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!!
I arrived at the Birmingham Whisky Shop just prior to the arrival of John and Dom and met the lovely Celine from Compass Box who had just finished setting up the shop ready for the tasting. We had a quick chat and I popped off to buy the guys (and Celine!) some coffees – its what I would have wanted after 14 hours on the road! Minutes after arriving back the tasting rolled into town with John and Dom looking very fresh and ready to go. A quick intoduction from Dom and then John was on centre stage giving us a potted history of Compass Box.
The main subject of this tasting though was something close to his heart and close to the very core of what Compass Box offer – Oak. John is very passionate about good quality wood being used to mature whisky and vrey passionate about how this impacts the final product. Compass Box have been very experimental over their existence – from extolling the virtues of French Oak (the tight knit of the wood is perfect for maturation) to insterting extra staves into barrels (much to the disgust of the SWA) and heavilly toasting barrel ends – all of which affect the character and composition of the final spirit.
John also encouraged us to have a crack at blending at home – which is what he used to do. He used to take a really good single cask whisky with good wood provenance and then add 20-25% of another really good but slightly different whisky. So, for example he’d take a Clynleish and add 25% Caol Ila to it to see what would happen and to create a blend (or vatting as you could call it then) that was greater than the sum of its parts, but also a bit different in the fact that there wereonly two malts in it. So when I open my Lagavulin Feis bottling that’s what I should do then? I might give it a go but maybe with something else!
Now remember this was a whisky tasting and we swiftly worked our way through the core range The Whisky Shop are stocking – Great King Street, Spice Tree and Peat Monster. We’ve already reviewed the first two here and here and while we’ve not given the Peat Monster the full treatment I’m sure we will in a future post. As John pointed out its a rather gentle monster, not an Octomore or Supernova but something to satisfy the peat freak by giving them a great dose of the west coast of scotland mixed in with a little Ardmore. It’s easy to see why this is their biggest seller!
We finished by comparing a grain whisky from American Oak and a malt whisky from French Oak to really see what impact the wood has, and it was easy to compare the vanilla coconut from the grain with the much richer and spicier malt… and then just as they arrived John and Dom were gone! They said a quick farewell and hot footed it back to the car ready for the rush hour ride to Oxford. We’ll never know how they arrived on time in Firday night traffic and how they kept going to Brighton but they they did and they deserive all the applause they can get!
Guys, you rock – especially since you were raising money for the British Red Cross! Well done!