KWM 2023 Whisky Calendar Blog Day 6 - Compass Box Orchard House
Posted on December 6, 2023
Here is a list of staff that work at Kensington Wine Market, current as I write this:
- The Ghost of Hunter’s Past
Full-time, part-time, and seasonal: These are the people that currently make Kensington Wine Market what it is. Time may go by and the names may change, but like any company, KWM is only as good as the people that do the work and would not exist if they weren’t there.
I don’t have many heroes, but within the whisky world, there are a few people I look up to. I feel very lucky to be in a position where I have met many of them thanks to tastings and a bit of travel. I feel even more fortunate to work directly with some of them on a daily basis. Sure, you wouldn’t know that all of these people work with us based on our usually out-of-date staff profile page, but that is because KWM is far too democratic and not authoritarian enough to insist that they write up a staff profile. Regardless of that, I am proud to work with all of them, and I hope that they are just as proud to work at Kensington Wine Market as I am.
Now that I have ostracised some of our staff, what was my point again?
For years and years, Compass Box was John Glaser to me. The company’s innovations, releases, and successes wrested entirely on his shoulders and could not have been done by anyone else. John revolutionized what I thought of as Blended Scotch, taking what was mostly a watered-down and bland category meant for bar rails and mass consumption and elevating it to an art form and premium whisky experience.
Here is an allegory for you: at the core of any Blended Scotch are its key ingredients. These are the ties that bind the rest of the components together, and without them, the parts that combine to make something greater than the sum of the parts involved would not matter. The core of any blend is like John Glaser of Compass Box or Andrew Ferguson of Kensington Wine Market: If they are not there, would the company be the same entity that it is today?
Compass Box Orchard House was first launched in 2021, and speaking hyperbolically, it was the sole reason life returned to normal after Covid. It is shocking and revolutionary for a whisky to taste this light, and fruity, and also be peated. It is a multifaceted whisky with depth and dimension.
Compass Box’s blending prowess is not limited to John Glaser, and his fellow blenders might be even more talented than he is. That is not a slight to John Glaser. The most talented people know how to surround themselves with other talent. Case in point: Why do you think Andrew hired me?
Kidding. The truth is that despite my doing my darndest to run this enterprise into the ground, Kensington Wine Market is still standing strong. Having Curt, Harmony, Sammy, and the rest of the Kensington Wine Market staff are the reason KWM is what it is and does what it does. The store is not the same without any of us – whether they have written a staff profile or not.
The same can be said for Compass Box. John Glaser may be the face of Compass Box and the reason it is where it is today, but thanks to Whisky Blenders James Saxon and Jill Boyd, and the rest of the company such as Brand Ambassador Scott Ellis (who has hosted some great virtual tastings with us), Compass Box continues to release incredible whisky.
James Saxon is the person chiefly responsible for the creation of Compass Box Orchard House, and his name is on the bottle. He has been the lead whisky maker on other Compass Box releases too, including No Name no. 3 (The best in the series in my opinion), Flaming Heart 2022 Edition (a release so good that it might be the best in an exceptional series), and Ultramarine (Timeless and fantastic).
The three whiskies I mentioned above were all limited releases. Orchard House is a regular release that is part of the company’s core range of blends. How good could it be? I have wanted to have this in one of our Whisky Calendars since first tasting it in 2021. I hope it holds up to my high praise and the scrutiny of you all. Could it possibly, though?
Let’s find out!
This is a game-changing whisky from Compass Box, built not from acquired aged components, but rather new spirit acquired and filled into Compass Box's own casks. The whisky is composed of primarily Linkwood (39%), Clynelish (29%), Benrinnes (20%) and Caol Ila (2%), all from First Fill ex-Boubon Barrels, along with Highland Blended Malt (2%) from custom French oak casks and a secret Speyside single malt (8%) from Revatted Oloroso Sherry-Seasoned Butts.
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Pears, plums, pineapple, shortbread and Jammie Dodger biscuits, lemongrass plus a faint hint of mint, smoke and oak spices.
Palate: Creamy with plenty of fruit and a light touch of smoke and spice. Tapioca pearls, chocolate mousse, pear puree, lychee fruit, lemonade, and ginger candies.
Finish: Soft, fruity and creamy with an ethereal smoke wafting slowly through it all.
Comment: This is such a delightful blend. The combination of juicy fruit and light smoke must have been difficult to pull off, but Compass Box nailed it.
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