Compass Box Orchard House

Compass Box Orchard House
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

46% ABV
Compass Box Orchard House Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

What the Blender Says

Fruit-forward & spirit-driven
What is more universally delicious than ripe fruit? Even the greatest chefs have been known to serve a simple dish of strawberries or a single, perfect peach as a dessert.

Orchard House gathers together some of the fruitiest malts Scotland has to offer, including whiskies from the Linkwood and Clynelish distilleries; what’s more, we have sourced many of these whiskies as new spirit and laid them down in our own oak casks. This, our monument to fresh fruitiness in Scotch whisky, has been many years in the making.

When neat or poured over a large ice cube, Orchard House makes for an outstanding pre-dinner malt. It will ably partner amber and pale ales, as well as swathes of soft cheeses. Welcome to our home among the fruit trees – the door is unlocked.

TECHNICAL DETAILS: Natural colour | Not chill-filtered

FLAVOUR PROFILE: Aromas of apple and pear dominate, with hints of pineapple, lemon and lime zest, and Earl Grey tea. Take a sip and note the malty and gingery flavours. These are soon joined by honey, wild strawberries and vanilla shortbread.

What Gary Says

Nose:  Fruity and floral, green apples, poached pears, hint of lemon zest and apple cider.
Palate:  Creamy mouthfeel with peaches and cream, apples, vanilla, pears, nutmeg and honey.
Finish:  Moderately long and drying with fruit and subtle mulling spice notes.
Comments:  This is delicious, and dangerously drinkable. It has a really nice fall vibe, with some apple cider – perfect for this time of year. I picked this one up at the same time as Compass Box Canvas, and I liked this almost as much as that – but like the price point on this way more. It doesn’t have the same mouthfeel (which I wouldn’t expect), but if you’re a Compass Box fan – I’d definitely give this one a try.

Rating: Stands Out/Must Try

Compass Box Canvas

Compass Box Canvas
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

46% ABV
Compass Box Canvas Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

What the Blender Says

Whisky is our Canvas; what’s yours?
This is an exceedingly colourful and vibrant Scotch whisky, thanks to a parcel of single malt re-racked into experimental barrels for three years.

Seasoned with Vino Naranja (Spanish fortified wine infused with orange peel), these unusual casks bring new shades of deliciousness to Canvas with their chocolatey richness and sticky marmalade fragrance.

Single malts from the Tomatin, Glenburgie, Glen Elgin and Imperial distilleries, all aged in American oak, bring further generous flavours of custard, honey and frangipane. Rather than restrained watercolours, this is a work in decadent oil paints.

TECHNICAL DETAILS: Natural colour | Not chill-filtered | A limited edition of 5,880 bottles | June 2021.

FLAVOUR PROFILE: The gloriously waxy and citrusy nose is followed by forest honey and vanilla shortbread notes on the palate. Flavours of nutmeg, cardamom and chocolate intertwine in the long-lasting finish.

What Gary Says

Nose:  Musty, waxy and meaty, blood oranges with herbal/savory notes, orange bitters, hints of currants and black tea.
Palate:  Rich and thick mouthfeel, sweet with honey, subtle dark fruits with figs and oranges, nutmeg and cocoa.
Finish:  Moderately long and slightly drying with fruit and a hint of pepper.
Comments:  This is a nice dram. The nose is subtle, and the orange influence is evident but not forceful. It has a really nice body and mouthfeel, although there are a lot of Compass Box limited editions I’d pick up over this one for similar price. A bit of water brings out the fruit even more, with an orange marmalade note on the palate. Don’t get me wrong – this is a really nice dram, but maybe I’ve been spoiled with others that for me had more depth and complexity. Or this just isn’t in my wheelhouse.

The components consist of nearly 60% coming from 13 yr Tomatin barrels (43% refill bourbon barrel and 11% Vino Naranja barrels), followed by nearly 25% from 14 yr first fill bourbon barrels from Glenburgie, 15% from 18 yr recharred American Oak hogsheads from Glen Elgin, and 6% from 24 yr first fill bourbon barrels from Imperial.

Rating: Stands Out

Cutty Sark 25 Year Old Tam O’Shanter

Cutty Sark 25 Year Old Tam O’Shanter
Blended Scotch Whisky

46.5% ABV
$200-$320 (released in 2012 @ £199)
Cutty Sark 25 Year Old Tam O'Shanter Blended Scotch Whisky

What the Internet* Says

Cutty Sark owner Edrington is celebrating Burns Night 2012 by releasing Cutty Sark 25 Year Old Tam O’Shanter. Tam O’Shanter is the name of the Rabbie Burns poem which introduced the world to the witch Cutty Sark – the namesake of the famous ship, and ultimately the whisky.

A limited release of 5,000 bottles, this is the first whisky blend created by master blender Kirsteen Campbell.

The release is presented in a substantial wooden box, containing a 134 page book with with over 50 illustrated scenes by the late Alexander Goudie who is considered one of Scotland’s finest figurative painters. The box is also decorated in Goudie’s style.

* As this was released in 2012, there is nothing on Cutty Sark’s web-site about it, but this was gleaned from 2012 reports on its release as well as reputable auction sites.

What Gary Says

Nose:  Sherry bomb; rich and thick with raisins, rancio, roasted walnuts, ponzu sauce glazed brisket, worn leather with faint pipe tobacco smoke.
Palate:  Rich and intense, fruitcake with a sherry reduction drizzle, honey, nutmeg, clove, note of balsamic, bit of peat with pepper.
Finish:  Long with dark fruit, spices and fading pepper.
Comments:  Wow – this is a really dark dram! Oh – and f’ing magnificent! A truly complex, luscious pour that is everything I hope for in older scotch. I’ll admit – if someone had told me “Hey, I’ve got this Cutty Sark blend that might crack your top 10 all time pours”, I’d have been willing to bet cash they were wrong. Released back in 2012, finding one on a shelf isn’t likely, although if you do – I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, already past the half-way point in 2021 and this is the first whisky this year I’ve put as a 100% ‘Must Buy’. It is THAT good.

Rating: Must Buy

John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend

John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend
Blended Scotch Whisky

51% ABV
John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend

What the Blender Says

John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend honors the past whilst being an invitation to raise a glass to the next 200 years.

2020 marks 200 years since John Walker first opened the doors to a small grocery store in rural Scotland, setting in motion a chain of events that would change the world of Scotch whisky forever. This is a limited edition release inspired by our first commercial blend ‘Old Highland Whisky’ the first of our whiskies to be exported from Scotland to the four corners of the world.

As John Walker opened the doors to his grocery store two hundred years ago, we invite you to do the same when you open this celebratory Scotch whisky blend to unveil the historic image of where our journey began.

A lot has changed since those early days, but our entrepreneurial spirit remains the same.


The John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend is inspired by a breakthrough moment, the release of ‘Old Highland Whisky’ in the 1860s, which was created primarily for export and became the first of our whiskies to travel from Scotland to the four corners of the world. With more whisky being sold overseas, the iconic design of the square bottle and uniquely slanted label were distinct and helped the name stand out against other whiskies.

“John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend is a sensorial journey featuring notes of sweet dried raisins, subtle spice and marzipan, which develop into hints of roasted nuts, icing sugar sweetness and gentle peat, with a soft pepper finish. It celebrates an historic moment in the our story.”
– Jim Beveridge, Johnnie Walker Master Blender

NOSE: On the nose this whisky has sweet dried raisins, subtle spice and marzipan.
PALATE: The palate develops hints of roasted nuts, icing sugar sweetness and gentle peat.
FINISH: The finish is soft pepper.

(whisky advocate notes)
This spicy concoction, inspired by John Walker’s original Old Highland Whisky, has a nose of marzipan, candied peel, raisin, marmalade, aromatic spices, pepper, and ginger loaf, with a trace of cool smoke and peppermint. The strength and pepperiness give this plenty of clout, with a flavor unique among Johnnie Walker whiskies: brown sugar, hazelnut, royal icing on wedding cake, nuts, pepper, clove, peat, and blackened fruitcake.

What Gary Says

Nose:  Fruit notes with raisins and apricots, caramel, chocolate, subtle vegetal notes with peat.
Palate:  Rich and thick, dark fruit with toffee, caramel, chocolate, spice notes kicking in with nutmeg, cinnamon, hazelnuts, allspice and pink peppercorn.
Finish:  Moderately long, drying with dark fruit, honey and spice.
Comments:  One of the better Johnnie Walker (I know – this is ‘John Walker’) blends I’ve tried. Appreciate the higher ABV, although drinks nicely neat. Takes a bit of water well, opening up the fruit notes more with some apples and pears peeking in. A nicely balanced dram!

Rating: Stands Out/Must Try

Elvis Rye

Elvis Rye
Straight Rye Whiskey

45% ABV
Elvis Rye
We would like to thank Grain & Barrel Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review.

What the Producer Says

Grain & Barrel Spirits announced on September 13, 2021 a long-term licensing agreement with Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) to launch a duo of Elvis Presley-themed whiskeys. Both expressions – rye and whiskey – were sourced and blended by an expert team of whiskey experts and bottled in Tennessee, where Elvis began his career and called home.

“Given our expertise within premium whiskey, the Elvis expressions are a natural fit for Grain & Barrel Spirits,” said Matti Anttila, founder of Grain & Barrel Spirits. “Elvis was one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century and continues to inspire his fans today. We look forward to launching the brand, which is sure to be a highly sought after collector’s item.”

Both expressions feature an iconic photo of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” in his prime and pay homage to two of the legendary singer’s most popular nicknames: The King (rye), and Tiger Man (whiskey). The labels, which were created by Alyson Design, LLC, also feature notable references to Presley, including his signature and the letters “TCB” printed on the neck of the bottle, referring to “Taking Care of Business,” a phrase which was the mantra for Elvis and his Memphis Mafia.

Mash Bill*
95% Rye | 5% Malted Barley

Tasting Notes
Aroma: Sweet Rye grassiness, followed by hints of citrus and spice
Flavor: Toasted oak, butterscotch, vanilla wafers and a hint of pepper
Finish: Beautiful, sweet, complex finish with a velvety mouthfeel

* Distilled by MGP

What Gary Says

Nose:  Rye spice with mint, dill, citrus zest, thyme and a bit of cedar.
Palate:  Caramel with tangerines, honey, mint, dried dill, hint of cinnamon and pepper.
Finish:  Short and drying with mint and pepper spice.
Comments:  First off, let me applaud the transparency in acknowledging that the distillate is coming from MGP. I know thanks to non-disclosure agreements some folks can’t share sources, but I always appreciate that they do when they can. If given an option to drink any form of whiskey at 2 years old, my pick would be rye every time (not that I wouldn’t prefer it with more age!) In particular this high-rye mash bill from MGP does well, with bright spice notes and more flavor than I get from a bourbon or other whiskey at the same age. I definitely enjoyed this more than the Elvis Whiskey, although the price point would similarly make it a collectible over a drinker for me.

Rating: Average