Water of Life Society 30/04/2014
This weeks EPIC (and final, no really final WoLS tasting of 13/14) tasting was hosted by Gregg Glass (@CompassBoxGregg). Assistant Whiskymaker & Whisky Ambassador at craft Scotch whiskymaker Compass Box Whisky Co.
Compass Box Great King Street Artists Blend & Hauf n’ Hauf with Weird Beard Double IPA
43% ABV, Score: 74/100
Colour: Full Gold
Nose: Honey sweet, floral, toasted almonds/marzipan
Taste: very smooth vanilla, apple, sweet, slightly sour, grapefruit pith, oranges, light malty, peanut and almond flavours
Finish: Short, mellow, sweet then sour
What Gregg said: Great King Street range of blends are purely grain and malt blends, non chilltiltered and vatted before bottling. GKS is constructed from a lot of Clynelish matured in both Bourbon and new French Oak casks and Teaninich matured in Sherry casks with a typical average age of around 9 to 11 years maturation. Approximately 45% of this blend is Girvan single grain although Gregg stated they usually use Cameronbridge Grain at around 11 years old. The story behind the super-hoppy IPA hauf’n’hauf Gregg claims was that’s what they were drinking when they came up with the GKS blend as a companion/chaser…
Compass Box Oak Cross
46% ABV, Score: 84/100
Colour: Full amber gold
Nose: Apple, vanilla, oak wood, cereal barley malt
Taste: Honey and golden syrup sweetness, butterscotch, highland toffee, clotted cream fudge, but very light (not cloying) on the palate
Finish: Short, slightly spicy cinnamon
What Gregg said: Oak Cross is from Compass Box’s range of 100% vatted single malt blends. These primarily consist of a mixture of 3 malts: ~60% Clynelish, ~20% Dailuaine and ~20% Teaninich, matured mostly in 1st fill and refill Bourbon casks (again ~9 to 11 years matured) this constitutes their “Naked” pure malt blend. This is then re-casked after belnding to marry in either old Bourbon casks or new Toasted French Oak casks and left for a further year to marry and further mature in their new casks before bottling. The French Oak casks are sourced from the Vosges forest region in France. In the following image you will see a sample of Naked blend next to the refill Bourbon cask stave on the left and a Toasted French Oak sample next to a pieces of French Oak displaying 3 different char levels of toasting – note the colour in the “F” French Oak matured blend.
Compass box initially experimented with toasted French oak staves or blocks that were dropped into the blend in its new Bourbon cask during the marrying year. Unfortunately the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) took exception to this and stopped the practice. Now Compass Box have the marrying casks remade so that they use a refill Bourbon barrel with Toasted French Oak cask ends to create a hybrid marrying cask.
Compass Box Spice Tree
43% ABV, Score: 84/100
Colour: Dark amber gold
Nose: Ginger and cinnamon, honey and golden syrup
Taste: Sweet toffee and honey, golden syrup, ginger, deeper notes of liquorice and high % cocoa chocolate
Finish: Spicy and lingers with a zesty grapefruit pith, slightly drying
What Gregg said: The Spice Tree all malt blend is essentially the same naked blend as Oak Cross above but this time matured in heavily toasted French oak. The original batches were made using the submerged French Oak staves in Bourbon casks. Gregg pointed out that not only do they source their French Oak directly but they have it air-seasoned (not kiln dried) for around 2 years and it is identical to the wood used by wine producers in the same region. Gregg also stated that typically around 6-15 casks minimum would be used to produce a batch of their all malt blends.
Compass Box Peat Monster
46% ABV, Score: 86/100
Colour: Full gold
Nose: Peanut, peat, reasonably sweet honey
Taste: Sweet peanut peat, smooth, Madagascan vanilla and coconut notes underneath
Finish: Warming peat, gentle reflux with vanilla
What Gregg said: The Peat Monster is another all malt blend but this time a completely different set of single malts are used, also a minimum of 25-30 casks would be used per batch (possibly partly to match demand). The blend is made from ~ 20-28% Talisker, ~40% Laphroaig and ~10-14% either Ardmore or Ledaig. Previous batches had been constructed with around 46% Caol Ila replacing the Laphroaig but availability had changed – a situation they are hoping to reverse. Due to the fluctuation in availability Gregg explained that as a company they had taken the decision to start buying and maturing New Make from various (~5) distilleries and maturing them in 1st fill Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels. Buffalo Trace barrels give the best results as they have one of the best cooperage’s and the barrel to variation is minimal – giving consistent maturation results. Gregg sent round sprays of both Caol Ila peaty New Make and then 1 year old Caol Ila Matured in 1st Fill Bourbon cask, the difference was obvious with a reduction in the harshness of the peat and instant vanilla essence character taken on after maturation.
Compass Box Hedonism
43% ABV, Score: 85/100
Colour: Light Gold
Nose: Light and delicate Custard Cream biscuits
Taste: Smooth and light, Custard Cream biscuits, vanilla, cream, custard
Finish: Short with a little hint of spice
What Gregg said: Hedonism is an all grain blend, produced in small batches using only grain whisky matured in 1st fill ex-bourbon casks aged to around 19-26 years old before blending. Laser spray codes (L:number) should be found on each bottle indicating the day/month/year of each batch produced.
Compass Box Great King Street Experimental Batch #TR-06
43% ABV, Score: 75/100
Nose: Vanilla, honey, wafts of peat smoke
Taste: Smooth vanilla cream slightly smoky peat
Finish: Medium sweet
What Gregg said: Both experimental GKS batches contain about 30% grain whisky (again GKS is a malt and grain blend), TR-06 contains ~33% Cameronbridge Grain and 26% Laphroaig giving a subtle vanilla and peaty flavour
Compass Box Great King Street Experimental Batch #00-V4
43% ABV, Score: 78/100
Colour: Gold with amber hints
Nose: Tannic and leathery – definite sherry influence
Taste: Fruity, sherry fizz, tannic but lacked a little depth/body
Finish: Medium, suede leather
What Gregg said: Again ~30% grain this consists of some sherry-matured malts – the most interesting and obvious suggestion was to mix these two experimental batched together to see what ratio’s provided the nicest balance between them. Obviously these split the room in terms of favourites but everyone agreed a little of each was probably required to get the best out of both.
Compass Box Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Park Avenue Edition Cask Strength
54.7% ABV, Score: 88/100
Colour: Full Gold
Nose: Peat smoke, apples, seaspray
Taste: Refined and mature, gentle peat, fruity apples, some vanilla and a little cereal malt balance this out with a little old oak wood
Finish: Long earthy peat smoke
What Gregg said: This 10th Anniversary edition of the Peat Monster was produced for Park Avenue Liqours in New York. This blend is made up from ~44% 10 year old Benrinnes – matured in sherry casks, 28% Cameronbridge Grain, ~2% Laphroaig, a little Teaninch 1st fill Bourbon cask matured and the remainder 7-8 year old Caol Ila similar to that used in the Eleuthera blend. The result is a more complex blend and slightly older overall composite compared to the standard Peat Monster expression.
Compass Box Asyla
40% ABV, Score: 79/100
Nose: Sweet apples and vanilla
Taste: Malty cereal, vanilla custard, ‘grain’ whisky
Finish: Ethereal and light
What Gregg said: Asyla is the only grain/malt blend in the Compass Box Signature Range, this contains a high percentage of Grain whisky and Linkwood single malt. This particular expression was constructed using the “style equation” of drinker + occasion = whisky type. Asyla is designed as a “party” whisky perhaps for use in long drinks and cocktails to which it lends itself particularly well. Sadly after the Peat Monster 10th I was unlikely to rate this one too highly as I was blown away by the last!
In conclusion, so ends one of the most whisky-filled and information-packed tasting sessions of the WoLS year. A massive thanks to Gregg Glass and Compass Box (especially John Glaser their Whiskymaker) for a fantastic and educational evening.