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KCM Spirit Reviews

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review 192: Compass Box Hedonism

Review 192
Compass Box Hedonism: 43% abv

Background: Hedonism is the unique offering by Compass Box that is really the show piece of this review series. First off, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Hedonism, for those of you who don’t know, is a school of thought that we as people should do everything in our power to maximize our pleasure, and that pleasure is the greatest good. Fortunately, this is not a philosophical article, so I’ll end it there. Obviously there is some implication that this whisky is pleasurable, but we have to find that out for ourselves. What makes this unique, though, is the fact that this is a blended GRAIN whisky, which differentiates it from all of the other whiskies in this series. Blended Scotch is comprised of two elements: single malt and single grain. Blended malts are just single malts from multiple distilleries. The other side of the fence that we rarely see in Scotch is blended grain whiskies, which are single grain whiskies from multiple distilleries. Greenore is a great example of a Single Grain whiskey made in Ireland. Now Hedonism offers us a chance to experience what the other side of Scotch whisky can be. Hedonism is made from 70% East Lowland Single Grain and 30% West Lowland Single Grain in 100% First Fill American Oak. Here we go.


Nose:  On the nose is a familiar smell that can only be traced back to Blended Scotch. The smell is young and fresh, with sweet vanilla and banana right up front. There is a sense of coconut and slight nuttiness that comes through at first. The nose also has a candied aroma to it, with even a bit of custard in the nose. A strong note of sugar cookies and vanilla extract is prominent as the whisky opens up. The whisky starts to smell floral and perfume-like after some time, but in a light and elegant way. There is some fresh oak smell, but noticeably fresh maple wood also overlays the entire experience. To work along with the fresh maple is some subtle molasses notes. It is obvious, if reading through these notes, how incredibly sweet this smells, almost smelling like a light rum rather than a whisky. It does sit close to Greenore in style thus far.

Arrival: The arrival starts off surprisingly bitter and woody, with some sugar cookie and sweets coming in a little later. It is surprising how well the flavors actually complement each other. The bitter wood flavor is not over-dominant, but it does catch the drinker a bit off guard from the initial experience with the nose. There is a complexity of wheat grain, with a noticeable amount of rum-like molasses coming through. There is a little bit of peppery spice. A bit of apple pulls through into the body from the arrival.

Body: The body is dry and sweet, pulling the sugary flavors from the arrival through and amplifying, but not without a dry woody mouth-feel. In the body, there is an apple-like taste that spawns from the arrival, but doesn’t last very long. There is an odd tartness that also makes a brief appearance in the body as well.

Finish: Extreme notes of sugar cookies and subtle lemon drops come through in the finish. There is a presence of wheat and yeast, along with some amount vanilla extract. As if I were reviewing the flavors on a baking show, there is a flowery-dry mouth feel and taste that holds through in the end of the spirit.  Spicy notes dive in that include nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, having an almost Christmas holiday flavor to it.

With Water

Nose: It is clear that water tries to curb the innate sweetness of the whisky, drawing back some of the sweetness and bringing out a bit of spicy wood flavor. That being said, it feels like a losing battle, with most of the flavor being unchanged.

Arrival: The arrival carries a little more spiciness than before. The sweetness is pushed back a little bit, but still plays a dominant role.

Body: The body is largely unchanged, but actually shortens and becomes less prominent with the addition of water. There is a bit of spicy bitterness that wasn’t as prevalent as before.

Finish: The finish shows off a greater blend of dry fruits and wood flavor and complexity. There is still dominant sweetness, but it is complemented by a greater complexity of flavors. A similar mint flavor from some other Compass Box whiskies starts to appear given a little time.

Final Comments:  This is definitely in stark contrast to anything else in the world of Scotch Whisky. It is an insightful view on what the other part of Blended Scotch is. That being said, the balance of sweetness to other flavors is not very strong, at the whole experience is disappointingly simplistic. If the price of this Scotch was less than it is, it would be a very solid offering, but unfortunately, it isn’t. It doesn’t justify its own price, and with a competitor like Greenore that appears to be more complex, similar in style, and less than half as expensive, this doesn’t have much of a purpose. At $50, this would be a good buy.

Why you’d buy it: You have a strong allegiance to Scotland and want a good grain whisky.

Why you wouldn’t: Greenore offers similar quality and style for a significant savings in cost.

Score: 8.25/10

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