Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Compass Box. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
To blend, or not to blend. That is the question. And when it comes to blended whisky, it is important to differentiate a blended whisky from a blended malt. A blended whisky combines malt and grain whiskies, while a blended malt–such as Compass Box’s Orchard House–combines various malt whiskies.
London-based Compass Box does both styles of blending. I am generally pulled in by the brand’s attention to detail, and the fact that the blending is done to carefully marry flavors rather than stretch more flavorful malt whisky with milder grain. Much like a jazz musician pulls from the sounds from their band mates when crafting solos, Compass Box approaches their craft with intention and an open-minded palate. Helmed by John Glaser, the creative minds at Compass Box appear to strive for an elevation of established flavor profiles to find their balance in their spirits. This philosophy, in my opinion, tends to delivers a higher quality product.
Among the latest releases from the Whiskymakers (their coined term for their craft) at Compass Box is Orchard House, a blended malt that is a “monument to fresh fruitiness in Scotch whisky.” What I found in my glass was both unique and engaging.
The blending of Orchard House incorporates single malts from all over the lands of Scotland. They join their varied characteristics into an integrated pour where no singular element sticks out.
Tasting Notes: Compass Box Orchard House
Vital Stats: A combination of single malts and a malt blend from the following: Clynelish Distillery, A Distillery near the town of Aberlour, Highland malt blend (Glen Moray, Balmenach, and Tomatin distilleries), Caol Ila, The Bennrines Distillery, The Linkwood Distillery. Non-chill filtered. 46% alcohol. Suggested retail pricing around $51
Appearance: Light golden hay
Nose: A light fruity nose, with notes of Bosc pear, apple, a hint of citrus, and soft caramel,
Palate: The mouthfeel is silky and luxurious. The flavors are given a platform to develop and linger, allowing the sipper to explore the aftertaste as well as the actual drink. It has a very light and delicate fruitiness, with ok, peat, and a hint of white pepper. The spice lingers, but is balanced. Fruits hit the middle of the tongue with ripe pear, baked apples, and just a hint of raisin.
Peat hits the back of the tongue and coats the flavors in a soft blanket of doused campfire. The peat is more present than I expected it to be from the push of fruit they are working to express through this blend. Yet it is not a medicinal smokiness that comes through. The campfire was built with apple wood, cherry wood, and maple bark, giving it a soft smokiness that makes for a gentle introduction to peat flavor to those that are not up for the boldness of Islay-style malts.
Over ice, a suggested serve from the brand, the whisky’s fruit notes come forward, especially the orange and other citrus notes. The smoke is pushed to the back of the flavor profile, but still is at the party. The spice notes are also still there, but their punch is suppressed just a bit so you get the waft of cinnamon and clove in the nose as you drink it, but less of the bite of those flavors.
For the price and amount of flavor packed into this bottle, I would recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting flavor profile that will appeal to many palates. I experienced a nice balance of fruit, but found more peat than I expected. That is not a negative for my personal preferences, but if you are looking for a fruit-forward, sweet Scotch whisky, you might be left wondering if you grabbed the right bottle. The good thing is, the payoff for the other flavors is well worth the slight misalignment between the marketing and the experience.
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As the creator and writer of “Johnny Scotch”, John Dover has built his Jazz Noir world from the music he is immersed in on a daily basis and from his travels across the US as a professional musician. John continues to build the “Johnny Scotch” library through short stories, and...