Posts Tagged With: Laphroaig

An Evening With… Compass Box

Since starting whiskyunplugged, we have been writing about enjoying whisky in all its many guises and trying to demystify the fusty world that the whisky market of old had created for itself. Whilst we have been doing so, the whisky market has also widely been diversifying its products with welcome twists, interpretations and experimentation. We have also seen a (somewhat disputed) shift in the mindset of distilleries and consumers alike from holding a whisky’s age up on a pedestal and, instead, placing a stronger emphasis on flavour profiling (or at least that’s what we are being told). That’s not to say that your classic age statement releases are not focusing on flavour! However, with the whisky makers becoming more and more creative with their single expressions and limited releases, there has also been a natural push towards premium blends, whereby blenders and bottlers are seeking to push the flavour envelope further by acquiring and melding local styles and profiles into a new (and often heavily-branded) offering. At the forefront of that movement has been Compass Box.

Beyond the desire to making great tasting whiskies and showcasing the many stylings of scotch whiskies, Compass Box have also been pushing their own agendas. Their most publicised and celebrated initiative has been the campaign to provide total transparency on their whiskies’ constituent parts – a movement that has disgruntled the scotch whisky authorities to no end. There have been a plethora of legal battles and regulatory movements between them in recent times but in the interests of providing their consumers with a fair knowledge of what they are drinking, Compass Box provide a comprehensive ingredients list on their website for each bottling they release. Seriously, go check it out here.

What’s more, each bottle’s maturation process is also detailed including the component’s overall percentages in the final make-up of the bottled whisky, the barrels that they’ve been matured in and the flavour profiles that each constituent part provides to the overall tasting experience. The bottles themselves even come with a three word descriptor of the consumer’s whisky tasting experience ahead, e.g. Peaty. Smoky. Complex. – if the name “Peat Monster” didn’t give it away in the first place!

Each entry in the Compass Box website also features a recommended cocktail which would best accentuate the whisky’s flavours and style, along with a suggested food pairing for the naked dram itself – suggesting their eagerness for the dram to be enjoyed in many ways and not scoffing at the idea of adding a dreaded mixer!

One obvious omission from the data set that Compass Box share is the age of each component. Not seeming to shy away from their transparency agenda, Compass Box openly share that the age of their source whiskies is not the key factor here, but rather it’s all about flavour that the original malt or grain Whisky imparts along with the influence of the barrels, and so their blender can seek to maintain quality flavour profiles over arbitrary numbering. With that emphasis in mind, it comes as no surprise therefore that every one of their blends are bottled without chill filtration and in their natural colour.

Compass Box have also courted controversy by their use barrels, and more, sepcifically, hybrid barrels that feature a range of “toastings”, including, their “mocha toast”, “infra red toast”, and “vanilla toast” which all seek to impart different flavourings from the oaks into the final whisky.

It’s fair to say that we have loved following their progress over the years and so when two of us from WU found out that a generic “whisky tasting” night that we had signed up to (without any knowledge of the contents or presenters) turned out to be a Compass Box showcase evening, we were pretty damn excited.

Over the past week we have shared our tasting notes on these blended scotch whiskies from the evening which featured their 5 “Signature Range” releases, and two of their current limited editions, tasted in the following running order:

Signature Range

Asyla – Blended Scotch (i.e. Grain and Malt)

Oak Cross – Blended Malt

The Spice Tree – Blended Malt

The Peat Monster – Blended Malt

Hedonism – Blended Grain

Limited Editions

Spice Tree Extravaganza – Blended Malt

Double Single – Blended Scotch

Clicking on the names above should take you to the notes for each dram and we hope that these will suitably describe and demonstrate just what a different experience each whisky delivers. Compass Box also have a third range, called their “Great King Street” range, which seek to revive age old whisky recipes – we’ll have to wait another time to sample any of those delights though.

The night was held at a local independent off-licence whereby our compère deftly guided us through the history of the indie bottlers and the story behind each whisky on display. We want to thank Chester Beer and Wine for the evening, and at the end of the night, we were asked the obligatory question: what was your favourite. On the night, our preferences were actually the lighter, grain-based/influenced drams: Asyla, Double Single and Hedonism, but that’s not to detract from the quality of the malt whiskies available. To be fair though, this is mainly due to the fact that we shot through the 7 drams relatively quickly and with all those strong flavours in there, it was a lot to take in but overall, and in all honesty, there wasn’t a bad dram there. Just some that were better than others, as the old adage goes.

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Categories: Compass Box, Tasting Notes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasting Notes: Laphroaig – Select

Laphroaig Warehouse

Peat-Meisters Laphroaig released their “Select” expression within their core range in 2014 and it seems that year was the year of the multiple-maturation boom. Whilst most distilleries have been trying this for the past few years, it seems that the marketing fad has gone too far and has even exceeded the Gillette vs Wilkinson Sword race to have multiple blades on a razor. The Select release appears to be Laphroaig’s dabble with the foray, boasting maturation through 5 different barrels: Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximenez, white American oak, quarter casks and bourbon casks.

ABV: 40%

 

Nose

M: Young alcohol attack with caramel sweetness and fairly faint Laphroaig smoke – quite a lot going on. Give it a minute to breathe and that vanilla:smoke balance remains.


Taste

M: Sweet, sweet flavours with caramel and vanilla at the front and then a (surprisingly) soft smoke at the back.


Finish

M: Fresh and tingly all the way down and the smoke dies off quickly.


Verdict                                                                                    

M: As a big fan of Laphroaig’s staple expressions (see previous notes here), I had big hopes for this when it first came out and I must say that I was disappointed. Stupidly, I’d got hyped up about it because it was Laphroaig. I’ve learned not to care about whether or not their is an age statement on a whisky bottle and I wasn’t especially wary that it’s cheaper price might have indicated a drop in quality, so my initial conclusion was that this must just be a Laphroaig for a different type of whisky drinker. Since then though, I have gone back to it from time to time and, to me, this just tastes like Laphroaig Light. It might be a neat way for the peat-ophobes to start to get acquainted with the big Laphroaig tastes – a gateway dram, if you like – but having grown up with Laphroaig as the phenolic beast I’ve come to know and love, this falls short of the mark for me. Maybe it’s the myriad of barrel influences, but all the flavours seem to cancel one another out with a resultant timid sweet-meets-peat whisky that promises more than it delivers. Scrambling for another positive though, I could drink a lot of this, which you can’t say about the 10yo, because that is all about savouring the experience. To that extent, have Laphroaig created a whisky equivalent of the Session IPA? Maybe. Just maybe.

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10 Supermarket Scotch Gift Ideas for Christmas

It’s around this time of the year that, without fail, there are a few more people heading down the spirits aisle in your local supermarket. Whether it is a purchase for themselves or someone else, whisky sales sky rocket at this time of the year, and rightly so. One of the (great) results is that there is usually an abundance of offers available, with prices coming down to be more competitive in the more-whisky-friendly festive season – Father’s Day seems to be the only other time of the year that this phenomenon seems to occur!

In no particular order, here’s a compilation of the usual scotch whisky players that adorn the UK shelves and our thoughts on where they could fit into your buying decision – usually without breaking the £25-30 mark if you can successfully shop around a bit.

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The Supermarket Glens

1. Glenfiddich 12 – starting with the biggie and the world’s best selling single malt whisky by volume, it’s a classic because it’s just a damn good dram. Easy going, familiar, it is a one-size fits-all “smooth” finisher.

2. Glenmorangie 10 – simply branded as “The Original” this is a simpler-tasting, velvety-smooth box-checker and the presentation just oozes a touch of class that is easily recognisable and would look good in any stocking.

3. Glenlivet Founders Reserve – in previous years I would have said Glenlivet 12, but this newer entry-level chap still has that light, sherbet-like, sweet-pear taste and good finish that the younger Glenlivet is known for.

4. Glen Moray 10 – the last of the Supermarket standard ‘Glens’ in this list and usually the cheaper of the drams available but that doesn’t always mean worse and it’s a decent, fruity drop with a slightly coarser finish for the more ardent whisky drinker.

5. Aberlour 10 or 12 – slightly cheating here, but both are great gambits with a more sherry-heavy taste and finish that ties in with the festive season just nicely (or any time of the year, really)

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Festive Dramming

6. Old Pulteney 12 – a lighter dram with a sweet fudge-like taste and texture and the noticeable (but not overpowering) sea-saltiness that won’t push you over the edge after Christmas dinner.

7. Highland Park 12 – a richer and fuller tasting whisky with a warming, gently-smoked finish that works perfectly during the colder winter nights. Plus the packaging and the fact that it’s from Orkney makes for a great little selling point and ice-breaker.

8. Laphroaig 10 – not for the faint hearted, this beast is a strong tasting, intensely warming, smoky number and probably best bought for someone who you know is already partial to a peat bomb at the end of the day.

9. Chivas Regal 12 – don’t be a snob about whether or not it’s a single malt, because ultimately it comes down to taste and preference and this one is a good example of a blended whisky that is well-rounded, fruity and easily competes with the single malt players on the the other shelf.

10. Own brand – don’t be afraid to go with the shop’s own! Supermarkets are ultimately businesses and they will not invest in something unless it is worth it and there are some great scotch whiskies out there that just carry someone else’s label. Sainsbury’s Highland Single Malt and Speyside Single Malt are fine examples. Other supermarkets are available.

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Its beginning to look a lot like whisky…

Now, this list may change slightly if you were looking to buy in the larger superstores where you tend to get more variety and usually see a bigger (usually Diageo-based) range – Talisker 10, Caol Ila 12, Dalwhinnie 15 etc. – which all come with their own notes and personal preferences, but whether you are looking for a gift for somone or you are just a year-round whisky drinker, this is as good a time as any to stock up on some cheeky deals and staple whiskies.

Of course, this list does not touch on the wide array of Irish whiskies increasingly available in our stores nor the offerings from our American cousins across the pond. Some stores around the UK have also cottoned on to putting out some of the Japanese entry level drams (including Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki lately),  as well as cashing in on the produce of the more local distilleries (Bushmills’ 10yo, Penderyn Madeira and English Whisky Company’s Fine Single Malt being prime examples) – no doubt cashing in on the more patriotic purchasers below the Scottish border or those just looking for something different (Haig Club anyone?).

Put short, there are loads of whiskies to choose from, but hopefully this list can help you within the traditional ‘scotch’ bracket of whiskies more readily available at this festive time of year.

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Dram Decorations

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