Some Compass Box Love

The Compass Box Logo

The Compass Box Logo

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.

Can whisky cure a cough?

A bottle of cough medicine

A bottle of cough medicine

For the past few weeks I have suffered with the worst possible cough – the sort that leaves you coughing continuously, struggling to breathe and unable to hold the most basic of conversations without massive interruptions.

Having reached the stage of my head pounding with every coughing fit, today I took a step I swore I would never do and bought cough medicine even though deep down I knew it was useless. The cough mixture gave no more than seconds of relief at a time and 3/4 of a bottle later, I was still coughing as bad as ever.

It should be noted here that I have not slept properly for the last week or so for this damn cough. So tonight, in a final act of desperation I consulted the guru (google) to see what could be done.

Having limited supplies of things in my house that may contain medicinal powers, I found a few bottles and googled the phrase “Can whisky cure my cough”. The majority of the answers that came back said something along the lines of “It can’t cure your cough, but drink enough and it will make you feel better ;)”.

Some, however, stated that whisky would do the trick and in particular a “hot toddy” would be the answer to all my woes. This was good enough for me – the internet says so, so it must be true as the old saying goes. I reached for the de facto bottle of whisky that comes out when I want a pleasurable drink – Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood.

I poured myself a generous measure of this pure liquid gold. To me the smoothness of this whisky has made it my whisky of choice for quite some time now. Having drunk it quite quickly, with the hope of numbing my painful throat, I did notice that my previously persistent cough did seem to reduce quite dramatically, although I would hardly call it a cure.

Maybe I hadn’t had enough? So, I repeated the procedure. The results didn’t seem to change much. What was going wrong? Google told me that whisky could cure a cough (having selectively ignored anything that told me that it couldn’t). Then, I found it… The information that I believe is going to give me a good night sleep that I haven’t had in days.

I was doing it all wrong. I’d been drinking Scotch. Apparently the rules are that you drink bourbon for congestion or a sore throat, Irish Whiskey for a persistent cough. Now, being an Irishman, getting hold of Irish Whiskey is not hard. Currently my whiskey cabinet contains a bottle of Black Bush, 2 bottles of Bushmills 10 year old single malt and a bottle of Bushmills 16 year old single malt.

I reached for the 10 year old Bushmills. With its medicinal pale yellow colour and its smooth finish, it was a pleasure to drink. It has been quite some time since I have sampled it due to my love of scotch but this was an emergency and it really is quite pleasant.

As to its medicinal values? I drank the Bushmills and then, 15 minutes past, 30 minutes past, 45 minutes past… not a single cough. My throat started to get a bit itchy, but no cough. And then, finally, some mild coughing. What had I done wrong. I for certain had enjoyed the longest period in weeks without coughing – but this wasn’t cured, I still was coughing – even if far less frequently.

So to summarise my experiments, does whisky cure a cough? no, but it certainly helps!

Diary of a Whisky Virgin

A line of whisky

A line of whisky

My first foray into the world of whisky was of the standard in the pub and bored of drinking beer all night so I’ll have a Jack Daniels and coke, which don’t get me wrong this is totally fine for me and I still enjoy a glass or two every now and again.

But when I first tried a neat shot of whisky it was a good few years before I ever attempted to try any again. This was an ill fated decision at the end of a long evening of drinking when the bar had pretty much packed up and I thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a neat shot of Jack Daniels before wobbling home. I realised my mistake immediately. Shots of any form of alcohol are really not my forte so why I decided that it would be a good idea then I will never know.

So my curiosity was peaked a good few years later when Sam was talking about what the Wwhisky he was drinking tasted like and I began asking questions. He convinced me to give it another try and have a sip, this was my introduction to a world I never fully understood. He explained to me that not all whisky has to be drank neat and taking it as a shooter is almost never a good idea.

This was a revelation to me, so I was brave and had sips of what some of my friends were drinking when they had whisky but I was still unsure. I started asking them for advice and recommendations for beginners.

With this new information to hand, I went away and thought about how I could go about my plan to appreciate whisky, I would drink an easygoing whisky with coke to start, I would then mix with lemonade, then onto tonic, then to soda water and finally down to ice, I wanted to be able to teach myself to appreciate such a varied world of flavour without needing to cover any of it with a mixer.

So I began my journey with Famous Grouse, I still have a great deal of affection for this wonderful stuff its so easy for a novice to mix with anything that they prefer. I got to the stage of having it with soda water, then my curiosity and confidence with whisky started to grow more.

I wanted to try other things, I had to know what all the flavours my friends were talking about when they were drinking. So I took the plunge. I can’t remember the names of the different ones I have tried due to the sheer volume of sips I’ve had over the last year or so since the Whisky Club began. Most probably a little bit of everything that has been reviewed so far. I will always try to taste as many as possible to find the flavour for me. And shockingly I have! I have developed a taste for peat based, the smokier the better in my world!

Recently I went on a long weekend to Dublin with my other half for his birthday, now Dublin has so many things to do and see and of course drink, with that in mind we booked to go on the Jamesons tour, which for me was fascinating. And I was chosen to be one of the whiskey tasters at the end of the tour.

This has been a great journey for me so far and now I feel brave enough to go into the scary world of purchasing a bottle all by myself, hoping that the other members have yet to try it so I can bring something new to the table.

There is always something new to try for me in this world, one that is ever changing and developing whether it be new distilleries around the world, with new concepts or delicious food made using any one of the mind boggling choice of flavours. I still don’t have the palette that my friends have when it comes to tasting, I really can only establish between whether it is peat or not, but this is an achievement for me!

But that all comes with practice and I am entirely happy with that.