Compass Box Flaming Heart 4th Edition: 48.9% abv
Background: Well, to our utter dismay, Compass Box doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet, so we need to go off of other sources for our “exclusive knowledge”, but let’s start with this. Compass Box is NOT a distillery; in fact, far from it. Compass box is a Scotch whisky blender. All of CB’s whiskies are blended whiskies, most of which are blended malts, but some of which are uniquely blended grain whiskies (you will seldom find a Single Grain Scotch Whisky in these parts). If you’re interested in a blended grain whisky, look up Compass Box’s Hedonism. Compass Box hasn’t been around for too long, with John Glaser having started up the business in 2000. In fact, it was not too long ago that we saw first signs of Compass Box crop up in Michigan, and boy were we excited. What’s not to like about what CB is doing? They’re bottling at higher proofs with more natural “non chill-filtered” presentation and natural color. This particular limited edition bottling takes the craft aspect to an almost Bruichladdich level. It is a whisky made up of single malts from Islay and the Highlands, so a mixture of smokey richness and sweet-bodied fruits should be expected. This one is aged in new French oak casks, which are frankly not used enough in Scotch maturation. This particular Flaming Heart was bottled in August of 2012 and only 9,147 bottles were produced. As I mentioned before this is a natural presentation and is bottled at 48.9%, which is over-proofed.
Nose: Well, as you would expect from a malt blend containing peated Scotch, there is some peat on the nose, but don’t mistake this as having the same presence as a Laphroaig. Instead, the peat couples nicely with notes of subtle smoky campfire, nuttiness, agave and sea salt. The fresh French oak brings out the vanilla oak notes, while dry fruits and a subtle malt note underpins the whole ensemble.
Arrival: The arrival will be an exciting moment for you, and surely you’ll be rewarded by the wait. The nuttiness in the nose prevails in the arrival with some almond hinting through, but truly the peat takes the attention. This isn’t a tobacco-like, dry peat taste like Kilchoman gives you. It is indeed smoky and spicy, with a hot, cayenne-like presentation up front and a mild counterbalance of sweetness.
Body: The body contains notes of peat, creamy vanilla, and some tropical, but mellow fruit types. It took us a while to pin down exactly what we were experiencing, but other sources have sited guava as a potential note.
Finish: There is a gentle peat note, vanilla, sweet apple, and sea salt coming through. The whole experience isn’t brutalized by the proof of the alcohol, but it is worth seeing how much change there is with some water.
Nose: With water, the nose brings out some more harsh intensity in the smoke and alcohol, with the vanilla coming through and an added sweetness akin to rock candy.
Arrival: The arrival reflects the aforementioned sweetness, being significantly sweeter than before, but also brings out some drier notes and a big vanilla presence.
Body: The body is again sweet, with a balance of sweet and smoky notes like before.
Finish: The peat in the finish, after a few teaspoons of water, is subtler, while fruit and spice notes climb through. There is red grape, spices, more oak, prominent agave, and some subtle grain notes which start to get added.
Final Comments: This is definitely an enjoyable and challenging whisky, and to be honest, we might not have done it justice in this review, but for us, this is a learning experience. This malt blend represents a highly crafted spirit with a nice contrast of peat smoke and sweetness/spiciness. The peat isn’t too commanding, but it still has that quality of a good Islay Scotch. I don’t know if this competes on a full scale with the likes of Caol Ila, but it is not trying to be a Caol Ila either. We hope to see more distilleries bottling at higher proofs like this, and we hope to review more Compass Box in the future.
Why you’d buy it: It is a great blended malt Scotch and you like that it is limited edition
Why you wouldn’t: You can’t get it in your area.