Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser, a former employee of Johnnie Walker (and native Minnesotan). While Compass Box is not a distillery, it does produce and bottle scotch. Noted for their blends and pushing the buttons of the Scotch Whisky Association, Compass Box has also taken home a variety of awards from whisky competitions. The Great King Street series is a purposeful look back, seeking to recreate the kind of scotch favored in the 19th century. Citizens of Glasgow in particular favored full-bodied and bold flavored malts according to records, hence the name.
This is Scotchology’s first blended whisky. You knew we’d have to get here eventually, right?
Producer: Compass Box
Maturation: Sherry casks
Nose: Peat, iodine, leather, smoke
Palate: Smoke, sherry, medicinal, mint
Finish: Medicinal, smoke
Comments: An element of the Compass Box ethos is transparency. A breakdown of the whiskies used can be found here. Watering is not recommended.
Adam – I’ve been wanting to check out Compass Box for a long time, mostly because they’ve caused such a stir in the industry from time to time, and partly because what they make is well regarded. This is a neat experiment, but more of an acquaintance scotch for me. Someone you’d hang out with on occasion, not someone you’d tell your deepest secrets to. It does feel a little uneven, since I’m struck with different flavor aspects on each sip. There’s some fun on the nose, more than I expect, and while the palate doesn’t hit you right away, the oil gradually gives way to mint and smoke, with a little curl of sherry. The medicinal element can be strong if you’re not prepared for it. This is essentially an entry-level scotch, akin to a Glenlivet 12 or a Macallan 12, maybe. It is pretty approachable and incredibly smooth, however. If this is the bottom shelf for Compass Box, I am really curious to see what lives higher up the food chain.
Jenny – I’m getting leather and smoke. It’s like I’m in a biker bar. It’s not bad but it is a little hot. I’m definitely getting a medicinal taste. Adding water opened up all kinds of nastiness. Before the water it was really medicinal and now it feels like that just exploded in my mouth. The nose smelled like it would taste good with the leather and smoke, and then when I tasted it I got mouthwash and medicine. Then I get a weird cough drop aftertaste. If your throat is hurting, this might help! If I bought a bottle of this on my own, I’d be sad, but if someone else bought it for me I’d at least fake liking it. But, sometimes things that aren’t very tasty on their own are pretty good with a cigar, so possibly if you paired this with a cigar it might not be as bad.
Meghan – This is really too medicinal for me to enjoy. The nose is nice but misleading. It has some smoke and grain with just a bit of a that medicinal/band-aid quality. But the palate is plain hot band-aid with a cough syrup swirl. The finish is like the old version of Robitussin – back before they took out whatever it was that could get people high and kill you for drinking too much. The stuff that made it work better but tasted terrible. It brings back bad memories of being sick as a kid and coughing in the night, and the abject horror of realizing my coughing had woken my mother up and she was bringing me a Dixie cup of Robitussin. I will try any drink once and can finish most to be polite. But this one…if someone bought this for me, I wouldn’t drink it. At best I’d give them a confused look and pretend not to speak English. At worst, I’d give them epic evil eye and get the bartender to pour me something worthwhile.
Michael – For me it’s minty. So the nose is completely different then the palate. I was definitely getting smoke and leather on the nose, then has this medicinal, minty flavor. I’m surprised that even with water it remains pretty hot.
Peter – I like it. It’s almost like water, in that it doesn’t hit you right away. There’s a tenth of a second delay. There’s a little bit of a mystery, you’re expecting some peat, and then it flows. I think it’s kind of fun.
Mary-Fred – I find it medicinal and harsh. I would not serve this to friends.
Henry – Gentle wisps of alluring peat smoke on the nose, tar and heat on the palate. Finish, what finish? Maybe a little hint of ashtray tar. What happened? There are such wonderful peaty island single malts with the lightness of body suitable for even the warmest summer days. I choose to stick with one of them. Very disappointing.