In September 2013, a few members of the Isle of Man Whisky Club attended The Whisky Lounge’s Liverpool Whisky Festival. While there we had the chance to sample many varied drams from the distillers who had tables there, but the ones which left the biggest impression by far were those from Compass Box.
This was not only due to the staff of Compass Box (who spent best part of an hour and a half speaking to us about their samples), but also the incredibly unique whisky they had on their table.
These ranged from incredibly complex blends which defied any preconceptions we might have had to the surprising Delilah’s, a whisky which was described to me as “something you can just knock back again and again for the whole night”.
For a brief description of where Compass Box came from, here is an unashamedly copy-pasted paragraph from their site:
“After many years in the wine trade, American ex-pat John Glaser entered the world of Scotch whisky, learning his art through one of the industry’s largest companies. In 2000, he started Compass Box Whisky Company, based on his commitment to evolving practices in the industry to make great Scotch whisky more approachable and relevant to more people. From the beginning, his vision has been to create one of Scotland’s finest and most exciting whisky companies, re-establishing the standards for quality and style in the industry. Today, John Glaser is considered one of the most respected whisky makers of his generation.”
Looking through the marketing material and reading various other reviews I find that they have a reputation for producing unique blends and offering something a little different from the norm. This individual streak is also something which was being fully embraced by the members of Compass Box while we were at the festival, proudly delivering the background to drinks which had been refused classification as scotch whiskies due to the way they were blended or the woods used in construction of the casks.
This approach will obviously not be to everyone’s tastes, but I believe it is something we should all be happy exists. Wandering round the hall the festival was held in, we received different reactions from every table we approached. As I mentioned above, Compass Box were by far the most receptive to any questions we had and were incredibly enthusiastic about all their products.
At the opposite end of the spectrum there were a few companies which seemed completely disinterested in speaking to us at all, with one distillery simply pouring us a small dram when we asked for a sample without uttering a single word to us. In my opinion this was a disgraceful practise, not only showing a lack of care to their customers (existing or potential) but also a lack of interest in the products they were meant to be convincing us to buy.
The poor experience with this producer early in the afternoon only served to highlight the incredible passion and enthusiasm of Compass Box. Not only did they have what I believe to be fantastic products, but they were also willing to add personal investments by speaking to everyone who visited their table individually, asking how far we had come and discussing our local whisky scene at length.
This combination of fantastically unique products and excellent customer service has led to the Compass Box brand’s mystique in a very short time. You may have noticed that I haven’t really mentioned many of their products by name, and haven’t even touched on the subjects of nose and taste. This is because I simply don’t have the space to even briefly detail these subjects as far as Compass Box is concerned. They were the only table on which we tried every drink on offer (of which I believe there were nine), and they were all completely unique and all worth your time trying.
Compass Box may not have the history or reputation of some other brands, but they offer a unique and ingenious take on whisky which is all fuelled by incredible enthusiasm and love for what they do. This alone makes them worth your time.