Tag Archives: Compass Box

Brora 35

Midlands Whisky Festival March 2014 – A Day in Pictures

Brora 35

Our first stop was at Diageo’s stand to catch up with Colin Dunn. It also provided an opportunity to try the Brora 35 Special Release from 2013. The dram had everything we had hoped for; amazing depth and complexity wrapped in a swirl of smoke. We’ve now tried almost all of the Special Releases from last year, and for me, this is the star.

Colin and Chris

It was great to have a chat with Colin (Diageo) and Chris (Compass Box) throughout the day. Two of the nicest guys in the industry.

Caol Ila 12

It’s been a while since I’ve had the Caol Ila 12 so it was time to go back and reacquaint myself with it. For Mike, this is where it all started, and this is a whisky that still punches well above its weight and takes you over the sea to Islay.

Lucas with the Old Pultney 1990

The Midlands Whisky Festival had all of the right people there. We caught up with Lucas and tasted, for the first time, the peated Old Pulteney from 1990. Unusually the spirit isn’t peated, with the peat instead coming from maturation in a variety of Islay casks. This is a fabulous dram, and one of the days highlights.

Balblair 1983

Mike and I are both big fans of Balblair and it was fantastic to try the 1983 vintage again. Full of tropical fruits and spice this is a great whisky.

Glenfarclas Port Cask

One of the days dream drams. This Glenfarclas has been matured in Port Casks for 31 years and provided a perfect accompaniment to lunch as it afforded the opportunity to sit down and savour the whisky

Chocolate and Whisky Pairing

We were thrilled to be able to make Miss Whisky’s chocolate and whisky pairing class. Up for tasting was Tamdhu 10, Balblair 2003, Aberlour 16 (double matured), Balvenie Carribean Cask, and Bowmore 12 – all matched with different chocolate.

Alwynne leading the troops

Alwynne led the session enthusiastically and knowledgeably. Each whisky was expertly matched with a different chocolate designed to bring our different characteristics of both the spirit and the chocolate. One of the most interesting combinations was the Balblair 2003 and the Marou (a 78% chocolate from Vietnam). The chocolate lit up the whisky really enhancing the vanilla notes and bringing out almonds and spices.


All of the chocolate was from the Chocolate Trading Company and it was really interesting that all the bars were ‘proper’ chocolate. And what I mean by that is that there was no flavoured chocolate in the tasting – just good quality bars that matched the whisky.

Learning about chocolate and whisky

Alwynne leading the way!

Exceptional Chocolate

The final pairing featured this chocolate from Madagascar. The chocolate itself contained coco nibs (this is what is present before the chocolate is subject to conching) and was tasted alongside the Bowmore 12. Tasting them together really highlighted the salty notes in the whisky (almost to a sea water level) and was my highlight of the class. Buy this chocolate and try it at home – you won’t be disappointed.

Whisky Notes

Studiously making notes during the class

Carn Mor Tullibardine

Tullibardine may not be at the top of everyones wish list but you should really try and seek out their cask strength stuff. Everyone I have had has been excellent, and this whisky from Carn Mor was no different. It was very savoury neat, but once a drop of water was added it turned very sweet and was almost icing sugar like in taste. Sadly, despite being bottled only 6 weeks ago it has completely sold out!

40 Year Old Teaninich

This was a real treat; Teaninich is a whisky I first discovered through Compass Box who use it in crafting some of their famous whiskies, but this is one of the first I have tried as a single malt. Despite being aged for 40 years this was a fresh, light and zingy dram with minimal effects from the wood.

Flaming Heart

No whisky show would be complete without a visit to Compass Box and it was a real surprise to find that they had Flaming Heart on the stand. I love this whisky; that combination of peat smoke and Chinese five spice just gets me; its a dram that makes me smile – what more could you want?


Octomore – the peatiest whisky in the world and oh so much more that peat. The depth and complexity is astounding, and its probably time I bought another bottle!

2 Year Old Octomore

This was a special Bruichladdich. Two year old Octomore from fresh oak. The cask previously contained Bruichladdich and had now been filled with Octomore Spirit. While you could taste the youth in this – there was a new make tint to it; I would have bought it if it was on sale. It may not be whisky yet, but it is shaping up to be something special.

Old Particular Bladnoch 21

Our final stand of the day was Douglas Laing. This Old Particular Bladnoch was lovely; really fruity and jammy with a good dose of spice.

Old Particular Bowmore 25

My final dream dram token was used on this Bowmore 25. It is a dram I have tasted before and previously I have found it a touch too floral for my liking. At the festival though it hit the spot – a great end to another fabulous show! 

Karuizawa Sherry 31

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2013

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show really is the highlight of the whisky calendar; fabulous whiskies, a stunning location and the opportunity to talk to the people who actually make the spirit make this the must go to show of the year! They also have a trade day on the Monday which is why I found myself at Vinopolis on a surprisingly sunny October lunch time where I met up with lots of fellow bloggers and friends.

Great King St Vertical Tasting

Great King St Vertical Tasting

Anyone who reads our blog regularly will know that we are huge fans of Compass Box. Not only do they make blending cool, they’re not afraid to try new things and the whiskies they do craft together are some of the finest around. One of the gems in their range is the Great King St Artists blend that we reviewed some time ago. Well now they have some experimental releases out; one sherried and one smokey and in a stroke of genius they’re asking the public to decide which should make it as a permanent release. It’s a bit like XFactor for grown ups really. And better.

Whisky Live 2013

Whisky Live 2013

This was my first visit to Whisky Live and right at the start of this post I can tell you that it is now firmly in the calendar and I will be there again next year. I had a wonderful day out that included an early morning battle against the 4 inches of snow that fell in Birmingham the night before. Thankfully the public transport network was more of less holding up and I made my way down to London without too many hitches for a day that would be split into three parts.

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show

There probably aren’t enough superlatives to describe today. Not only did I attend a rather fabulous masterclass (more about that on the blog very soon), but I also met up with some friends – new and old- and tried some of the best whisky around.

Compass Box Rock!

Compass Box Rock!

Epic isn’t usually a word associated with whisky tastings but that’s exactly what Friday was – epic! We may have only received a fleeting glimpse of the excitement with a 30 minute tasting in Birmingham, but 8 tastings across the length of the county in 24 hours is, well, epic!  John Glaser of Compass Box and Dominic Roskrow (whisky writer) travelled from Inverness to Brighton with 6 stops inbetween in a day!  They covered almost 700 miles, brought whisky to 200 lucky individuals, had some kippers (those who read the tweets will know what I mean) and attempted to make it into the legendary Guiness Book of Records – and all this to highlight the fact that The Whisky Shop now stock Compass Box!!

Compass Box in Photos

We could have chosen a load of photographs from our day with Compass Box Gregg, but in the interest of web page loading we wanted to give you a snapshot of just how good our charity blending day was… so enjoy the Roleur style reportage of the event.  [Full notes on the whiskies tried will be posted shortly!]


Whisky Sniffing

Getting stuck into the core range

Compass Box Blending School

What a day we had in West London – 7 hours spent in the company of Gregg Glass (Assistant Whisky Maker for Compass Box), 7 hours tasting and blending using only the best of ingredients.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll share our thoughts on the Compass Box core range and also our notes on the rarer stuff including the Last Vatted Malt and Grain – both of which were stunning! Today though we’re focussing on the blending element of the day – our very own blending masterclass.

Blending Samples

Five cask strength whiskies were poured out and covered on the table and Gregg was not letting on as to what they were until we’d gone through and nosed them all. We then had the opportunity to taste prior to blending. So, in order our base ingredients were:

Whisky One
A 15 year old single cask grain whisky from Cameronbridge; stunningly sweet on the nose with bags of vanilla and candy floss coming through strongly. Salty and sweet on the tongue too. This was the only grain out of the five and really illustrates the quality of casks that Compass Box have.

Whisky Two
This malt was aged for 10 years in bourbon barrels and was essentially a ‘naked Oak Cross’ so no additional maturation or finishing had been employed. The nose was a ‘love it or hate it’ amongst the group with a really strong biscuity smell (primarilly hobnobs) coming through strongly upon nosing.

Whisky Three
This whisky was special; 14 years spent in French oak casks gave such a rich hue that we all mistakenly thought was heavily sherried. Described as ‘Spice Tree on steriods’ by one of our group, it had lots of prunes, plums and stewed fruits on initial nosing. The taste backed this up, it was heavy, rich and sweet.

Whisky Four
This malt whisky from a first fill sherry cask yet despite the obvious sweetness was also very grassy and meadowy. It had great colour as you’d expect and was a fantastic example of a great sherry cask; no trace of sulphur just a rich, thick whisky

Whisky Five
Stunning. The nose was smoke, smoke and more smoke. The whisky was a 12 year old from Port Askaig on Islay and it had been in American oak cask for all of its life. The taste was what you would expect, sooty, more smoke, big and domineering. The challenge was going to be how to integrate it into the blend we were going to create.

Jon’s Blend
I had a clear idea of what I wants to make. I wanted to be selective and only use two or three of the whiskies to really try to keep their character and allow each of them to shine. I like big sherried and smoky whisky so I really wanted to use whisky’s four and five. Compass Box first introduced me to the wonders of grain whisky so I wanted to use one in homage to that. After much tasting, tweaking and more tasting I’d decided that it was actually quite tricky to use the Islay malt in the blend as even a couple of drops impacted the blend too much -for me the whisky dominated the blend in a way I didn’t like. I decided to use the French Oak aged whisky instead and played some more.

My first sample bottle was ready and contained 20% Whisky One, 40% Whisky Three and 40% Whisky Four. If I can say so, it wasn’t bad, however there was too much of the French Oak coming through for my liking so I changed the quantities for the 10cl bottle that I would hand wax before taking home.

Jon with his Vatted Blend

My final blend was made up of 25% Whisky One, 25% Whisky Three and 50% Whisky Four. Cheekily named the ‘Vatted Blend’ it is dark and heavy, but with a hint of vanilla from the Cameronbridge. Full notes will follow as it needs at least a few weeks to marry in the bottle before being at its best.

Mike’s Blend
Entering the offices of Compass Box was like entering an Aladdin’s cave for a fan of whisky. Part regular office, part experimentation lab, the surroundings got us all in the mood for having some fun!

When it came to the blending class, after the initial nose and taste that Jon has described, I was keen to blend a whisky which would evoke the feel of a weekend forest walk. Something woody, a little floral perhaps. But how…

For me too, Whisky Two had some cereal notes and I decided to use this whisky as the major component on my blend. In the end, it made up 62.5% of my final blended malt. I also decided to use a significant amount of Whisky Three. I enjoyed the oak and caramel hints when nosed but also apple and leather tones on the tongue. This whisky made up 25%. My final component was Whisky Five. I did want a smoky peated edge, and the Caol Ila had it in spades! I used this Islay Classic malt sparingly (or so I thought!), making up 12.5% of my final blend.

In the spirit of Compass Box and their penchant for naming a whisky ‘exactly as it says on the tin’ al la Peat Monster, I named my woody, peaty, smoky, (subtle) blended malt, The PineAsh. My whisky needs a little water to open it up on the nose, but I was very pleased and proud of my final product!

Methodical Mike!

The Blending School was a great experience and it was a real luxury to have the expertise of Gregg with such great base ingredients to work with. It really opend our eyes to what a skill it is to craft such excellent whisky and we have a new found respect for the guys at Compass Box – keep up the great work and we look forward to seeing more excellent releases in 2012.

Check back soon for our notes on the rest of our whisky day out in London.


We’re going to Compass Box

Well the day has finally arrived: we’re up, actually on the train and off for our first whisky tasting. In a few hours we’ll be at Compass Box HQ in Chiswick for a day of sampling and blending.

First up is a tasting of the core rage of bottles which will include Hedonism and the recent award winner Great King Street. We’ll then move onto the blending school with Gregg and create our very first blend. Finally we’re finishing off with a tasting of some rare whiskies from the Compass Box collection!

Watch the blog for a full review and keep up to date with all of our whisky fun today by keeping an eye on our Twitter account – @LRWhisky