History In A Bottle Day 24: Compass Box KWM 30th Anniversary Blend
Posted on December 24, 2022
This post is Bonus Content. It has information on one of the KWM Cask bottles that are featured on the back of our 2022 KWM Whisky Calendar box. You can find the blog post for the mini bottle for Day 24 of our 2022 KWM Whisky Calendar here.
I have already touched on this one a little on Day 16 when I talked about our 25th Anniversary Compass Box Blend. While the latter was a Blend proper, the Compass Box KWM 30th Anniversary bottling is a Blended Malt, meaning there is no grain in the mix. The whiskies used in its creation were matured exclusively in American oak, which means we have room for oxidative fruity tones and lots of spirit character…
The largest component is 20-year-old Caol Ila (37%*), and the next is 20-year-old Teaninich (30%*). While neither in and of themselves might be exciting, think of the Teaninich as something of a stand-in for Clynelish, and 20-year-old Caol Ila… that’s not something you see too often anymore. The two remaining components are the most interesting to be because, at ¼ and 1/10 of the overall volume of the whisky, you wouldn’t think they have too much impact, but this is far from the case. The 19-year-old Mortlach (23%*) adds some weight and a touch of savoury meaty tones. And the 17-year-old Ardbeg (10%*), this is the whisky’s capstone, and despite being the smallest component it makes itself felt with citrus fruits, salt and elegant peat.
The origin of the Ardbeg used is a cool story… it is actually the remnants of the parcel of Ardbeg used to create the Compass Box No Name I. I loved the audacity of the first edition of No Name, which married a parcel of 14-year-old Ardbeg, infuriating Ardbeg single malt purists the world over, with Caol Ila and Clynelish. I had the privilege of trying the Ardbeg on its own, before it was blended, and can confirm that the final product, No Name I, was an improvement on it. That’s one of the things they do at Compass Box, they find cool things and then ask themselves how they can make them better. In theory, a good blend should be able to improve on its component parts… It also highlighted how the addition of something delicate, like Clynelish, in relatively small quantities, could still have an impact. So we were thrilled that James Saxon chose to include that same Ardbeg, which continued maturing in cask for an additional 3 years in our blend. And despite only being roughly 10% of the liquid, it is an identifiable component…
You may have noted the * after the percentage of each of the components. Funny story about the recipe for this whisky, it has a margin of error... At the time of blending, one of the necessary components could not be added in precisely the right volume, though how much it was short was not entirely clear. This necessitated a bit of improvisation by Whisky Maker James Saxon to tweak the profile back on course. So while there is no doubt about the quality of this whisky, we can't be 100% confident of the precise volume of each of the four components in the blend. This little quirk, and also Compass Box’s openness about it adds to this whisky’s charm and gives us another story to tell.
This whisky is one of only 2 of the whiskies featured on the back of this year’s KWM Whisky Calendar, which is still for sale, and not for long… Of the 588 bottles produced, fewer than 25% are left!
Andrew's Tasting Note
Nose: lush, malty and fruity with a gentle backbone of soft peat; creamed honey, French vanilla, creme caramel, and dulce de leche lead the way with apricots, melons and citrus fruits; a hint of meaty Mortlach, balanced with bacon-forward Caol Ila; there is a subtle waxiness, possibly stemming from the Teaninich while the Ardbeg add soft peat and accents the fruits; a touch of lilacs on a warm summer's day.
Palate: round, chewy, and fruity with a velvety delivery; once more the sweet creamy tones and gentle peat are the backbone on which the rest of the layers rest; more apricot, and some peach with candied lemon, baked apple and pear; the subtle waxiness is still there, with fatty bacon and saltwater taffy; the floral lilac notes are accompanied by a touch of lavender; the smoke is clean, elegant, and balanced.
Finish: warming, fresh, and fruity with loads of creamy honey and soft peat; elegant with a slightly dangerous edge.
Comment: I try not to overuse this descriptor, but I think it is an apt one here, this is old school...; this is not to say that this is a really old dram, though with components 17-20 years of age it is far from young, but rather that it has a very old-school/anitque-y feel to it; the first time I saw the word antique-y used, was in reference to a Compass Box, so that too feels appropriate; this whisky that is not just a celebration of 30 years here at KWM, it is also a testament to the relationships we're formed, such as that with our friends at Compass Box, which are one of the shoulders on which we stand!
Producer Tasting Note
"Creamy and malty, with vanilla, peach and clinging smokiness."
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