Compass Box is a company which produces a number of very well done blended Scotches, targeted at connoisseurs – their products are all non-chillfiltered (which means they still have some natural oily compounds in them from the maturation and distillation, providing a better body and flavour while also meaning that sometimes the product may be a bit cloudy in appearance). They also do not add caramel to their whisky, meaning it is generally a lot lighter than most Scotches that we come into contact with. The master blender himself, John Glaser, has been making quite a name for himself.
Compass Box makes a number of vatted malts (or blended malts), which are blended whiskies which only contain single malts (i.e. 100% malt whisky, though from different distilleries). This is different from normal blended scotch which contains grain whisky (whisky made from a grain other than barley, often corn). Many of the Compass Box products are very well known and regarded. And this is one of those – it is a marriage of Islay single malts and heavily peated highland malts, with an obvious focus on peat.
Nose: Both medicinal, slightly funky Islay peat as well as the woody peat of the highlands – it is well balanced. dry smoked meat, tarry smoke, and even a bit of pine. It makes for a nice effect – rich, bonfire like woodsmoke with some seaweed thrown in….I do quite like what has been done with the peat on this one. It’s more smoky than earthy, though there is still some boggy earthiness which is quite nice. It’s still impressively light, with a lemon-like citrusy character which lifts the whole nose up, I find. Some of the peat is a bit sooty too – I am spending so much time just slowly unpeeling the peat on the nose. Impressive. 28/30 (93%)
Taste: It’s largely smoke, with a nice level of underlying sweetness, and a slight creaminess and caramel note and a slight spicy tinge. I think, perhaps, that it does lack some body that I hope for. It does have a fruity character to it underneath, along with some maltiness. It starts with smoke, and then ends with smoke as well, with a good level of underlying sweetness and some vanilla. There’s an interesting note of milk chocolate as well in the midst of all the smoke, and at times the cacao comes forth a bit more and brings in some bite more akin to dark chocolate. In my previous tasting of this with a friend some time ago, I found that this whisky had lots of smoke without the body I desired – but I am not finding it so on this round- It has some decent support for the peat. It could use a bit more – but this is well done. 26.5/30 (88%)
Finish: It’s not bad on this one! Certainly long, and reasonably deep. Some pepper comes out with the smoke, alongside vanilla and honey, some apple notes and some malt. The oiliness of the whisky is shown here, and there are some notes of mustard as well. It has reasonable body and sweetness, both of which are good in finishes. 18/20 (90%)
Conclusion: It could use a touch more body, I think, around the peat – but I am thoroughly enjoying this. The way that the peat has been blended together, and the way that the complexity is showcased in the peat – it is brilliant. Compass box certainly produces some exceptional whiskies – and this is one of them. 18/20 (90%)