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Whisky Wednesday #8: Compass Box Ethereal

This #WhiskyWednesday, it’s time to celebrate one of our favourite whisky companies of all time, Compass Box. 🧭 This speciality blender, one of the first since the 1800s, really focus on producing top-quality spirit that is all about flavour, usually using blends with a very high proportion of malt content compared to other brands, as well as producing some exceptional blended malts and even the world’s first blended grain. They also campaign for transparency in whisky. Not only that, the whole team from John Glaser down are simply wonderful people and good friends, who we really admire. Indeed, @quaichsta will be hosting Assistant Whiskymaker James Saxon, who also grew up with the society, back in St Andrews tomorrow night.

This is the Ethereal expression put together by James Saxon for La Maison du Whisky in France. It focuses on re-charred and refill American oak for subtle and exciting flavours, while reviving one of the earliest Compass Box releases now in a new form, Eleuthera, which was their first blended malt back when the term was still “vatted malts”, people were too snobbish about blends. The spirit is composed of parcels of whisky from Old Pulteney, Miltonduff, Caol Ila and Ardbeg, to create something truly special.

The palate starts with some beautiful light citrus, a little bit of very fresh orange juice mixed with some lime and lemon, before a nice subtle wash of peat comes in. There are also interesting fresh top notes of light tropical fruits and a bit of melon. It’s a very oily spirit, with a more fragrant and aromatic, almost incense-style peat coming in at the back of the tongue towards the end, just before the finish. The finish is drying and woody, slightly spicy, making me think of the effects of cedar wood ageing on beer (something, incidentally, that James Saxon introduced me to himself not long after his last exam in a memorable afternoon at the pub - okay, semi-memorable 🤣). That lovely sweet melon hint is at the centre of the finish, which is medium long, while the peat perfectly balances Caol Ila and Ardbeg to avoid the more astringent tones of either and create something magical. Excellently named, this is a stellar dram from an extraordinary company. Slàinte! 🍊🍋💨🍈🪵🔥🍺🥃


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