I seem to keep coming across Douglas Laing’s blends. I don’t mind though, they usually are a masterclass in blending. Big Peat is their Islay version of a regional malt, usually being made up of Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen. There’s nothing wrong with the regular release, but I was blown away with the 26 year old expression I tasted last year at the Ghent International Whisky Festival. When I saw they were releasing a 33 year old variant, I had to get my hands, nose and palate on it. This one was finished in ex-cognac and sherry casks, it’s interesting, but at the same time I’m wondering if it was really necessary to finish a whisky this age…
Nose: It’s called Big Peat so I suppose it’s no surprise to find peat here. It’s not a sharp, focused peat but rather round and mature. The age is already showing here. There’s some menthol, but otherwise we’re dealing with quite a sweet nose with elements of raisins, red grapes and prunes. I was rather sceptical about finishing a 33 year old whisky, but it seems to have worked.
Palate: Very well rounded and integrated, yet it still comes across as heavy and robust, in the best possible way. Quite salty, sweet tar and some of the fruits from the nose. Just like the nose, I find the cognac casks have imparted more influence than the sherry casks. That’s a good thing though, because of the somewhat unusual casks, we also get an interesting concoction of flavour.
Finish: A nice and long finish with lingering smoke. A touch of lavender, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s a decent amount of Bowmore in here. At the very tail end, there’s a little coffee bean to reduce the sweet notes on your palate, preparing it for the next sip.
Beautiful combination of mature peat, sweet fruits and the interplay between them. Thank you Carl for the sample.
The Flaming Heart originated from the idea of combining unpeated whisky from French Oak casks with the peat smoke of an Islay malt. Over the years there have been a couple of editions of the Flaming Heart. I was able to put the 5th edition released in 2015 and the 6th edition released in 2018 side by side.
Nose: A nice amount of smoke but not too in your face. It’s accompanied by a waxy note, mustard seeds and a lemon custard.
Palate: Quite salty smoke that builds op exceptionally well in the mouth. A touch of a medicinal note, mint and lemons. A very clean cut, clear, straight to the point, no nonsense experience, which I enjoy if it’s executed as well as here.
Finish: A long finish of honeyed smoke
The balance of the smoke with the sweet honey and sour lemons is remarkable. Great stuff here.
Stranger & Stranger, quite a nice name for a Compass Box blend I think. The name comes from one of the design companies Compass Box uses. This bottling is to celebrate their 10 year partnership with Stranger & Stranger who designed the logo’s for quite a bit of their bottles, including No Name, Phenomenology and their core range of products.
That’s not the only “strange” thing about this though. This blend is technically a spirit drink, not a whisky, as they used some 1 year old Girvan grain spirit in this. The story goes that this was “sacrificial spirit” used to season experimental casks, but who’s to say. Either way, at 1% of this blend’s contents, it won’t get in the way of things.
Other than the Girvan, there’s Glenlossie, Glen Elgin and some Linkwood in this blend.
Nose: This needs a lot of time to open up. At first it’s mainly dust and chalk. With time there’s more fruity notes. Pear, mango and Reine Claude plums. Definite hints of grass and cereal too.
Palate: It starts off quite fruity with notes of green apple, lemon and mango. However, those quickly get overtaken by grass, hay and cereal note. A heavy does of barley too.
Finish: A medium long finish. Some pepper and vanilla. The tropical fruits, mainly mango, come back to end on a sweeter note.
Decent blend here, and quite barley-centric on the mid-palate. As has come up a few times, you need to wonder if it’s worth the asking price.
Compass Box No Name, that’s quite a smart marketing trick there! They want to let the whisky speak for it’s own, fine. This is said to be the peatiest Compass Box so far, consisting of a healthy amount of Ardbeg, Caol Ila and, of course, some Clynelish.
Colour: White wine
Nose: A very strong peatsmoke comes out of the glass. I’m envisioning standing on a dune in windy weather, waves crashing on the shore. Salt, sea air, wonderful. In the back, there’s some banana notes, smoked ham and a hint of medicinality (is that even a word? You know what I mean).
Palate: Ultra clean, concise, focussed peat. Wood still smoldering, smoked salmon. At the end the salt begins to amp up it’s volume.
Finish: The salty notes are prominent here, quite an oily mouthfeel. The smoke still lingers too for quite a long finish.
I’ve put this next to my Flaming Heart and yes, this is quite a bit peatier. I love how focussed it comes across, very nice blending there!
Phenomenology is “the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness.” It’s also a Compass Box blend, so let’s focus on what I do understand. The Phenomenology uses quite an interesting recipe. It’s mostly Glenlossie and Tamdhu, but there’s a teeny tiny bit of Highland Park, Talisker and Caol Ila added, to give it that extra oomph I suppose.
Colour: Light gold.
Nose: Very nice. Lemons and freshly cut grass but also tropical fruits like mango and coconut. Underneath this all is the slightest suggestion of earthy peat. A very nice, and perhaps more importantly, coherent nose.
Palate: A very oily mouthfeel which is lovely. Lemons and apple cider, honey and beeswax. Not in a boring way mind you, it’s all running through each other eloquently.
Finish: A medium long finish, mainly the (green) apples and lemons remain.
Simply a good, sturdy blend with an interesting recipe.
Another Compass Box, another collaboration. This time it’s with the Chicago punk & rockbar Delilah’s. It consists of a parcel of “Delilah’s 20th anniversary parcel”, 10% grain whisky and some other malts. Quite a large percentage has matured in ex-sherry casks, interesting!
Nose: There’s quite a bit going on here. At first there’s spices: ginger, nutmeg, some cinnamon. Then there’s green apple and a lovely caramel note. Some slight sherry fruit tones, furniture cleaner and is that bayleaf?
Palate: It starts off with the spices once again, mainly nutmeg. Then some hints of those sherry fruits in the form of cherries and milk chocolate.
Finish: Medium long finish. The milk chocolate turns to dark chocolate, some coffee and roasted pinenuts.
Very nice, layered, complex whisky. I’m missing a bit of a “hook” though.
As we all know, Compass Box quite likes to experiment with their products. Sometimes with great succes, sometimes less so. For the Affinity, they decided to blend whisky with calvados. They cite similarities between the products such as double distillation and French oak casks as one of the reasons.
Where Compass Box is known for their weird, wonderful and whacky blends, this is one of the more simple, straightforward blends in their portfolio. The Double Single consists of a single malt, Glen Elgin, and a single grain, Girvan. That’s all there is to it, so let’s get nosing!
Nose: A very creamy nose here, quite a bit of fruits too. I’m getting mainly green apple and pear. Soft vanilla, honey, toffee and some nice crème brûlée. There’s also a popcorn note, I’m guessing that’s the Girvan influence.
Palate: A strong arrival which is quite peppery, and unexpected. Then kiwi’s and apple. Some sugared cereal (Frosties). Quite a simple one actually.
Finish: Creamy butter again, a bit of lemons and a mandarin tangy note. Medium long.
It’s not a bad whisky by any means, although the nose is more interesting than the palate. I’d probably rather get a single cask Glen Elgin 22-23y for that price though.
This creation by Compass Box for La Maison Du Whisky was to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Velier. It’s quite a simple blend with 60% of it’s contents coming from Talisker, joined by some Highland Malt blend, Glentauchers and Invergordon.
Nose: Very sweet peat, with notes of honey and vanilla. They wouldn’t have set a beehive on fire, would they? Some grassy notes too as well as menthol. Then we get a sudden truckload of figs and green apple. A very enjoyable, balanced nose here.
Palate: Ultraclean smoke, just when it reaches the height of it’s intensity, the beeswax takes over. Asparagus and other vegetal notes join the fray. The lemons come in last.
Finish: A citrusy smoke that just lingers. A wonderful end to this.
Lovely stuff, and to say I usually don’t like Talisker all that much!
Compass Box really likes to do collaborations it seems, this one is with the Parisian Juveniles Bar à Vins. They regularly do a collab and this is the latest outturn. Apparently they wanted something around 15 years of age.
It’s composed of mainly Strathmill, Balmenach, Clynelish and a bit of Glendullan.
Colour: White wine.
Nose: A very fruity one here! Loads of pears, honey and vanilla, oh, and beeswax. I also seem to be getting some parsley. It’s actually reminding me of toast champignon with parsley on top, that’s a weird correlation. I don’t mind though!
Palate: A very soft and gentle arrival. Beeswax and soft honey, then the pears start to seep in. Very juicy mouthfeel but maybe a tad too tame.
Finish: Some oaky touches but the sweetness of the pear remains, medium long.
It’s sweet, juicy and inoffensive. A nice summer drink but perhaps a bit too pricey.