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Friday, 11 January 2013

The Wonka Of The Whisky World: Compass Box

Well, here we are again. Yet another year begins and, would you believe it, we're approaching the middle of the first month already. Sort of. Hush my mouth, we're really only eleven days in. Barely scratching the surface, really! Or should that be 'barley scratching the surface'...?

Right, with the contender for 'worst pun of the year' already made in only our second post of 2013, it's time to start to talk seriously about the year ahead. We've already heard rumours about interesting bottlings to come from a wide variety of different distilleries and blenders, but no matter what is pulled from various warehouses across Scotland (and let's not forget the rest of world, please) and put in a bottle, there is one vital aspect that still underscores the whole of the whisk(e)y business and that is quality.

In 2012 we've seen more bottles than ever released, and at increasingly higher prices (see: Supply And Demand 101) but, ya know, I actually think the quality is getting better. Even Aldi and Lidl are taking their whisky seriously nowadays. Who would have said that a few years ago about two shops which openly claim to be aimed at the shopper on a budget... amazing really. So as we enter our sixth year of writing about this fantastic product, we look forward to sharing our journey of discovery with you and to continue what we set out to do right at the start: educate, entertain and inform.


Rumours of interesting bottles will always abound on the internet and until someone from a company, PR house or retailer actually tells us something is coming, we often take any whispers with a large pinch of salt. Especially those press releases which magically seem to appear each year on the first day of April...

However, there is one company who specialise in unusual bottles. When you hear a rumour about a possible release from this indie whisky house, you just hope it's true. The Wonka of whisky, Compass Box has been churning out amazing blended whisky since its inception in a West London kitchen in 2000.

Thirteen years later and this creative bunch have turned their hand to pretty much everything they could get away with, within the confines of the ever-changing Scotch Whisky Association regulations (and even some outside of it); this lot are real 'punks', in the purest sense of the word.

But not only do Compass Box have a focus on constructing fantastic liquid, they also have a real eye for art, too. The packaging designs chosen to house the whisky are just fantastic and the boxes which these bottles wear, sublime. Let's take a look at a new release from The House Of Compass Box, by way of an illustration:

Compass Box - The Entertainer - Blended Whisky - 1000 bottles only - Selfridge's exclusive - 70cl - 46% ABV - £84.99 here

This comes in a box and with a label which looks like Magritte and Duchamp have had a fight in workshop in early Nineteenth Century Vienna. To say this is a stunning piece is beyond doubt. But as we all know, whisky is not just about the packaging. How does this stuff actually taste?

Nose: A big hit of butterscotch and fresh daisy, there is also a wisp of peat smoke and oodles of vanilla. Just like opening a bag of Werther's Original by the fireside.

Palate: Deliciously delicate at first, with firey peat coming in to back up the mellow start. Tasted marshmallow melts over hot buttered crumpets and a hint of walnut praline gives some additional depth.

Finish: Vanilla. Peat smoke. Cinnamon. In that order. In equal measure.

Overall: This is incredibly drinkable whisky. With a drop of water it opens up to become really very moorish. Very well constructed a liquid.

This whisky is a creation specifically for the good people at Selfridges (who, ironically, don't actually sell fridges. Unlike John Lewis, who do) where it is exclusively available. Quite a timely release here in the UK; with a Downtown drought on, we have had to quench our thirst for costume drama with a new series that kicked off this weekend called Mr Selfridge, all about the inception of the great store and, I'm sure, some poetic licence on the odd love story of the workers therein.

Just 1000 bottles of this blend have been produced, retailing at £84.99. I wonder if Mr Selfridge was a whisky drinker himself. If so, I'm sure he'd have been proud to have this in his shop. And not just for the box.