Compass Box – This Is Not A Luxury Whisky

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Distillery/Brand: Compass Box | ABV: 53.1% | Colour: Full Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
A while ago I went on a rant and began cussing out the SWA, and the whisky authorities of the world in general, over the whole Compass Box transparency uproar.

Basically Compass Box, after having truthfully divulged what went in this and the Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary, got told off by the SWA for revealing too much and were forced to take down the recipe. In retaliation myself, and other bloggers, went ahead and posted the exact recipe of both the blends on our sites in the biggest show of mutiny Scotland has ever seen.

Take that William Wallace.

It was, therefore, nice to finally sit down with the whisky that had my malted panties in a twist to see whether it was really worth my ire.

And it was.

Made up using two single malts and two grain whiskies this is proof of John Glasers’ ability as a superb blender. He’s used 79% Glen Ord from a first-fill sherry butt, 10.1% Strathclyde grain whisky from re-fill American hogshead, 6.9% Girvan grain whisky also from re-fill American hogshead and finally 4% Caol Ila re-fill American hogshead.

The result is a huge flavorful whisky with a lot of punch. It’s not up there with The General, mind you, but a fine blend nonetheless.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a decent 53.1%

Nose: Sweet. Sherry. Oak. Sultanas. Touch of floral. Milk chocolate. Blood oranges. Toffee. Coconut. Hint of almonds. Evolves nicely as it sits. Brown sugar. Ripe bananas. Cocoa beans. Hint of tiramisu. And whisp of smoke. Nice big aromas. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Full bodied. Coffee. Oak. Leather. Smoke. Sherry. Cinnamon. Black peppercorns. Figs. Quite resinous. Tobacco leaf. Dash of peat. Dark chocolate. Coconut. Full body on this one. Coats the mouth nicely. Feels big. 22/25

Finish: Super long. Coffee. Oak. Bitter chocolate. Touch of salt. Quite beautiful. 23/25

Overall Comments: Good, solid, hard working whisky with big flavors. Has its’ minor flaws but makes for an enjoyable ride. Solid finish. I’d happily drink this again.

Rating: 89

Glenfiddich 19 Years Age of Discovery / Red Wine Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 21 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 81

Review
The other day I sat down with this Glenfiddich trilogy known as the Age of Discovery series. Glenfiddich decided to pay homage to the 1831 voyage of the HMS Beagle. The Beagle travelled around the globe and landed on the east coast of South America, allowing Charles Darwin to collect fossils that would lead to the development of his famous theory of evolution.

They have three 19 year old expressions in this range. One that is completely matured in Bourbon casks (quite lovely), one that’s been finished off in Madeira Wine Casks (so blah) and this particular one that I’m staring at, the Red Wine Cask finish.

Personally I’m on the fence when it comes to wine finishes (or maturations). The Californian Cab Sauv maturation of the Teeling Single Grain is a joy to behold (and drink). Just stunning if you ask me. Glenmorangie did quite well with the Sauternes finish as part of it’s core range. I quite like that whisky even if it’s a bit too sweet.

But then there’s the disaster that is the Glenmorangie Companta which uses a mix of Burgundy wine and Rasteau. Oh Bill, you messed that one up didn’t you? Springbank used Gaja Barolo wine casks for an experiment that failed to raise any eyebrows.

The general consensus out there is that wine finishes are a tough nut to crack but that doesn’t stop distilleries from trying.

The whisky has been finished off in oak casks which previously held South American Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: A little sour in the beginning. Tamarind. Licorice. A little musty. Black salt. Under-ripe plums. Touch of oak. Dark currant jam. Settles down after a while. More crisp. Quite drying. Oak tannins. Black grapes. This is a funny nose. I feel that the different wines have made the nose a bit heavy, if you know what I mean. 21/25

Palate: Oak. Quite a bit of it. Very drying. Black pepper. Toffee. Licorice. Aniseed. Wild berries. Black currant. That black salt is back. So is the plum. Again, quite a weird experience. The oak tannins overpower and muddle up the delivery. 20/25

Finish: Long. Dry. Touch of oak. 20/25

Overall Comments: I’m not a fan. The red wine influence over powers and doesn’t work for me. I feel even when you finish a whisky off you have to be extremely careful of not letting your base spirit drown out. And I feel that’s what’s happened here. Oh, well.

Rating: 81

Glenfiddich 19 Years Age of Discovery / Bourbon Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
I say this in all my Glenfiddich reviews: It is the most consistently above average single malt today that is produced at such staggering volumes.

I’m pretty sure this is what happens when a business is family owned and every step taken is for the greater good of the craft and the product instead of appeasing the fat cats and their accountant minions.

How else can you explain the near perfect consistency of producing ten million litres of whisky every year. Oh I’m sorry, did I say ten million? I meant TEN FREAKING MILLION! It’s quite insane if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure they turn a tiny profit producing ten million litres a year. But along the way they produce some great whiskies too.

Which brings me to this 19 year old matured in ex-Bourbon casks and named after the intrepid Portuguese voyagers who went on to change our understanding of the new world. This one is called Age of Discovery and is part of a trilogy. The other two being a Red Wine and a Madeira Cask finish.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: Oak. Shavings. Bourbon. Vanilla. Fruits. Lots of them. Mainly sweet melon. Melon rind. Citrus. Orange marmalade. Something toasted. Mellows after a while and becomes more delicate. Late emergence of toffee. Hint of grass. Very nice nose. 23/25

Palate: Vanilla. Lots of it. That oak again. Touch of spice. Very fruity. Sweet melon. Citrus. Very smooth. Light honey. Touch of nuttiness. Some toffee. Nutmeg. This is quite pleasant without being complex. 22/25

Finish: Medium long. Comes back up. Vanilla. Oak. Fruits. 22/25

Overall Comments: I quite like this whisky. I would have liked it to be a little more complex on the palate but that’s fine. Glenfiddichs aren’t supposed to be that. They’re supposed to be easy to drink and not for being pondered over by pompous whisky bloggers like my self.

Rating: 89

BenRiach 15 Year old PX Sherry Wood Finish

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 46% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
I always start a BenRiach review by mentioning a horrendous 20 year old I had some years ago which put me off the distillery for a really long time. But this time around I won’t.

Even though it was really bad.

OK, enough about that.

I made up for my BenRiach hiatus by binge buying as many expressions as I could get my hands on. I like that they’re easy to get hold of and within an acceptable price range. More importantly there is a maturation twist with most expressions, which I like. Plus they have these goofy names like Importanticus Fumosus, which is Latin for You will never be able to pronounce or remember this no matter how hard you try.

Good variety of flavors, easy on the wallet and a chance to practise a dead language?. That’s a win win, if you ask me.

I’ve had this one sitting on my shelf for a while for no reason other than I just didn’t get around to giving it a go. But a couple of days ago I felt it was time. And I’m glad.

This 15 year has been matured in traditional bourbon barrels before being finished off in casks from the bodegas of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia, Southern Spain, previously used to mature Pedro Ximenez sherry. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Dark chocolate. Barley. Red apples. Green tea. Oak. It’s a little salty. Wild red berries. Sweet rich sherry. Licorice. Maraschino cherries. Christmas cake. If you ask me I prefer PX Sherry over Oloroso maturations. I think it’s sweeter, a little more complex. This is a great nose. Hardly any flaws. 23/25

Palate: Medium body. Oak. Black peppers. Dark dates. Chocolate. Cinnamon. It’s quite dry. Not as sweet as the nose. Quite savory. Under-ripe banana. Coconut. This is quite enjoyable. 22/25

Finish: Quite long. Dry. Touch of oak. Cinnamon. 22/25

Overall Comments: This is a very enjoyable whisky from a solid distillery. If you let it breathe, as you should all whiskies, it gets even more sweeter over time. Good stuff!

Rating: 89

Amrut Narangi

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Distillery/Brand: Amrut | Region: India | ABV: 50% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
Amrut and I have had a love affair ever since I picked up a glass of the Amrut Fusion and wondered Since when did the Indians start making whisky this good?

That was over five years ago and since then I have managed to put every single Amrut release on my shelf. No mean feat given it’s almost complete scarcity weeks after release. But where there’s a will there’s a way.

I like to think of Ashok, their GM of International Sales, Global Brand Ambassador and over all good guy, as a good friend and so it was at a small dinner at a mutual friends’ house that Ashok decided to surprise us all. For he had with him this particular expression (three months before it’s official launch) which he decided to share it with all of us.

At the time he made me promise not to write anything about it and so I refrained from taking any notes and simply sat down to enjoy the whisky. Luckily for me I had the chance to try it again a few days ago at a friends’ place who also managed to secure me a bottle!

In line with Amruts’ increasingly crazy experimental gene this single malt has seen a truly unique maturation. Matured first for three years in bourbon the spirit is transferred to a specially prepared Oloroso Sherry cask.

For three years that barrel had been sitting with Oloroso Sherry that had been mixed with orange peels. Oranges from Madikeri located in the picturesque Western Ghats of India which imparted a truly unique citrus and sherry combination to the oak.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 50% ABV

Nose: Lightly toasted oak. Orange peel (duh). Dry leaves. Rich sherry. Chocolate. Mint leaf. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Jute bag. Vanilla. This is a super rich nose and the orange is quite prominent, though, thankfully it does not overpower. Amrut noses are seldom flawed and neither is this one. 22/25

Palate: Good weight. Nice body. Coats the mouth with chocolate. Cinnamon. There’s that orange again. But more of an orange cake this time. Oak. Black pepper. Ginger. This is a nice twist. Makes me want to bust out my Compass Box Orangerie and conduct a head to head. This ticks just the right amount of unusual for me. 22/25

Finish: Extremely long. Oily. Lip smacking cinnamon. Best of part of the experience. 23/25

Overall comments: I’ll be honest. I walk into an Amrut knowing that I’m going to like it and, quite frankly, am unashamed to be biased. They’ve done a lot of good in a very short space of time. Ashok is a solid gentleman who loves his craft and lives by it. And when you can pull of bizarre experiments like this then what’s not to like?

Rating: 89