Compass Box never seems to slow down its efforts, and when it’s not releasing new spirits, it’s revamping old ones. The Great King Street collection dropped between 2011 and 2014, launched to celebrate the preferred whisky styles of the people of Edinburgh and Glasgow (at least according to a book published in 1930). In 2021, Compass Box has dropped the Great King Street portion of the branding but keeps the subtitles of the two whiskies. (Though Artist’s Blend has now become just Artist Blend.) Both spirits have been “redesigned,” but it’s unclear to what degree; I haven’t tasted either of these releases in many years.
Also dropping this season is a new product called Orchard House, a new permanent edition/core offering which “sets itself apart from the rest of the core range: not only does it use malt spirit sourced by Compass Box nearly a decade ago, but the lighter oak influence allows the fruit-forward style of these spirits to express themselves. The majority of the recipe is made from stocks of spirit purchased from distilleries renowned for their fruit-forward flavor. These spirits are then aged in a variety of casks, with the resulting blended malt Scotch whisky creatively aligned with the artistry and innovation which Compass Box is known for.”
Let’s tuck into the trio. Thoughts follow.
Compass Box Artist Blend (2021) – This is a lovely, soft, and approachable blend — though it’s never simplistic. The nose is on the savory side, nodding at roasted meats, toasted almonds, well-roasted grains, and ample pepper. On the palate, things take a deeper dive into fruit and spice: Baked apples, punchy baking spices — tempered with cloves — and a stronger almond component that melds well with the peppery, spicy elements in the mix. The finish shows these lattermost elements building to a crescendo, concluding with a burnt almond cookie character, brown butter, and a fistful of spice to send you on your way. 86 proof. A- / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Compass Box Glasgow Blend (2021) – Peat hits first on the nose, then sweetness emerges in the form of bold, overripe fruits. Banana and coconut husk lead to an almond cookie character — not unappealing, but a little strange on the whole. The palate is immediately gummy, with a sharp iodine character and ample green vegetable notes, quite savory on the whole. Notes of sesame cookies provide some sweetness, but it all feels scattered, almost random. The finish retains a light smokiness, with notes of sea spray and lingering notes of sage. There are moments of intrigue in the blend, but on the whole a sense of balance is lacking. 86 proof. B / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]
Compass Box Orchard House – It’s as soft and gentle as Compass Box suggests: The nose is pretty and lightly floral, offering notes of lemon peel, nougat, and a crisp, sweet cereal note that feels like you just ripped open a box of Frosted Flakes. Similar, and straightforward, on the palate: Clean, sweetened cereal notes, ripe with vanilla and evoking marshmallow at times, then moving along to more of that lemon peel and a touch of fresh, mixed flowers to add a perfumed element to the proceedings. The finish is quite sweet and engaging — no complaints here, really — but as with many blends, it doesn’t exactly come across as mind-blowing. Easygoing and incredibly drinkable, my sample was gone before I knew what had happened. Where are we, again? 92 proof. A- / $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]