling with oxidized fruits and nuts; think manzanilla pasada. The palate shows storm clouds gathering over Texa. Rich dried fruits, cacao, and a ferny lift on the finish. Fantastic.—Dave BroomLongmorn

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

#4: Exclusive Malts (distilled at Longmorn) 28 year old, 51.6%, $250

The nose is fascinating, as if dust is cohering into form, and fruity form at that. When it emerges there’s baked banana, fruitcake, citrus peels, passion fruit, mango, mace flower, and nutmeg. A mossy edge anchors it to earth. Even livelier with water, this is a superbly balanced, mature whisky. The palate is pure, with big retronasal impact of the spice. Layered and long, it’s at its best neat; you need the intensity to amplify all the complexity. Superb.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 92

Bowmore 50 year old#3: Bowmore 50 year old (distilled 1961), 40.7%, £16,000

The whisky is sensational, a glorious mix of ginseng syrup, baked banana, semi-dried tropical fruits, and an exotic smoked edge. Without the last, you could believe it was a delicate Cognac. In time, there’s peppermint and guava syrup. A sip is all you need to reveal perfect, thrilling harmony: light nuttiness, pollen, subtle fruits, gentle smoke, and light fungal touches. It’s stunning, but it’s £16,000! Whisky this great, even in limited quantities, should be fairly priced. Points off.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 95Brora_35yo_2013_LowRes

#2: Brora 35 year old, 49.9%, $750

Maturation of this 1978 distillate has taken place in European oak and refill American oak casks. Fresh and fruity on the early, herbal nose; a hint of wax, plus brine, developing walnut fudge, and an underlying wisp of smoke. Finally, wood resin. The palate is very fruity, with mixed spices, then plain chocolate, damp undergrowth, gentle peat smoke, and finally coal. Mildly medicinal. Ashy peat and aniseed linger in the long, slowly drying finish. Brora at its very best. (2,944 bottles)Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 95

General-Dieline

#1: Compass Box The General, 53.4%, $325

With a name inspired by a 1926 Buster Keaton movie, only 1,698 bottles produced, and the news that one of the two batches is more than 30 years old, the clues were there that this blend was never going to be cheap. It isn’t, but it’s superb, rich in flavor that screams dusty old oak office, fresh polish, and Sunday church, with spices, oak dried fruits, squiggly raisins, and a surprising melting fruit-and-nut dairy chocolate back story.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 96

Some new whiskies I like, and some I don’t (part 2)

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

John HansellEarlier this week I offered my thoughts on some new bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys. In this post, I address some new scotch whiskies, Indian whiskies, as well as some more bourbons that I’ve recently tasted.

Scotch

Delilahs-BottleIf you’ve been drinking whisky as long as I have, you remember those great Springbank whiskies distilled in the 1960s and 1970s. The distillery was shut down for most of the 1980s and the whiskies distilled after that have occasionally shown the brilliance of the pre-closure era, but it’s been sporadic. This new single cask Springbank 21 year old (Lombard  “Jewels of Scotland”) selected by D & M Wines & Liquors (Cask No. 172, 49.7%, distilled in 1991, matured in a bourbon cask) reminds me of those lovely pre-closure Springbank (but not sherried like many of those were). It’s nicely matured and, while a little soft in nature because of its age, it still expresses an appetizing freshness, spice and hint of brine.

Another scotch I’m really liking is the new Compass Box Limited Release “Delilah’s,” produced to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Delilah’s bar in Chicago. According to John Glaser of Compass Box, it’s a combination of single malt and single grain whiskies aged in a mix of experimental new American oak barrels. It’s designed to be a “shot and a beer” kind of whisky. It’s one of the most drinkable whiskies I’ve ever tasted, and very smooth.  Open the bottle with some friends and throw away the cork! (Note: this is a casual whisky. It was designed to be fun and easy drinking. If you’re looking for something incredibly complex and life-altering, look somewhere else.)

Two recent single malts (both from independent bottlers) that I was less impressed with were a Tobermory 18 year old (Maltman) aged in a sherry cask (polluted with sherry from my standpoint) and a 20 year old Longmorn 20 year old (Old Malt Cask) aged in a refill hogshead (here’s a case where a small amount of sherry would have added balance and complexity).

Bourbon

Blantons Giold EditionI tried two more bourbons that I really like since my “Part 1″ post earlier this week. Most of you are familiar with Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon (bottled at 93 proof). Well, I tried two “higher proof” Blanton’s single barrel offerings for the export market and like both of them more than the standard issue Blanton’s: Blanton’s Gold Edition (103 proof) and Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel (132.7 proof). It just seems that the higher proof works nicely with the Blanton’s flavor profile. My favorite of the Blanton’s family samples I tasted is actually the Gold Edition. It’s perfectly balanced, sophisticated in character, very drinkable for its strength, and complex. It’s easily one of the best bourbons I’ve tasted this year. (Keep in mind that these are single barrel bottlings and each barrel has it’s own unique flavor profile. My barrel numbers were Barrel No. 116 for the Straight From The Cask and Barrel No. 1 for the Gold Edition.)

India

Finally, I wanted to tell you about a new Amrut I really enjoy. ( New to the Whisky Advocate headquarters anyway–bottles are now available in the U.S.) Amrut has produced some delicious whiskies over the past several years, and this one is right up there at the top for me as far as quality and complexity. It’s called Amrut 100. (Bottled at 100 cl, at 100 British proof, only 100 bottles for each market.) This one is a smoky one, with lovely peat and spice notes, and a rich, balancing sweet underbelly.

P.S. If I get enough new whiskies over the next couple of weeks, I might do a Part 3 in this series.

 

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar Topics Announced

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I wanted to share with you our list of seminar topics and whiskies scheduled for the WhiskyFest New York 2013 weekend. The seminar program, outlined below, will take place on Saturday, October 12th.

Some of the whiskies are being produced and bottled just for this event–you won’t see or taste them anywhere else. They’re still “work in progress” and are identified as TBD (to be determined). We are very excited about the program and the whiskies. Hopefully you can join us. I’ll provide additional updates as we get closer to the event.

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar Topics

Wanted: Dead or Alive

A tasting of rare whiskies: two from demolished distilleries and two from active distilleries. Industry experts will be on-hand to describe these whiskies and what makes them so special

Moderator: Jonny McCormick

  • Glenury Royal 23 yr. old, bottled in 1997. A rare bottling of single malt scotch from a distillery that last produced in 1983.
  • Stitzel-Weller bourbon (TBD). This legendary bourbon distillery closed in the early 1990s. We will taste something rare from the Diageo stocks that remain.
  • Kininvie (TBD). Relatively new distillery owned by William Grant and on the site of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, but rarely ever bottled and never imported to the U.S.
  • Sazerac 18 yr. old Rye. This is the first-ever release of this now legendary rye whiskey, Distilled in 1981 and  bottled in 2000.

 

Glenmorangie-Pride-1981LR-300x200Whisky Legend #1: Jimmy Russell

We spend time with Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, talk about life and whiskey, and taste a very special Wild Turkey whiskey selected by Jimmy.

Moderator: Lew Bryson

 

 

12 in all the World

The world’s best whiskymakers each produce just twelve bottles of a whiskey exclusively for WhiskyFest, never to be tasted anywhere else. Ever. (Whisky specifics TBD.)

Moderator: Dave Broom

  • Ardbeg
  • Balvenie
  • Highland Park
  • Aberlour

 

Auchentoshan 1979 OlorosoWhisky Legend #2: Jim McEwan

We spend time with Bruichladdich Whiskymaker Jim McEwan, talk about life and whisky, and taste a very special Bruichladdich selected by Jim just for this occassion.

Moderator: Dave Broom

 

Scotch & Chocolate

Whiskymakers collaborate with chocolatiers, each pairing a whisky with a specific chocolate. Both the whiskymakers and chocolatiers will be on the panel to discuss their parings. (Details on the whiskies and chocolates TBD.)

Moderator: Gavin Smith

  • Compass Box (Featuring John Glaser of Compass Box)
  • Glenmorangie (Featuring Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie)
  • Dalmore (Featuring Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay)

 

Talisker lunch

We taste a special selection of four different Talisker whiskies.

Moderator: Dave Broom

 

Balvenie TUN1401-Batch5_ComboLR1-225x300Whisky Legend #3: Parker Beam

We spend time with Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, talk about life, whiskey, and his recent diagnosis of ALS, and taste a very special whiskey selected by Parker.

Moderators: Lew Bryson & John Hansell

 

Where Whisky is Heading

Taste the hottest, cutting edge whiskies along with the master distillers and blenders who are making them.

Moderator: Dominic Roskrow

  • The evolution of US Artisan distilling: Anchor Hotalings
  • Bourbon Innovation: Something new and special from Buffalo Trace (TBD)
  • Japanese whisky boom: Something new to the U.S. from Japan’s Nikka whisky company.
  • The trend towards blended malts. Featuring Blue Hanger, Whisky Advocate Blend of the Year

 

The Best!

Taste several of the Whisky Advocate award winning whiskies, along with Whisky Advocate’s esteemed whisky writers who chose them.

Moderator: John Hansell

  • Glenmorangie Pride 1981 Vintage (>$3,000/bottle!): Gavin Smith
  • Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch: John Hansell
  • Auchentoshan 1979 Vintage: Gavin Smith
  • Balvenie Tun 1401: Dave Broom
  • Lot No. 40: Davin de Kergommeaux
  • Yellow Spot: Dominic Roskrow
  • Corsair Triple Smoke: Lew Bryson

(Please note: whiskies subject to change)

The ten highest rated whiskies in Whisky Advocate’s Winter 2012 issue

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The ten highest-rated whiskies of Whisky Advocate’s winter issue are being revealed right here, today, before the magazine hits the streets. Our list begins with the #10 whisky and ends with the #1 rated whisky of the issue. (P.S. In case you’re wondering where the best whiskeys for the price are coming from right now, this should help to clarify.)

#10: Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release 2012, 52%,  $624

Lagavulin from a first-fill sherry butt? There’s unusual. This is huge, fluxing, and complex, mixing saddles and dark chocolate, pu-erh tea and smothered kiln, geranium and velvet, gamey venison and treacle. The smoke is integrated, the fires ember-like, the oak there but not oppressively so. Massive, dense, layered, and complex, this needs time to open. In short, a distillation of Islay and up alongside last year’s Jazz Festival bottling. — Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#9: Elijah Craig Single Barrel (Barrel No. 13) 20 year old, 45%, $130

All the current Elijah Craig 20 year old releases in distribution are single barrel offerings. I’ve tasted a few, and they vary to a degree. This is my favorite so far. Yes, there’s a lot of oak here (resinous, spicy, leathery, tobacco-tinged), but it’s on a bed of layered sweetness (nutty toffee, caramel fudge, maple syrup) that supports and marries with the oak. An ideal postprandial bourbon. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#8: Compass Box Oak Cross, 46%, $50

This has long been a core whisky for Compass Box, but the latest version of it is spicier and fresher than I recall, and without doubt, it’s my new best friend. Virgin French oak heads help to contribute oriental and aromatic spices on the nose, with hints of melon and pineapple candy sweets. The taste is a delight, with spearmint, soft toffee, sweet citrus fruit, lemonade mixed with beer, and strawberry wafers. An array of spices from cinnamon to chili to ginger dominate the finish. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7: Brora 35 year old Special Release 2012, 48.1%, $645

Previous Broras in the Diageo Special Release series have set the bar remarkably high, and this, the eleventh such bottling, does not disappoint. The component whiskies were distilled during 1976 and 1977 and matured in refill American oak casks. The nose offers lemon and contrasting vanilla and honeycomb aromas. Musty malt and coal in the background. The citrus and honey themes continue into the slightly earthy, peppery palate, while French mustard and coal figure in the drying finish. 1,566 bottles. — Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#6: Eagle Rare 17 year old (bottled Spring 2012), 45%, $70

Usually the least talked-about in the Antique Collection, but in my opinion certainly of the same caliber. This year’s release proves my point: nutty toffee and rummy molasses notes balanced nicely with dried fruit, cinnamon, polished oak, subtle leather, and tobacco. The oak is kept in check for such an age, and all the flavors work well together. Nicely done! —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#5: Johnnie Walker The Casks Edition, 55.8%, $300

You don’t mess with the Johnnie Walker brand name casually, so we expect greatness, and boy, do we get it here. This has a dusty, smoky nose with dried apricot and grape, and the whisky is gossamer-soft on the palate, with sweet pear and honey evolving on top of an oaky rich heart before a tidal wave of pepper and peat, and a delightful spice smoke and oak conclusion. Magnificent. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4: Sazerac 18 year old (bottled Fall 2012), 45%, $70

A perennial classic. Not aggressively bold like its younger sibling (Thomas H. Handy), but this is a rye of distinction and class. Still quite vibrant for its age, with plenty of spice (cinnamon, soft evergreen, vanilla, hint of nutmeg) softened and balanced by sweet notes (caramel, toffee), glazed citrus, and dried oak on the finish. This remains the benchmark for what a mature rye whiskey should taste like. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#3: William Larue Weller, 61.7%, $70

The key to bourbons that use wheat instead of rye (like this Weller), is to get the right amount of wood influence to balance the sweet notes and add depth. This whiskey does a great job of it. Notes of dark fruit (blackberry, plum, blueberry), layered sweetness (maple syrup, toffee, caramel), and dried spice (cinnamon, vanilla). Soft, pleasant finish. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#2: George T. Stagg, 71.4%, $70

Another excellent Stagg, and considering its alcohol level, it’s also a good value if you can get it at this price. Notes of toffee, pot still rum, nougat, dates, tobacco, roasted nuts, polished oak, and leather. Great depth and nicely balanced. A masculine bourbon of character and structure.  —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

# 1: Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.7%, $90

A marriage of four different bourbons, ranging from 11 to 17 years old. This, to me, is benchmark Four Roses: subtly complex, vibrant, yet fully matured, with well-defined flavors of bramble, dry citrus, soft creamy vanilla, caramel, marzipan, allspice, a hint of cinnamon, and subtle cedar-aged cigar tobacco.  Soft, clean, polished oak finish. A very versatile bourbon! Your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.  —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

 

Whisky Advocate Award: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Compass Box Great King Street, 43%, $45

Two outstanding contenders battled it out for this award this year: The Mackinlays ‘Shackleton’ whisky and The Compass Box Great King Street blend. Both tasted great, both took the category into new territory, and both showed what can be achieved through clever and thoughtful blending.

The Mackinlays ‘Shackleton’ whisky is a blended malt whisky — a mix of malt whiskies with no grain — and recreated the whisky found in the Antarctic camp abandoned by Ernest Shackleton. It was well packaged, was relatively well priced, and tasted great.

But the Mackinlays is all about history and the past. Compass Box Great King Street, a sweet citrusy and vanilla-doused blend, is all about the future. John Glaser and team don’t make bad whiskies, but often they have been esoteric, small batch, and all but unavailable to many of us. This blend is different, and is an attempt by Compass Box to introduce quality blends to a new generation. It had a relatively modest price point and brought the artisan skills of Compass Box to a new audience. It’s that rarity: a blend that drinks well on its own but tastes great when mixed. More than that, it’s perfectly placed to bring blends back into vogue. Anyone for a highball?  —Dominic Roskrow

Tomorrow, the Speyside Single Malt of the Year will be announced.

That’s the end of vat…

Friday, January 6th, 2012

As of November 23, 2011 the term “vatted” has been declared illegal for use on the label of whisky. Dominic Roskrow reports on this historical day in whisky history.

That’s the end of vat…

By Dominic Roskrow

Few companies have done more to further the cause of vatted malt whisky than London-based producer Compass Box. So it was fitting that when the term was consigned to the dustbin of history by the British Government, whisky maker John Glaser and supporters were on hand to mark the occasion.

Assorted Compass Box staff, bloggers, and retailers marched to the British Parliament buildings at Westminster on a warm winter evening to watch Glaser mix the last ever vatted malt on Westminster Bridge as the chimes of midnight rang out from Big Ben, marking the official last time that a whisky can be described as a “vatted malt.”

Vatted malts are a mixture of malts from different distilleries; they are distinct from blended whisky because they contain no grain whisky. But a few years ago the Scotch Whisky Association moved to have the term outlawed, and to have it replaced with the term “blended malt whisky.” Critics of the change, including Glaser and Compass Box, were vociferous in their opposition because they argue that the new term is far too similar to the term ‘blended whisky,’ and it is very difficult to explain to people, particularly in languages other than English.

Many of Compass Box’s most successful whiskies are vatted malts, so John Glaser felt it right to mark the occasion in style. “It was in the Houses of Parliament that a term that was almost as old as whisky itself was outlawed,” he said. “So it was only fitting that it was there that we went to mark the end of vatted malts.”

It says much about how trendy quality whisky is today that the protest began with a party at one of Soho’s most fashionable style bars. Cocktails made with Compass Box whisky were served before Glaser appeared, coincidentally arriving as the DJ put on Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”

From there about 20 supporters walked down to the River Thames and on to the bridge at Westminster. As Big Ben rang out the chimes of midnight Glaser mixed and bottled the last-ever “vatted whisky.”  Both vatted malt and vatted grain whiskies were put on sale by Compass Box, but sold out quickly due to huge demand.

Some new whiskies I’ve been enjoying

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

I was in San Francisco most of last week hosting WhiskyFest (More on that in a bit). We’re gearing up for our New York WhiskyFest which is only a couple weeks away. In the interim, we’ve got to put together the Winter issue of Whisky Advocate. So, if you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, now you know. This is the busiest time of the year for me. The moment I get some free time, I will post something up here.

I’ve been tasting a lot of whiskies lately. Formal reviews will follow for most of them. But, in the interim, so you can get a jump on your autumn whisky-buying, I’ll let you know my informal thoughts now.

I was able to taste the new Bruichladdich 10 year old at WhiskyFest. (It’s not in the U.S. yet, but the importer brought me a sample.) As you may know, this is the first 10 year old whisky being sold that was produced by the current owners. It’s a new dawn for Bruichladdich, and I am happy to say that this whisky is very good. Most of it is from bourbon barrels, but there’s some sherry casks thrown in too. I just hope they can keep this profile consistant going forward. If they do, it could become the go-to entry level non-smoky Island whisky (competing with Highland Park 12 year old and Bunnahabhain 12 year old  for that honor). To me, it tastes like a 12 year old whisky.

Another whisky that surprised me was the Kilkerran WIP (Work In Progress) 3rd release. If memory serves me correctly, it’s 7 years old and tasted surprisingly fresh and also nicely mature for its age.

Dr. Bill Lumsden, after his Ardbeg seminar, let me sample a 1975 Ardbeg from a sample bottle (Cask #4714) from a refill sherry cask which I thought was outstanding! My favorite whisky of the night. He said they’ve been using so much from this cask at whisky shows, they won’t have much left when it is bottled. But let me put it this way: when it’s bottled, I am buying a bottle (if it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg).

I tried some of the Samaroli releases. This independent bottler is new to the U.S. I tasted a 1967 Tomintoul and a 34 year old Glenlivet which were delicious. (The Glenlivet was not identified as such–it had a false name which I didn’t write down. I’ll try to dig that one up and let you know what it was called.). I’m not sure what the prices and availability of these whiskies will be at this time. Details to follow.

I have a bottle of the Shackleton whisky, which I have really been enjoying over the past couple of weeks. Very distinctive for a blend, and with plenty of character. Dominic Roskrow rated it in the lown 90s for us, and I would probably have given it at least a 90 myself if I formally reviewed it.

Another new blended scotch I really like for its drinkability and versatility is Compass Box’s Great King Street. It’s not going to set your world on fire, but it was never intended to do so. That’s what whiskies like Peat Monster are for. Whiskymaker John Glaser continues to impress me.

For the bourbon enthusiasts out there, I’ve been through the new Buffalo Trace Antique Collection a few times already. It’s just hitting the shelves now. The entire line is stellar–as it was last year, and they taste very similar to last year’s release. So, if you liked last year’s offering, you can be confident that you will like this year’s releases if you have a chance to buy them. (They are always hard to come by.)

Heaven Hill has two really nice whiskeys that just came out. This year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection is a 10 year old, 100 proof bourbon finished in Cognac barrels (similar to the old Beam Distillers’ Masterpiece bottling). The cognac doesn’t dominate, adds intrigue, and this whisky is dangerously drinkable for 100 proof. But, if you are a purist (dare I say stubborn?), and don’t want people meddling with your bourbon, you might think differently about this offering.

The second whiskey from Heaven Hill is a Elijah Craig 20 year old single cask bottling (Cask #3735). The good news: I love this whiskey, and will be rating it in the mid 90s. The bad news: it’s only available at Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, KY, and it will set you back $150.

Finally, for those of you who are budget-minded, I tasted my way through the Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons (12, 15, 20 and 23 year old). My favorite? The 15 year old. Save your money and get this one!

Review: Compass Box Great King Street, 43%, $45

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Compass Box Great King Street, 43%, $45

After a series of esoteric and expensive releases, Compass Box has decided to bring it all back to the people with a blend — and how! The journey sets out as we might expect; all sweet vanilla ice cream, stewed pear tart, and peach melba, but then a wave of spice and white pepper provides an unexpected but delightful twist. It’s like Spice Tree meets Hedonism…Spiconism if you like. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

New Releases from Wild Turkey, Compass Box, and Buffalo Trace Distillery

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Typically, this isn’t the time of year that we hear of many new product releases. This week however, there was news of three whiskies that have been or are soon to be released.   

Wild Turkey mixes things up with Wild Turkey 81. This is a blend of six, seven and eight year old whiskies bottled in the first package change to a Wild Turkey product in almost 15 years. To quote Jimmy Russell, “Even a good old boy changes his shirt every now and again”. He is referring to the “badass” label that dresses the classic Wild Turkey bottle.  But Jimmy was hands off on this creation. Wild Turkey 81 was solely crafted by his son, Eddie. It’s described as a “mixable spirit”, able to face any mixer or cocktail with the characteristic boldness of Wild Turkey. Available in the U.S. with an MSRP of $19.99.

Great King Street is the address of Compass Box’s office in Scotland. It’s also the name of their latest release – a range devoted to blended Scotch whisky. These blends are non-chill-filtered and bottled at natural color. John Glaser, Compass Box Whiskymaker proclaims this range a “rebirth of the blend”, created to appeal to both the malt whisky enthusiasts and those new to whisky. The first release in the Great King Street range is the Artist’s Blend. Bottled at 43%, the Artist’s Blend is available now in Europe and will wash upon the shores of the U.S. and other markets in September. Estimated MSRP is $41.00 per 50cl bottle. (Note: The U.S. will be getting 37.5 and 75cl bottle sizes instead.) More details here.

Buffalo Trace Distillery has released its Millennium Barrel bourbon. Crafted from the last barrel of the 20th century that was rolled into the only bonded single barrel warehouse in the world on December 31, 1999. Nearly 12 years later, 174 bottles have been filled, each label handwritten and each bottle individually numbered. The packaging includes a numbered hardwood box containing a piece of the barrel’s stave. Not one will be available in stores. Buffalo Trace will give each bottle to non-profit organizations across the country to auction off, with the hope to raise $200,000 for charity. Get all of the details and application at http://buffalotacemillennium.com/ .