Tag Archives: Compass Box

Compass Box, Empire State South, & The GBS

Last night I went to a Compass Box event featuring John Glaser at Empire State South with a few of the guys from the Georgia Bourbon Society including Dave whose new blog you can check out here. We had a blast but to be honest we usually do. The event was structured a little differently from whiskey events I attended in the past. We had the bar area of the restaurant and Empire gave everyone a Compass Box centric menu. The menu featured some tasty bits plus 0.5, 1, and 2 ounce pours of Asyla, Great King Street Artists Blend, Great King Street NY Blend, Oak Cross, Spice Tree, Peat Monster, Delilah’s, and Peat Monster 10th Anniversary along with some tasty cocktails featuring Compass Box whiskies. All were a la carte and not inexpensive. While we were imbibing Mr. Glaser was floating from table to table to answer questions and talk about his great whiskies and his craft. If you haven’t had a chance to meet John Glaser then I will tell you that he is a very approachable and knowledgeable gentleman who enjoys talking about what he does.

During the discussions with Mr. Glaser we got the background on the making of his recent Delilah’s limited release. This lovely whisky was made at the request of the owner of the namesake bar in Chicago. It was supposed to be a bourbon inspired easy drinking whisky that would go equally well with a beer or in a nosing glass. On both accounts Compass Box succeeded with flying colors. The secret to the blend is some 12 year old Cameronbridge single grain that Diageo was experimenting with in new oak barrels. This is the source to the lovely vanilla notes coming through. Delicious!

Toward the end of the night after we had certified our whisky-geekdom street cred Mr. Glaser comes over with a few small pours of The General. In addition to being amazing he also regaled us with the story of this bottling. This new limited release is the result of two blends that came into the possession of Compass Box. One is around 33 years old and of unknown province. This one came via a whisky broker. The other is around 40 years and came from Gordon and MacPhail. The uniqueness of this whisky has many layers. It’s very old. It is a blend of blends. And those blends were pre-blended and aged as blends subsequent to blending. The back story is almost as interesting as the whisky.

For those interested in The General your local options are limited. Tower is only getting a couple of bottles and those may already be spoken for. Call and ask for Matt. Green’s also has a few so that may be your best local option. I’m told that the only other retailer in Georgia getting any is Habersham’s in Savannah.

Our final piece of inside information was Mr. Glaser’s reveal of the next release. In the fall will be a release of Great King Street The Glasgow Blend. This will be a sherry smoky new addition to the regular line coming out of experimental work done in the European market. For those that don’t know Compass Box release a sherry focused experimental blend and a smoky focused experimental blend in Europe only. The purpose was to gauge interest in which direction they should go with their next blend. Apparently, it was split down the middle. As a result, the new blend will be the best of both worlds.

My only gripe about the whole evening is that I would’ve preferred a set price and whisky list similar to other tasting but it was a minor inconvenience. This was a great time featuring great whisky and a great whiskymaker. Fittingly, during April we will be featuring reviews of Compass Box whiskies here so be sure to check back. Oh, and we sort of made John Glaser an honorary member of the Georgia Bourbon Society too.


New U.S. Releases – June 2011

I thought it might be a good idea to post these new release summaries on the last day of the actual month I’m summarizing instead of the following month. We’ll see if I can stick to that.

With one exception, June seemed to be all about American whiskey. From big producers to craft distillers, we have some interesting stuff that came through in June.

Wild Turkey 81
Release Date: Now
ABV: 40.5%
Price: $20
This one kind of took us by surprise. Usually, we get press releases some months in advance of bottles hitting the shelves. This is especially true of large producers like Wild Turkey. There is not really much to say here that Matt hasn’t already covered. Check out our review for more details.

OYO Whiskey
Release Date: Now
ABV: 46%
Price: $45
This new wheat whiskey comes from Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio. This is a 100% wheat whiskey aged in beeswax sealed barrels.

Walleye Rye
Release Date: Now
ABV: 45%
Price: $35/375ml
Made by New Holland Brewer, this rye is fermented from a wash of malted rye and 2-row malted barley. Walleye Rye is twice-distilled and matured in small American oak barrels. They release less than 350 375ml bottles per batch.

Whipper Snapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey
Release Date: Now
Price: $30
This is an interesting little product from Ransom Spirits. The first part of the whiskey is made from barley that is malted in the Pacific Northwest, and unmalted barley grown in the Willamette valley of Oregon. The second part is made by using a base of Kentucky corn whitedog, re-distilled in an alembic pot still. They age in a combination of barrels, including used French coopered pinot noir barrels, new American coopered whiskey barrels, and used American whiskey barrels. The age is between six months and two years, with an average time of about one year.

John B. Stetson Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Release: TBD for US market
Price: TBD
American whiskey (most likely Heaven Hill) purchased and bottle by Germans and sold back to U.S. consumers (among other countries too). If it tastes good I’ll buy, regardless of how convoluted the supply chain is. Plus, it’s got cowboys and horses on the label! You don’t get more manly and American than that.

Great King Street – The Artist’s Blend
Release: September 2011
Price: $41/500ml, no price yet on 750ml bottles coming to the U.S.
Something new from Compass Box? Hell yeah I’m excited. John Glaser never disappoints. This new range of whiskies named for the Compass Box office address was created to appeal to both the malt whisky enthusiasts and those new to whisky. The first release in the Great King Street range is the Artist’s Blend. I can’t wait until September!

That’s June. Let’s see what treasures July holds!

New U.S. Releases: October ’10

After the relative drought last month I’ve heard rumblings of a number of new drams coming stateside between now and early next year. The problem is that most of them are just that…rumblings. Most of what I’ve heard is pretty light on details. Here’s what I’ve got:

Compass Box Flaming Heart 10th Anniversary Bottling
Price: $105
ABV: $48.9%
Release: Fall 2010
This is the third Flaming Heart release and only the second to come to the U.S. market. It was developed to celebrate Compass Box’s 10th anniversary. I am a big fan of Compass Box and John Glaser’s talent. I can’t wait to try this one.

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
Price: $375
ABV: 55.6%
Release: Fall 2010
This special bottling is coming out to celebrate the recent distillery expansion at Glenlivet. Look for it in a specialty shop near you.

Penderyn Sherrywood and Peated
Price: $70 each
ABV: 46%
Release: Fall 2010
Matt and I were supposed to receive review samples of these but that fell through for some reason. Regardless, more whisky from around the globe is always a good thing.

There are also several that are not new but will be new to the US. These include:
The Black Grouse
an Cnoc 12 Year and 16 Year
A.D. Rattray independently bottled whiskies

Other new releases include…

The Glenrothes John Ramsay Legacy
Old Pulteney 30 yr. old
Deanston Virginia Oak
Amrut Intermediate Sherry

…and several special releases from Diageo:
Lagavulin 12
Cragganmore 21
Talisker 30
Glen Spey 21
Auchroisk 20
Glenkinchie 20

That’s a lot of new stuff but unfortunately I don’t have many details on any of these. Stay tuned for more information.

Drink wisely my friends,


Whisky Fest NY ’09 Recap

Last night the Whisk(e)y Apostles re-united at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the 12th Annual New York Whisky Fest.  Despite selling fewer tickets this year, it still seemed awfully crowded.  We ran into some friends, saw some from a distance, and I’m sure we missed others entirely.  We had a great time, but we hope you appreciate what hard work an event of this magnitude is for humble whisk(e)y writers such as ourselves.

The night started off with VIP hour.  For the first time, there were published special VIP only pours.  Before we just got to drink for an hour longer than everyone else.  When we saw that The Dalmore was pouring the King Alexander III during the VIP hour, we made a b-line for the table.  The King Alexander III is comprised of whiskies aged in six types of barrels.  The results is a very rich and complex whisky that far out shines the rest of the Dalmore line (more on that later).

Bushmills‘ VIP pour was the 1608, a very fine dram indeed.  However, both of us agreed that the 21yo to be superior (although Matt found it to be a slow opener).  It delivered a complexity of character previously unseen in the Bushmill’s single malts.

Not to buck the established whiskirati, but both of us found the new Wild Turkey Tradition to be superior to the recent American Spirit bottling (but Matt never really took to the American Spirit).

Next up was a lovely pour of Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.  This was another high point of the VIP hour.  It started with a lovely nose and followed all the way through as an all around great Irish whiskey experience.  Highly recommended by both Apostles.

There were a few disappointments during the VIP hour.  Tullamore Dew’s 10yo single malt, Bunnahabhain’s 25yo, and the Kilbeggan 15yo all were not bad but didn’t grab us as particularly special, although the Kilbeggan’s nose was unlike any Irish we’d ever smelled.

We rounded out the VIP hour with a stop at Pierre Ferrand’s booth.  This was always Richard’s favorite cognac distiller but it was a new experience for Matt.  In addition to their great standard offerings they were pouring their 45yo Abel and 75yo Ancestrale bottlings during the first hour.  Both were magnificent to say the least.  Unfortunately, we fear that Matt is now ruined on cognac with a new affinity for these exceptional and very old Grand Champagne bottlings.  (And you thought all we drank was whisk(e)y!)

At the end of the VIP hour we tried to handled the overwhelming abundance of offerings with strategic planning but even for the experienced attendee Whisky Fest can be overwhelming.  We’ll take you through the high points by group.

Most of our bourbon time was spent with Woodford, Heaven Hill, and Buffalo Trace.  We got a nip of the new Master Distiller’s Seasoned Oak release from Woodford Reserve.  It was unanimous that the Seasoned Oak is far superior to the most recent two releases but still doesn’t hold a candle to Four Grain releases of years past.  Heaven Hill was offering the 27yo and Golden Anniversary bottlings of Parker’s Heritage Collection.  Both are very good but Matt found the Golden Anniversary more complex while Richard thought the 27yo was the better of the two.  Either way you really can’t go wrong.  We ended bourbon for the evening by thoroughly harassing the Buffalo Trace representative. Threats were issued and promises were made.  In the end there is a loose promise that we will see Buffalo Trace in Georgia by the end of next year. Richard finds it a travesty that Georgia is so close to Kentucky but can’t get any of Buffalo Trace’s standard release.  We haven’t formally reviewed it but it is a personal best buy for both Apostles.

Next we move to our neighbor to the north.  Seasoned readers of our site will know that we haven’t spoken too kindly regarding Canadian whiskies in the past.  We were fortunate enough to have a very candid discussion with John Hall of Forty Creek about the current state of the Canadian whisky industry.  He is great guy and always good to talk with.  During the discussion he poured the Double Barrel Reserve release of Forty Creek, which is very nice.  We also found out that there is the potential for a new release of the Port Wood that didn’t make it to the U.S. the last time it was made.  This time, according to Mr. Hall, it will make it to the US market.  We rounded out our Canadian experience by tried the Cask No. 16 from Crown Royal.  What can we say?  It was good!  This is just more proof that Limousin oak can make anything taste great.

As with most of these events, Scotch seemed to dominate the floor.  We were eager to try the new Dalmore range and were a little disappointed.  The Dalmore has been an Apostle favorite in the past.  The new line tasted flat.  However, we didn’t make it over there until later in the evening.  There is a great possibility that we were suffering from palate fatigue (not to mention the general distraction involved with these events).  We agreed that it would be best to try these again under calmer circumstances before making any definitive statements.

We had a long chat with John MacDonald of Inver House (distillery manager for Balblair) about great whisky and sexy packaging.  We started with AnCnoc, an interesting dram with the scent of a Speyside and the palate of a Highland.  The 16yo particularly stands out.  John’s baby, Balblair was poured as 1991 and 1997 vintages.  Both were really exceptional and will be in the states January of 2010.  When asked about a vintage model versus the age model, he said it was about quality.  After tasting, we could not argue about the quality.

Other highlights in Scottish whisky included as short visit with Dr. Whisky at the Balvenie table, where we tried the 17yo Madeira Cask.  This edition of the 17yo is a fine dram, a step up from last year’s Rum Cask, but still not as heavenly as the original Islay Cask.  The Springbank table gave us some very lovely 18yo Springbank and some very promising 5yo “work in progress” Kilkerran.  Ronnie Cox of The Glenrothes poured us some excellent whisky before being mobbed by Orthodox Jews.  To our palates, the Alba Reserve is superior to the Select Reserve and the 1985 vintage is just swell.  Perhaps the most colorful part of the night was the latest Compass Box offerings.  John Glaser has re-introduced The Spice Tree and Orangerie to the line.  The Spice Tree is going to once again be an Apostle favorite, while Mr. Glaser himself described the Orangerie as some “wacky shit.”  We couldn’t agree more.

After hearing all the hype about Amrut whisky (not to mention the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth involved in getting it to the US), the Apostles were eager to try this Indian single malt.  Matt had been taken in by the hype and was a little disappointed, while Richard’s ardent skepticism provided him with a pleasant surprise.  In general, the entire line is overly sweet and a little unbalanced, it might benefit from a higher proof.  The Fusion expression (a mixture of Indian barley and Scottish peated barley) is the most balanced and enjoyable of the line.

Finally, there were the American microdistillers,  There were more this year than ever before.  Finger Lakes Distilling in upstate New York brought Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey and McKenzie’s Rye.  Glen Thunder can best be described as liquid corn bread in both nose and palate.  McKenzie’s Rye is unlike any other American rye.  The palate is heavy with ginger bread without any of the sticky sweetness of modern ryes.  Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey continues to improve.  It is very much a beer drinker’s dram (very malty).  The much talked about High West Whiskeys brought their entire line.  All were good, but the Rendezvous Rye stands above the rest.  Lastly was Triple Eight Distillery’s Notch whiskey.  We were like “how good can whiskey from Nantucket be?”  The answer:  pretty darn good.  Made using their own bottle ready beer, it reminded us a little of Charbay Whiskey.  However, at $888, it makes Charbay look like a steal.

Whisky Fest was a great event again this year.  This is always a highlight of the U.S. whiskey calendar every year for twelve years running.  We would like to thank everyone involved in making Whisky Fest work.  The food was great and the atmosphere was friendlier than ever before.  Thanks especially to John Hansell and his entire staff at Malt Advocate for organizing this event.  We can’t wait until next year!

-Matt & Richard

News From Compass Box

We’ve recently mentioned the re-release of The Spice Tree from Compass Box Whisky.  This is more than exciting to me, as this was one of my favorites when it was first released.  You can read our review of the first release here.  We will let you know about the new one as soon as possible.

Well, Compass Box is also bringing back Orangerie, an “infusion of fresh, hand-zested organic orange zest, cassia and clove in 10 year-old Scotch whisky.”

Look for these two drams this fall and something extra special closer to winter time.  Compass Box is releasing a very limited, one time release of old vatted malt inspired by the “Lucky Blend.”  The new whisky will be called Lady Luck and I can’t wait to try it.

For more information about these whiskies, hit up the Compass Box website.

Drink well, drink responsibly.