Compass Box “Peat Monster”

John Glaser and Compass Box have been pushing the bounds of scotch since the beginning, often winning awards and angering conglomerates along the way. One of their long staples (Signature Range) has been the Peat Monster. This monster is, despite the name, not built to overwhelm with peat or smoke. Rather, the stated purpose is to take those Islay elements and enrich them with fruits and malt. In other words, to create something that is far more than a two-dimensional scotch. There is also a 2013 release of a 10th anniversary edition of the Peat Monster we hope to try in the future. We also raise a special glass to John Glaser, as he is a native son of Minnesota.

Because of EU laws, Compass Box only shares age information about their whiskies upon direct request. So, of course, we did. And they responded pretty fast. We won’t post what we received here, but we encourage you to do the same. Transparency!

Distillery: Compass Box
Region: Blends
Age: NAS
Strength: 46%
Price: $59.99
Location: London
Maturation: It’s complicated.
Nose: Peat, smoke, medicinal
Palate: Peat, smoke, brine
Finish: Smoke, peat, sweet

Comments: This malt was chosen as a collaboration between us and WhiskyDad, who gave our first guest review on it.

Adam – I actually enjoy this scotch. It is not the most dramatic I’ve ever tasted, but it isn’t necessarily simple either. There is smoke and peat, of course, but it isn’t trying to be an Islay, which I appreciate. There is a sweetness right on the edge, like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. It strikes that nice balance of smoke and peat without going overboard, allowing a little sweet complexity on the periphery. Very pleasant and approachable.

Meghan – This is a nice whisky. It has grown on me the more I sample it. Will it ever be a favorite? No. But, I’d happily imbibe if someone handed me a glass of it. If it were 10-15 dollars cheaper, I’d call it a great daily whisky. It tastes like it should run $45-50, not $60. It is closest in style to a Speyside, from an area heavily influenced by the Highlands. It is a blend so it has that type of smoothness. It is decidedly peaty with a wisp of smoke. It somehow reminds me a fine, dried soil- the type that breaks from the earth and collects around the roots of drying grasses during a low rain season. The kind of dirt that, when the wind is just right, will be picked up and cast about in a feeble attempt to become a dust devil. But it cannot manage that strength. Despite its name, this whisky is not a monster, peaty or otherwise. Sure, it is peaty and perhaps more peaty than most blends (I wouldn’t know. I tried Dewar’s just once from an airplane bottle given as a well-meaning stocking stuffer. It was dull, unpleasant, and tasted vaguely of shampoo. No one was sure if that was because that was how it was supposed to taste or if years of hanging around the bathroom, where it was left after being unpacked, had imparted a flavor through the plastic). But this whisky gives monsters a bad name. In fact, I think it is a waste of an excellent name. Peat Monster invokes a certain image but what is in the bottle does not match it. There is a nice sweetness, a touch of brine rounding off the smoothed peat. However, like an old hunting dog who still will bay at the hares but no longer has the initiative to leave the front porch, this whisky’s bark (branding) is far worse than its bite.

“Oddly enough, it’s better after peated chips and humus.”

Michael  – Two dimensional. It has this element of brine for me, then an element of peat. It just doesn’t have a lot of layers. This one is fairly simple and consistent. It has a decent flavor and I don’t mind it.

Peter – It’s strong. It definitely lingers. It stays a while. It’s peaty. It has a lot. It’s aggressive (there’s the monster). I think it’s fun. I like it.

Jenny – The nose is pretty simple. Like I just get peat and smoke. Not much outside of that. Oddly enough, it’s better after peated chips and humus. The palate is pretty straightforward. It’s peaty. A little bit of smoke. It’s enjoyable, just not complex. Straightforward, enjoyable whisky.

Caitlin – My general feeling is “eh”. It’s underwhelming.

Ben – I expected this to be much more aggressive with a name like “Peat Monster.” I’ve seen this on the shelf at the store before and been curious about it. The whisky itself is very fine but I feel a little misled by the name.