Compass Box – Spice Tree Extravaganza

This being the 10-year anniversary of Compass Box having to halt production of the original Spice Tree, a blended whisky with French oak barrel staves inserted into the barrels (a scotch whisky regulation no-no), the Extravaganza is a bumped-up version of the remade Spice Tree, which uses toasted new French oak barrel heads instead of inserted staves in accordance with regulation.

Compass Box – 3 Year Old Deluxe

The 3 Year Old Deluxe is a thumbed nose at UK regulations because it contains (unspecified ages of) older whiskies with 0.4% of 3 year-old Clynelish. In effect, it’s a blended malt scotch whisky with 90% old-ish Clynelish and 10% old-ish sherried Talisker bottled at a robust 49.2% ABV without added color or chill filtration. In accordance with the age and quality of the whisky (and not the minimum age on the label), this is not going to be cheap.

Johnnie Walker Rye Cask Finish (10 year)

The first in the new Select Casks line, Rye Cask Finish is a blended scotch with a heart of Cardhu single malt, aged in first-fill American oak casks for at least 10 years, and then finished in ex-rye whiskey casks. The result is bottled at 46% ABV. Striking a triumphant balance between massive-scale industrial whisky and small-scale craft mentality, Rye Cask Finish is available for only $45 retail.

Monkey Shoulder

This is the kind of dram that you show to your friends who think “whisky” means something you add to Coke. Then you tell them it’s only $30. A gentle introduction to the world of malted whisky, with a very welcoming profile and a gentle effect on the palate, all with a nice array of grains and sweets that showcase what good middle-of-the-road ex-bourbon Scotch malt whisky is like.

Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky, to me, is all about art and subtlety. It’s aromatic, floral, subtle, and complex. … Japanese drinks giant Suntory has blended “selected” barrels from Hakushu and Yamazaki distilleries (both malts), and Chita distillery (heavy-type grain whisky). Unlike previous Suntory blends, this one relies on Hakushu as primary malt, not Yamazaki.

West Cork Original Classic Blend

The West Cork Distillery is a new (opened in 2003 as an experimental “pet project” and then expanded to its current location in 2013) and actually independent Irish distiller, unlike the previous poster-child for Irish (whiskey) independence, Cooley, which sold to Beam Suntory in 2011. Among other things, West Cork bottles this blend and a 10 year-old Irish Single Malt.

Forty Creek Barrel Select

The entry-level product from the upstart Canadian distillery, Forty Creek. As it’s positioned as a direct competitor to the entry-level Crown Royal, the flavor profile makes sense. It definitely tastes like a “higher end” Crown for not much more money. It’s also cheap enough to mix with. Forty Creek ages their copper pot-still components (rye, corn, and barley) in separate barrels and then carefully blends them together for the final product, an unusual approach.

Transparency in Scotch: Crusade or Marketing Ploy?

After the debacle with the SWA censuring Compass Box’s recent Flaming Heart (5th Edition) and This is Not a Luxury Whisky releases for, literally, revealing too much information about the recipe used in the bottle, Compass Box has come back fighting with a Campaign for Scotch Whisky Transparency. Is this just a publicity and/or marketing stunt by Compass Box to drum up more controversy and thus more exposure, or a righteous crusade for more truth and transparency in whisky marketing? Let’s break it down.