Compass Box Twitter Tasting – #CBTWASTING
The Twitter whisky tasting is something that I’ve seen pop up a few times in the past, but it’s something that I’ve singularly failed to take part in for quite a while. Since the first time I heard about Lukas from The Edinburgh Whisky Blog throwing whisky around the world before herding the twitterati into chatting with the same hash tag there’s been a bit of a boom, with a number of people organising events, both from brands and just for fun with their Twitter chums. However, I got back in on the action thanks to Steve Rush, aka @TheWhiskyWire, editor of The Whisky Wire and whisky-stuff freelancer. He’d been chatting with the fine folks at Compass Box and sorted out a Twitter tasting. I will take short break at this juncture to express my distaste at the term ‘Twasting’ – even typing it here makes my skin crawl. But such is the way with neologisms and my constant claims that the mispronounced words that fall out of the hole in the front of my face are ‘words so new the OED hasn’t even smelled their parents’ mean that I cannot complain without exposing myself to be the shallow hypocrite that I so obviously am.
The plan for the evening was simple – crack open the three drams that Steve had sent us in advance of the tasting, taste them and tweet our responses while interacting with the other participants in the tasting. Along with those of us who had all of the drams sent to us we also had gate-crashers in the form of @CompassBoxLili, aka Celine Tetu (who I met at a Whisky Lounge Arran tasting last year, and who has recently joined the Compass Box family), and @Dr_Whisky, the redoubtable Sam Simmons, Global Ambassador for Balvenie and one of those behind the impromptu band that kept me awake until 5am at Maltstock– Simmons, you’re on one of my lists. Celine has a few Compass Box drams knocking around, as you’d expect, but Sam dipped into his cupboard and tasting notes to join in – one of the joys of the Twitter tasting is that is an open forum, and that anyone can join in, from those of us with the whiskies to those who looked in at the beginning to find out what we were drinking only to find that they were missing out. With the growth of Twitter of the years the attitudes from the users have changed and mellowed slightly so that something like the concerted bombardment of tweets that a tasting inspires is now more easily accepted than it was even a year ago. Which is nice, as it means I get to drink nice whisky and chat with some friends from around the world, stretching from the UK to Israel.
Whisky-wise we had three to taste through, starting out with Great King Street. Their initial subtitle of “The Artist’s Blend’, the ‘real’ name for the whisky with Great King Street as the name of the range that this is launching, seems to have been forgotten, but this is the start of a new line from Compass Box. While they’ve been known as a boutique whisky blender since their inception this is actually only their second traditional (and now legally defined) Blended Scotch Whisky. Their first whisky was a Blended Grain (Hedonism – made only using grain whisky) and they only have one ‘real’ blend currently available (Asyla – a mix of grain and malt whiskies), with the rest of their regular line-up being made up of Blended Malt Whisky (mixes of malt whisky from a variety of distilleries without any grain). I’ve written about GKS before for the work blog, so instead of repeating myself I’ll point at that post, which includes the following video featuring Chris Maybin, who joined us during the twasting<twitch> from the @CompassBoxaccount, explaining what Great King Street is all about:
Anyways, tasting notes. On the nose there was honey & lemon, toffee, malt and hints of vanilla heavy milk chocolate – a Crunchie bar sandwich? I may have had an ‘incident’ which left half of the whisky well aerated in my glass and the other half soaking slowly into my trouser leg, but the added air helped develop the flavours – toffee apples, tinned pears, pineapple, woody spice, fake popcorn butter and vanilla. To taste it was very fruity with tropical fruit squash, the Tropico of my childhood visits to France, butter icing and tasty yet tart citrus – lime marmalade? The finish had lemon butter, foam bananas, walnuts and tannic nut skin. I added a few drops of water and it focused the whisky on the citrus, reducing the sweetness and giving a bit more butter. The cocktail associations of the Great King Street did give rise to a few facetious comments but I think that this might work well with Coke – hear me out… 1-1 Coke and Great King Street with a squeeze and wedge of lime, and it might just work as an ‘Edinburgh Freeeeeedooooom!’, a Scottish take on Cuba’s alleged national drink. This is why I don’t name cocktails.
Next up was Spice Tree. As I have mentioned before this is the second idealogical variant of Spice Tree, with the first being a bit much for the Scotch Whisky Association leading to legal shenanigans that led to it being withdrawn. I rather like the first edition ‘illegal’ Spice Tree, having tried it several times (although only once blogged), and have always found the new version a poor cousin. That said it’s still a cousin who earns enough to get his round in and help me out if I’m down a pound on the price of a kebab. On the nose it started with a massive hit of Bounty bars and buttery white rum – a smack in the face from the Caribbean. It followed that up with creamy rice pudding, apple pie, raisins and cinnamon. There was also candy floss, candied ginger, lime peel and a coppery edge, like old tuppences. To taste it had rum and raisin ice cream with good quality milk chocolate sauce, eccles cakes and cream, spicy apple pie and ginger cordial. It finished with sweet and sour fruit, raisins and underripe plums, continuing on to thick vanilla custard and fading quite quicklu to lingering clove, with the lingering dirty copper flavour hanging around after the other flavours dissipated. Water brought out the spiced fruit, apples and pears with cinnamon, as well as ‘distancing the sweetness into a cloak hanging above the other flavours and only gently draping itself over the whole’ – I had been drinking by the time I wrote that last note. All in all it’s very dessert-like, with a combination of puddings all mixed up with a heavy handed dose of spice.
The final dram for the night was The Peat Monster, a dram whose name doesn’t quite give away its nature – it’s a gentle giant, combining Islay peat (from Laphroaig) with some from Speyside (Ardmore) and in this most recent batch (according to Celine) Ledaig from the Isle of Mull. On the nose it had a sweet peaty, cracked stone minerality and lime – ‘Chopped limes on a muddy pebble beach’ as my notes read. It also had some fresh coal smoke, metallic sardine tins (sardines in oil and not ketchup, of course) and red fruit – a very clean and crisp nose that added a bit of mud as it sat in the glass. To taste there was salted cream, lemons & limes, green wood and pungent Manuka honey leading to a coal fire with an edge of black rubber. It finished with surprisingly fruity strawberries and lime, smoked ham, coal dust and sour lemon infused butter. As that disappeared there was a lingering pepper and black plimsoll rubber. The Ledaig revelation came towards the end of my tasting note writing and it made me feel rather vindicated, as the last version of the Peat Monster that I tried had Caol Ila rather than Ledaig and had a lot less of the black plimsoll flavour (cultural reference restricted to those who have gnawed on a 1980s primary school sports shoes for business or pleasure) that I have found in Ledaig.
All in all a successful Twitter tasting, with a nice mix of experience and some excellent banter around the whiskies – good work from Steve and the Compass Box crew. I have since drained the samples, but I have holes in my cupboard that I think the GKS and Peat Monster might fill. Although, as the the GKS is only supplied in 50cl bottles I see a problem with ease of supply…
If you want to read the entire transcript of the twasting (and there’s quite a lot of it) then it’s up over here.
Great King Street, The Artist’s Blend Blended Scotch Whisky, 43%. ~£24 for a 50cl bottle.
Spice Tree Blended Scotch Malt Whisky, 46%. ~£35 for a 70cl bottle.
The Peat Monster Blended Scotch Malt Whisky, 46%. ~£35 for a 70cl bottle.