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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cinematic: The General Compass Box Blended Scotch Whisky


New technology is, in general always fun to purchase and play with. Rarely have I found myself buying a piece of new technology that is truly essential; how often does one really need a new camera, tablet computer or, indeed, TV.

However, this last month has seen two piece of, erm, essential technology arrive at Chez Harrison. The first really is an essential: after an inspection on a very aging boiler in my new house, it was deemed by people in the know, who wear proper stout work clothes and carry actual tools, including a real gas-safety monitor, that my current boiler was a silent assassin; not the stylish sort you’d read about in a Nordic noir novel, but a clunky, British elderly sort who was capable of accidently pulling off the perfect crime. Less Stieg Larsson, more Tales of the Unexpected.

Now, I’m not sure many of you would think of a simple boiler, the heartbeat of a house, as a piece of technology. That is, until you see these modern-sorts which one can now purchase. My new boiler comes with a digital remote control, meaning you basically have a thermostat in whichever room you choose to inhabit of an evening. Some of the posher versions even come with an app to allow you to switch the heating and hot water on and off, from your mobile phone or tablet. I know, I know... this is the future, right??

The second piece of new technology which I’ve picked up, is a TV. I think most people would say that a TV isn’t an essential piece in the jigsaw of life but it has managed to ensconce itself firmly into the fabric of our culture and play a major role in our free time.

Buying a TV these days is not as simple as it used to be. 20 years ago, it was simply about size: how big do you want it. And if you want a really big TV, you’ll have to put up with something the size of a small car, parked in the corner of your living room.

In the 21st century, in the telly showrooms of the world, questions arise such as the refresh rate speed; LCD vs LED; 3D capability; do you want a ‘smart TV’ (I take it that means it has been to University for three years and can hold its own at a middle class dinner party...) and so on.

Some of these technological leaps, such as HD and the skinny nature of many of today’s screens are a vast improvement on the technology from previous years. But no matter how many aspects of technology we throw at the small screen, television is simply not the experience that cinema delivers.

Cinema is something else; the big screen, the huge surround sound, the comfy chairs, the sticky floors... it all adds up to an experience which we know and love.

There is something comforting about the cinema, but (it seems to me anyway) that, save for 3D films, the vast leaps forward in technology which we have seen in the world of TV, haven’t quite been applicable in the cinema, with the ‘experience’ relying far more on just that: experience. Visiting the cinema doesn’t seem to feel any different for me now, as it did when I was 12. It is still exciting, visceral and, to some degree (and compared to modern telly), old fashionedBut ultimately, very comforting indeed.

It is this comforting quality of being old-fashioned, antique if you like, which really sets apart the whisky in this post.

Constructed from a complicated mix of two parcels of pre-blended stock, which was allowed to mature for a very long time (33 years and, apparently 40 years) before the good people at Compass Box discovered them and decided that bringing them together into one single, uber-blend was a good idea.

And indeed it was:



The General – Compass Box – Blended Scotch Whisky – NAS – 53.4% abv - 70cl - ~£200 here and here

Nose: A very big, rich nose which brings to mind the age-old tasting note of deeply polished wood, sandalwood, toffee, oak and freshly baked wholemeal bread.

Palate: A strong palate which gives meaty notes, ginger, pulled pork and BBC burnt-ends. A hint of fruity lime is overpowered by candied orange and Ryvita. With water, the orange turns to orange blossom and lighter, white flowers (Lilly) emerge. The robustness is lost but replaced by a lovely floral delicacy, with the grain element becoming more lively.

Finish: Orange creams and banoffee pie. Again, with water, much more delicate but an increased spice on the finish.

Overall: this is a very interesting whisky, full of flavour and very old style, well aged malt and grain. The flavours of all the old-skool are there, and very comforting they are indeed.


Technology? Na, thanks. I’m off to the cinema for the sights, sounds and the smells which I hope never change as I carry on the journey into middle and old age.