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Compass Box Orchard House

Compass Box Orchard House

$74.99

This is a game-changing whisky from Compass Box, built not from aquired aged components, but rather new make spirit acquired and filled into Compass Box own casks. The whis 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. Hmmm, a "Distillery near the town of Aberlour" sounds a lot like Benfarclas... 46%.

Producer Description

"What is more universally delicious than ripe fruit? Even the greatest chefs have been known to serve a simple dish of strawberries or a single, perfect peach as a dessert.

"Orchard House gathers together some of the fruitiest malts Scotland has to offer, including whiskies from the Linkwood and Clynelish distilleries; what’s more, we have sourced many of these whiskies as new spirit and laid them down in our own oak casks. This, our monument to fresh fruitiness in Scotch whisky, has been many years in the making."

750ml ml
Region:Scotland > Other
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Producer Tasting Note

"Aromas of apple and pear dominate, with hints of pineapple, lemon and lime zest, and Earl Grey tea. Take a sip and note the malty and gingery flavours. These are soon joined by honey, wild strawberries and vanilla shortbread."

I have a personal connection to the Clynelish Distillery - one that goes well beyond my love of their whisky. This connection is a little bit at odds with my love for the whisky if I am being honest. The distillery was founded by the Marquis of Stafford, aka the 1st Duke of Sutherland, one of the worst actors in the dark period of Scottish history known as the Highland Clearances.

The Highland Clearances took place between 1750 and 1860 in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Tens of thousands of tenant farmers were cruelly and systematically evicted from their homes so that their farmland could be used for the more profitable grazing of sheep. Many were forced out of their homes at gunpoint and shepherded away to live in towns and villages while their meagre possessions went up in smoke. The displaced peoples were compelled to become fishermen, kelp harvesters, or hard labourors.

In later stages of the clearances, after it became apparent that the displaced peoples were struggling to support themselves and were suffering from famine, landlords turned to “assisted passages.” Tenants who were selected for “emigration” had little choice but to board ship and depart for places unknown. This is almost certainly how my mother’s ancestors found their way to Canada.

I am a member of the ancient Clan Gunn on my mother’s side. The Gunns claim Gunni as their founder, who was himself the descendant of Viking raiders. Gunni’s wife, Ragnhild, was the sister of the Earl of Orkney, who granted her estates in Caithness. The Gunns would play a prominent role in the far northeast of Scotland - the lands of Caithness and Sutherland - for the next 500 years. There is still a strong Gunn connection to these lands, but the Clearances did much to break the Clan system and Gaelic culture.

In just six years between 1814 and 1820, the 1st Duke of Sutherland alone evicted more than 3000 families - no fewer than 15,000 people from Caithness and Sutherland. One old woman was burned alive after refusing to leave her home.

The Cylnelish Distillery was founded by the Duke of Sutherland in 1819, ostensibly to give some of his newly unemployed tenants something to do. But I recall another version of this story, which implies that the distillery was opened, not out of commercial intent, but rather to drive the illicit distillers operating on his lands - the last holdouts to his Clearance - out of business. It seems this man’s cruelty knew no bounds, at least by modern standards. Whatever the truth is, the distillery has survived to this day, and has somewhat of a dedicated following for its whisky.

The original Clynelish Distillery was closed in 1968, after a new modern Clynelish distillery opened adjacent to it in 1967. The old distillery, renamed Brora after the town, was temporarily revived between 1969 and 1983 to supply demand for the booming Blended Scotch industry. In the years since, Brora has become a highly sought after and collectible whisky. This might have had something to do with its owner Diageo’s decision to reopen it after nearly 40 years.

The Brora (the original Clynelish) and Clynelish Distilleries are located side by side on the outskirts of the picturesque seaside town of Brora. The latter recently opened a state-of-the-art visitor center and, like its older sister distillery, has developed a bit of a cult following - in this case for a specific trait. Clynelish has a distinctly mouth coating waxy profile which sets it apart from all other Scottish single malts. There was a bit of a panic many years back when the spirit temporarily lost some of this character after an overly thorough cleaning of the distillery’s equipment during the silent season. The collection of “gunky” oils in the feints receiver is behind this signature trait and is now carefully replaced after its cleaning.

The Clynelish 14 Year distillery bottling is a classic but has been harder to find in recent years. The whisky is also of signature importance to, and one of the biggest components in Johnnie Walker Gold Label blend. Keep your eye open for independent bottlings of Clynelish, especially from Gordon & Macphail and Signatory, they are always excellent.

The town of Brora is located a little over an hour north of Inverness and boasts a few nice hotels and a lovely oceanfront links course. There is also plenty of great hiking and mountain biking in the nearby mountains. One peak in particular, Ben Bhraggie, looms over the scenic nearby town of Golspie and boasts spectacular views of the Dornoch Firth, the Black Isle (a peninsula) and the Moray coast beyond. While you are there, you can pay your respects to the notorious 1st Duke of Sutherland, who built an imposing monument to himself atop the Ben. How you choose to do that is up to you, but I have a few ideas...

On that final note, I've taken my own small little bit of revenge out on the infamous Duke... Our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company even helped us immortalize said event, with our to
Boutique-y Clynelish* 20 Year KWM Cask!

 

The following was written by Andrew Ferguson for the August 2020 Edition of Celtic Life Magazine.

Please note Compass Box is not an independent bottler, but they also aren't a distillery. They are Blendersm or as they like to point out, Whisky Makers!

It has been six years since I last wrote about the Compass Box Whisky Co. for Celtic Life International. With the plucky London based “Whiskymakers” celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit one of my favourite whisky companies.

In a world obsessed with single malt whisky, blended Scotch whisky continues to suffer from the stigma of the dreaded “B word” - blends. The blended Scotch industry reigned in the latter half of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century. However, the last two decades have belonged to Single Malts. Blended whisky is far from done, however; it continues to dominate sales in terms of sheer volume and, recently, consumers have been thirsting for interesting Blends. Much of the credit for this must go to Compass Box, and their esteemed impresario John Glaser.

I have known John for more than 10 years and I have been a fan of his, and his creations, for even longer. Compass Box has been pushing the boundaries of Scotch whisky for two decades, starting with their first ever release, Hedonism - a blended grain whisky that is a marriage of at least two different single grain Scotch whiskies. grain whisky is lighter, more delicate, and cleaner than malt whisky, owing to how it is made. It is often the base, or filler, for more commercial blends. However, that is not the case with Compass Box, where grain whisky is an accent, used to add delicacy and decadence. Hedonism is soft, elegant, and sinfully decadent, hence the name. Whisky drinkers weren’t even drinking single grains in 2000, let alone blended grains, and this is where John chose to make his mark and announce his arrival.

John is one of the most unlikely leaders in the Scotch whisky industry. A native of Minnesota, he studied winemaking and literature before taking a marketing job with Johnnie Walker, a position he thought would be temporary. The job took him to Scotland and eventually to London, where he worked with Diageo’s blending team. He had always hoped to make his way into winemaking but fell in love with Scotch whisky and the art of whisky-making. Over time, his passion outgrew the vision of his employers; John approached Diageo with a proposal to create a range of boutique blended Scotch whiskies, but they didn’t share his enthusiasm. So, he struck out on his own.

Hedonism was followed up with Asyla (a proper blend), Eluethera (a blended malt), and then his next big hit - the Peat Monster. I remember the first time I tried the Peat Monster; it was smoky and peaty, but not quite as intense as Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Most importantly, it was elegant and complex. That has been the signature of Compass Box whiskies over the past 20 years - “a forward-looking approach and an unrelenting desire to create quality.” They have experimented, pushed boundaries, challenged tradition, and ruffled feathers - as they did most famously with the release of the Spice Tree.

Their thirst for the art of whisky-making is what has endeared them to legions of fans, including yours truly.

One of the highlights of my time in the whisky industry was the creation of my own bespoke Compass Box Blend to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of my store, the Kensington Wine Market, in 2017. I didn’t merely select a cask or approve a bottling - I actually played a role in the creation of something unique, the Compass Box Kensington Wine Market 25th Anniversary Blend. During the year it took to dial in the recipe for its creation I had the privilege of being a whisky-maker - certainly a career highlight!

Compass Box Whiskies are found more widely around the world today than in the early days. Hedonism, Spice and Peat Monster are still available as part of a large stable of the company’s unique creations. Their limited annual releases are the most sought after and this year’s 20th anniversary spirits will be no exception. The first is Rogues’ Banquet, a superb tribute to both their many unique whiskies and their equally distinct patrons. In their words, “When we conceived the idea for Rogues' Banquet last year, we felt that a collection of our favourite Compass Box personalities and an opulent liquid would be the ideal means by which to begin our 20th anniversary celebrations. Rogues' Banquet is made for the gourmands and the hedonists who have accompanied us for the last 20 years.”

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