Compass Box is an independent bottler which blends and bottles 'small batch' Scottish whiskies under their own label, with a reputation for pushing the boundaries of expectation, flavour, experimentation and marketing.
We recently sampled their latest (2015 release) limited editions: This is Not a Luxury Whisky and "Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Edition.
This is Not a Luxury Whisky
This quirkily-named dram is designed to make people rethink their definition of 'luxury whisky' and remind that at its fiery heart whisky is for drinking, not leaving unopened on the shelf.
We love the design of the bottle, in particular the cap and closure. No elaborate foil covering here, just a cork and a thin paper strip which almost says "rip out the cork and pour a glass, NOW!"
Colour: Vibrant, deep dark gold.
Nose: There's a lot going on here. We've tried some incredible blends in recent months and this absolutely continues that trend. Marzipan, sherbet, lots of rich sherry influence (walnuts, glacé cherries, sherry-soaked raisins) and the slightest hint of peat smoke (which is interesting considering only 4% of the blend is peated, and at 30 years old you'd expect the peat to be fairly subtle).
Palate: A hint of earthy smoke, a lot of sultanas, then citrus-driven Christmas cake. There's a definite sweetness too – icing sugar dusted milk chocolate truffles. Delicious.
Finish: Long and sweet. Lemon cream plus a little peat smoke which lingers to the very end.
Rating: 93/100. A brilliantly-constructed blend, and testament to John Glaser and the Compass Box team's skill at constructing complex and fantastic whiskies. And, rather ironically, in taste this is indeed a luxury whisky – but it's a bottle for drinking, not decorating your cabinet.
Details: 53.1% ABV, NAS, Blended Scotch whisky, £124.75
Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Edition
Flaming Heart is a blended malt, with Caol Ila making up the majority of the blend; it's non-chill filtered with no spirit colouring.
Colour: Light gold.
Nose: 'Medicinal sweetness' best sums up this complex mix. Iodine and milk bottle lollies meets Taiwanese pineapple cake and freshly cut grass.
Palate: Sweet and juicy peat. Some mocha, lots of milk chocolate, yet still medicinal. I would have guessed there was some Laphroaig in the blend if I didn't know better. There's a slight meatiness too, like an aged, oily piece of Jamón ibérico. Simply excellent.
Finish: Long, lingering woodsmoke with an underlying confectionary sweetness – boiled lollies, predominantly.
Rating: 92/100. Another winner. It's not hard to throw a few Islay whiskies together and produce a blended (or blended malt) Islay whisky, but to produce one with the complexities that this has? That takes skill.
Details: 48.9% ABV, NAS, Blended Scotch whisky, £83.12
Also read: Three great whiskies to buy duty-free
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT