For this installment, I have chosen one of my favourite independent bottlers, Compass Box. There are a few reasons I’m more than a little bit in love with them:
Firstly (these are in no particular order) the labels – I mean they’re just fantastic. In fact when we get news of a new release, the first thing I do is look at the attached bumpf to find the bottle shot.
Secondly, the team (small but perfectly formed) are all genuinely great people, there’s John (Owner and Whiskymaker), Gregg (Assistant Whiskymaker and Brand Ambassador), Chris (Commercial Director) and Céline (Sales and Marketing Manager), plus a few others in the background that just make things work.
Next up is the fact that they fit into my personal preference of buying whisky criterai – they’re both independent (I always like to support the ‘smaller’ guys) and local (their office is about 4 miles from mine – I really should pop over and say hello more!)
Lastly, but by no means least, their whiskies are well crafted, something I spoke about in my last post and damn tasty.
I have three expressions currently on my shelf: the newly released 10th anniversary bottling of Peat Monster, Peat Monster Reserve and my own blend which I made last April on a trip to their blending school (and which I have left to ‘marry’ and have only just opened – exciting!)
- Peat Monster 10th Anniversary
The 2013 release is a blend of Clynelish and various Islay malts matured in a mixture of American oak and partly finished in 2% new French oak.
Colour: Very pale gold
Nose: Vanilla and apple notes (almost the sweeter, rarer yellow variety) with a briny, salty style of peat.
Palate: Vanilla notes come through, along with the waxiness that Clynelish is known for, apple notes that were present on the nose and a definite maritime character.
Finish: A rather long sweet finish with peat that’s really well balanced by the fruitiness all the way through.
Overall: Doesn’t seem as peated as one may expect from the name, but this is more than likely just down to the balance of the other flavours meaning it’s not overpowering. A delicious whisky that’s deserving of its anniversary commemoration status.
- Peat Monster Reserve
I was given this as a present on my birthday a few years ago, handsigned by John nonetheless. We took it on my best mate’s stag do last year and, to the dismay of Chris, we failed to finish the bottle (though one Australian gentleman did try during a rather long game of poker…)
Released to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Peat Monster (which by my calculations means 2008), it was a more intensely peated version than the standard expression.
Colour: Pale gold (slightly darker than the 10th anniversary)
Nose: Intense nose with notes of vanilla, apple and a rich, almost tar-like style of peat.
Palate: Rich with a creamy texture, the vanilla and apple come through once again, being joined by more tropical fruits. The peat is not as intense in comparison to the other flavours as it is on the nose, but in my view this means it’s well balanced and is certainly not a bad thing.
Finish: A balanced and long finish that goes on and on. Vanilla and apple theme continues all the way through from the nose to the very end.
Overall: It’s in keeping with the style of Peat Monster, very close to the 10th anniversary in profile, but with everything turned up to 11, which I suppose it’s what was intended. I’m glad I still have a third of the magnum left!
- Rocky’s Blend
from 10cl bottle
On the 16th April last year, I was invited to a blending school at Compass Box’s HQ in west London. It was needless to say a very enjoyable afternoon (including some food and whisky matching), culminating in us getting a chance to bottle our own 10cl sample. I can’t remember the exact makeup, but I seem to remember including a little bit of all the components – Islay, Highland, Speyside Lowland and Grain. Left to marry for 18 months in bottle, I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s turned out.
Colour: Medium gold
Nose: Hmm, interesting! Very floral almost rosewater-like. It’s complex though, with notes of tropical fruit – most notably pineapple.
Palate: Lots going on – citrus, pineapple on the front, if I’m honest a bit muted on the mid-palate with nothing really standing out and smoky, peaty notes towards the rear.
Finish: Medium in length, little bit muted again, but the pineapple is noticeable as is the smoke.
Overall: It’s very esoteric and idiosyncratic, unlike any whisky I’ve had before. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think I’ve done too badly for a first effort, but I’ll be leaving it to the experts – John and Gregg I ain’t!
If you haven’t tried any of the Compass Box range yet I’d urge you to do so. Right, I’m off to go and buy some of their Hedonism – I’m out and already starting to get withdrawal symptoms!
Shameless Plug Alert: Don’t forget tomorrow sees the start of Movember, my page is here should you wish to make a donation.