The basic range is five whiskies, and I’m just going to give you my basic impressions of each. I highly recommend you pick up a kit yourself, do your own tasting, and let us know what you think. Every palate is different, so you’re almost guaranteed to get something I didn’t and to think something I found obvious to be totally wrong. Again, that’s what makes whisky so enjoyable. I’ve presented them in the order that I recommend tasting them.
This is Compass Box’s blended whisky, containing both grain and malt. Unlike most other blended whiskies, (think of Johnny Walker, etcetera) the malt in this is unpeated (this means that it was not treated with peat smoke). So, while many blends hide their mediocre grain behind smoke, Asyla is fruity and creamy. The nose is hugely vanilla (this whisky is all at least 10 years old), with hints of apples, pears, and white flowers. The taste is fruit forward, with that creamy grain setting back in on the finish. Water brings out the fruit on the nose, and adds some bright lemon to the taste. It’s great neat, but you could make one hell of a Scotch and Soda with this!
Oak Cross is a blend of Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuaine, aged partially in ex Bourbon barrels from America and partially in new French Oak barrels. Like Asyla, this whisky is composed of 10-12 year olds, but that’s where the similarities stop. The nose is baked fruit and cream, with a bit of savoriness in the back, while the palate is a mix of sticky fruits, light smoke, and spicy wood. The new French oak really makes all the difference here, and is one of Mr. Glaser’s signature touches. Water makes the whole thing more lively, with the spices really jumping out. This is a great whisky to sip in the summer – not too heavy, but full of flavor.
The Spice Tree
Spice Tree begins with the same spirit recipe as Oak Cross, but is aged entirely differently. Only twenty percent is aged in Bourbon barrels (compared to the sixty percent of Oak Cross), and the rest is aged in new French Oak with specially charred heads on the barrels. These heavily toasted heads give the whisky spicy-savory characteristics that you just can’t get any other way. The nose is huge vanilla, ginger, raisin, and baked apple. As soon as it hits your palate, it explodes with fruitcake and spice notes, and feels thick and creamy in the mouth. Long, satisfying finish. Water brings out the fruit and subdues the creaminess. This is the whisky that turned me on to Compass Box in the first place.
Not often do we get bottling of Scottish grain whisky. This is a blend of two whiskies, aged completely in ex Bourbon barrels. Compared to malt it’s not nearly as fruity, but it more than makes up for this in its creaminess. Hedonism smells like the perfect coconut crème brûlée, and the creme and burned sugar tastes really coat your palate and make you want another sip. It truly is a unique whisky. I can’t recommend this enough. I would, however, be careful with water on this, as it loses its sumptuousness quickly.
A brilliant concoction of seaside bonfire Caol Ila balanced with phenolic Laphroaig and sweetly-smoky Ardmore. I’m a big peat-head, and, in fact, a frequent drinker of all three malts in Peat Monster. The nose has a sweet seaweed character, backed up with some honey and some earthiness. As one might expect, the mouthfeel on this is all Islay – slick, oily, and palate-coating. The flavors are very well balanced and elegant: a mix of peat, citrus, iodine, seawater, and a hint of fruit that gets more pronounced with water.
Again, I highly recommend you order yourself a Compass Box Gift Pack and taste for yourself. Being able to take a sip of Oak Cross and then a sip of Spice Tree and to see what wood can really do to spirit is an invaluable experience. In one little black box you get Christmas cake, a seaside fire, and spring flowers. Now, where else are you going to get that?
Compass Box Delicious Whisky Ltd
9 Power Road
London W4 5PY
+44 (0)20 8995 0899