Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New releases > Great King Street 'Artist's Blend'

The Great King Street 'Artist's Blend' is the exciting new whisky release from the innovative independent blending company of Compass Box. They have released a string of award winning whiskies, which have won much acclaim around the world.  Compass Box's mission is to get people drinking quality blended whiskies and present an alternative for the descerning single malt drinker. This whisky contains around 50% single malt (a relatively high amount for a blend) and 50% of quality, aged grain whisky (said to be about 12 years old).  It is named after the street where the company's headquarters are located in Edinburgh and has been matured in French oak casks.  Great King Street 'Artist's Blend' has been released in 50cl bottles at a strength of 43% ABV and should cost around the £25 mark from specialist whisky retailers.

Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and is based in London, as well as Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into their own unique products. The range includes single grain whiskies, vatted malts, blended whiskies 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.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this whisky is a pale lemon gold and the nose is fresh, clean and inviting.  It is sweet with some lovely initial notes of honey, vanilla and coconut, before some more spicy oak notes appear and take over.  These are reminiscent of fresh wood shavings/sawdust and have hints of toasted almond and ginger to them.  The nose also has an underlying freshness driven by aromas of green fruit (think of pears and apples) and a hint of lemon zest.  On the palate, it is the zesty lemon note which hits first, quickly followed by the oak - this grips your taste buds and adds some creaminess to the mouth feel.  While the oak (fresh sawdust and coconut again) continues, other characteristics join in to give a good complexity for a seemingly light whisky.  There are delicate notes of malted barley, bittersweet cereal grains, vanilla and honey soften things, juicy green fruits (the pear and apple again) and the tiniest dash of orange oil.  The woodiness then offers a pinch of spice - imagine cinnamon and nutmeg.  The finish starts off initially sweet (vanilla and honey especially), which give way to the oak, spices and the citrus notes.  The noticeable freshness and dryness is lovely with the overall combination being delicious, succulent and very moreish.

What's the verdict?
The Great King Street is a delicious whisky and one that re-affirms the high standards that Compass Box have set themselves and that the fans of their whiskies have come to expect. It manages to be intense and complex but delicate and light. The balance has to be spot on to pull this off and this whisky is clearly very well crafted, with a sympathetic use of ingredients and casks.  This is great stuff, all of which comes at a bargain price.

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