Compass Box proudly positions themselves on what can be imagined as the frontier of the Scotch whisky landscape. As an independent aging, blending, and bottling operation, the company seems obsessed with creating unique identities for each of their labels while challenging convention within the industry at large. For a perfect example of this, one need look no further than Compass Box Hedonism.
Hedonism is a blended grain Scotch whisky. Of course, Scotch whisky breaks down into five specific subcategories, with a couple of them clearly more common than others. While the majority of whisky drinkers are likely familiar with single malts and blends, the more specific variety of blends available can be more of a mystery.
The common blended Scotch whisky is a mixture of single malts and grain whiskies. A blended malt or malt blend is whisky created by merging malt whiskies with no grain whisky, such as Johnnie Walker Green Label or Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster. Still more unique is the blended grain Scotch whisky, which positions itself as the polar opposite of the malt blend. As such, Hedonism is a combination of various grain whiskies without any malt content.
Though the specific ages and identities of the whiskies involved are not disclosed, it is said by Compass Box that, depending upon the batch you are drinking from, components of what is in bottle could typically herald from Cameron Bridge, Carsebridge, Cambus, Port Dundas or Dumbarton. It is aged in American oak.
Tasting Notes: Compass Box Hedonism
Vital Stats: 43% ABV (86 proof), no age statement, blended grain Scotch whisky, available from $65 to $117, though commonly around $95 per 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Light golden straw. Strong legs.
Nose: Softly floral with vanilla and subtle lime zest, lightly prickly alcohol burn on the nose. Nutmeg and baked oatmeal cookies.
Palate: Sweet shortbread cookies, peppercorn, oak, and the lime zest returns. The softness continues mingling with prickliness on the back end, which reads far more suggestively than I had intended. The burn shows up late on the palate and leads into the finish. A nice amount of spice in the finish, specifically cinnamon and cayenne pepper, with a flash of mint with a subtle but lingering burn. Very clean from the nose through the finish.
The folks at Compass Box have dubbed themselves to be Whiskymakers, and in the process have defined more than just a new word. Their very identity in the whisky world is invested in the idea that experimentation and reinvention are good things. Hedonism finds itself embodying this ethic. Eschewing malts to offer up a blend of grain whiskies may seem like a hard sell on the surface, but Hedonism is a whisky which may call into question much that is taken for granted with Scotch whisky.
More than simply another boutique bottling, Hedonism is a Siren song leading the drinker into previously unknown waters. It is a journey well worth taking.
FINAL SCORE: 90/100
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Joshua St. John
When not sampling whiskey, Joshua St. John can most likely be found running the trails of the Pacific Northwest surrounding his home in Portland, Oregon. A lifelong world-traveler, Joshua was first introduced to single malts while visiting distilleries in Scotland, and continues to explore the world through the countless interpretations...