Compass Box – Story of the Spaniard (Batch 1)

Compass Box has been on a roll lately, churning out special release after special release. It’s refreshing, then, to review a new permanent member of the Compass Box lineup. The Story of the Spaniard – awkward name aside – is both a nod to the common practice of maturing scotch whisky in Spanish sherry casks, and also a reference to a special release bottling called The Spaniard that CB released for a bar by that name in New York. Don’t get the two editions mixed up on the shelf!

Thanks to Debbie at The Collective PR, I was able to sample a slate of Compass Box malts including this one. The Story of the Spaniard is a blended malt whisky (that is to say, multiple single malts but no grain whisky) that is composed of malts aged in ex-sherry (48%) and Spanish red wine casks (25%). The vatting is bottled without added color or chill filtration at 43% ABV. As usual with Compass Box, all of the information you could possibly want is available online except for the ages of the components, for which you must email “hello at” to ask. 40% of the malt here is from “A distillery near Aberlour” which could mean Aberlour, Macallan or Craigellachie. That latter is most likely. The component that is aged in Spanish red wine casks is from Teaninich.

Compass Box is intending to release a batch or two a year, based on availability of the Spanish red wine casks needed for the Teaninich.

Nose: Almost (but not quite) a sherry bomb. Sweet and unctuous and syrupy sherry, with the usual dried-and-jammed fruit notes of fig and plum and apricot. Caramel, sweet honeyed malt, and maple syrup. Dense and enticing.

Palate: Thin body. Sweet and fruity upfront, with all the notes promised by the aroma. Figs, dates, Christmas cake, plump raisins, and not-quite-resinous balsamic.

Finish: Medium-short. Some red wine tannins, with a dash of oak and a hint of bramble. Fades quickly without evolving.

With Water: A few drops of water seem to mute the aroma without adding anything. There is, perhaps, some vanilla buttercream frosting. Maybe. The palate is similarly watered-down and… you know what? Just skip the water.

Overall: A fine sherry bomb. The Spanish red wine casks are noticeable, but thankfully do not impede the flow of the whisky like many red wine finishes I’ve tasted in the past. They seem to contribute tannins and some fresh fruit notes without becoming overly bitter or uhh… “red winey”? There is a very manageable amount of bitter tannin here, and an abundance of delectable sweet sherry notes. If it were $40, it would be my new go-to sherry bomb. At $60, it’s something I might consider purchasing when I’m in the mood. At that price-point, it competes with a lot of excellent sherried whisky. GlenDronach 12 (a totally different type of sherry, but comparable in quality and maturation age) can still be found for $45. Just sayin’.

Compass Box – Story of the Spaniard (Batch 1)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $65 - $75
Acquired: (50ml review sample) Thanks Debbie!

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  • No sulphur with this one at all? I’m quite sensitive to it and I hate it when I’m greeted with rotten egg stench (hello Macallan 12 Double Cask) or rotten egg and spent match (hi there Glen Garioch 1999) from poorly managed casks in my Sherried whiskies.

    • I seem to have been cursed (blessed?) with a very decreased sensitivity to sulfur in whisky. I have certainly noticed the aroma before, but usually only in truly off casks. So… don’t go by my recommendation on sherried scotches if you’re watching out for sulfur. That said, Glaser is a master at picking casks, and I’d be surprised if he allowed something over-sulfured into one of his blends.

  • Great point about the price. I just saw this for the first time at Total Wine. It sounded interesting but it was $10 more than my usual go to sherry bombs including GlenDronach 12. In fact it was only $20 less than the GlenDronach 15. Still sounds interesting but I don’t see myself buying it for that reason.

  • GlenDronach 12 runs $57-60 here in South Carolina which is a non-control state (i.e., no state-run liquor stores). Still a great value at that price, IMO. Their 15 is still yet to be seen in these parts, which is obviously annoying. If I see The Spaniard for $60 I’ll grab a bottle. Thanks for sharing your review.

    On a related note:
    Up until maybe 12-18 months ago I was able to order from and to take advantage of California’s cheaper Scotch prices. Something changed on the SC end of things and they will no longer ship to me. Whichever governing SC state agency must have sent out threatening legal letters. Lame. We need to lobby Congress to abolish the three-tier system so we can have a proper free market reflecting the entire US buying power rather than state-by-state.