Modern day whisky innovators
Compass Box is a boutique independent whisky producer that was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and is based in London and Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into their own unique whiskies. The range includes single grain whiskies, vatted malts, blended whiskies such as this Double Single and other limited releases. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three whiskies to create a unique product with a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and as a result, is a former winner of the prestigious Whisky Magazine's Innovator of the Year.
A celebration bottling
The Double Single is a new bottling to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Compass Box. As the name suggests, it is made from two single casks - one single malt and one grain whisky - to make a unique new blended whisky. The single malt is from the Glen Elgin distillery in Speyside, which is located close to the city of Elgin (unsurprisingly!), and the grain whisky is from the Port Dundas distillery in Glasgow. The Glen Elgin is an 18 years old, is from a large ex-bourbon cask and forms approximately three quarters of the blend. The Port Dundas grain whisky is a 21 years old, also from an ex-bourbon cask.
The Double Single is a revival of a limited bottling that Compass Box produced for the famous Highlander Inn in Craigellachie, Speyside in 2003 and has an alcohol strength is 53.3% ABV. There are only 876 bottles available and they will be in specialist whisky retailers and can also be purchased from the Compass Box website for £99 each.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and very promising. Considering its apparent lightness, the whisky has an incredibly complex combination of aromas coming from the nose and these increase with time. There are notes of vanilla, green apple, nuts (think of a creamy type of nut like almond or hazelnut), wood shavings or sawdust, fresh coconut, dried grass, cereal grains, tangy kiwi fruit and a sharp whiff of alcohol spirit. On the palate this is light, delicate and elegant. The whisky is again very complex and refreshing with vanilla, honey, dry cereal grains and that woodiness (imagine pencil shavings) particularly prominent. There is also a distinct juicy citrus note (think of lemon juice), some dried grassiness and hints of fresh tropical fruits (that kiwi again plus some pineapple). The palate is delicious, juicy, tangy and fresh. The finish is short and vibrant with sweet vanilla and honey notes tempered by sharper citrus (lemon especially) and drier grassy and cereal notes.
What's the verdict?
The Double Single is a cracking whisky that is one of the best new whiskies of 2010 that we have tasted to date. Why? It offers an insight in to how good and complex a lighter whisky can be if sympathetically matured and blended. The price is high but it is a limited edition and a very good one at that. If you haven't tried any Compass Box whiskies before, then track one down and do so. They are, without exception, all unique and of a consistently high quality.