Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New release - The Entertainer by Compass Box

Compass Box, the artisan whisky company, have teamed up with Selfridge's, one of the UK's leading department store chains, for their latest release. The Entertainer has been created to celebrate the life of Gordon Selfridge, the legendary founder of the department store. It can be purchased exclusively in one of their four department stores in Birmingham, London (Oxford Street) and Manchester (Exchange Square or Trafford Centre), or via their website

Compass Box 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 products. 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 is a former winner of the prestigious Innovator of the Year prize at the Whisky Magazine annual awards.

The Selfridge's department store was founded by Gordon Selfridge, an American born in Wisconsin, and opened on London's Oxford Street in March 1909.  The iconic building is still a London landmark and was designed by American architects Daniel Burnham and Francis Swales, with the help of two British counterparts - R. Frank Atkinson and Thomas Smith Tait.  Selfridge's established the concept of the department store in the UK by displaying items for customers to look at and interact with.  The company expanded with the three newer store listed above from the late 1990s onwards.

The Entertainer has been hand blended by the skilled hands of Compass Box founder John  Glaser and is bottled at a strength of 46% ABV.  There are only 1,000 bottles available and the price is £84.99.  If you wish to sample the whisky, then you can do in each of the Wines & Spirits departments of Selfridge's listed above.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow with a brown/amber tint.  The nose is a rich mix of aromas - there are immediate notes of honey, dark dried fruits (think of raisins, sultanas and candied orange peel) and sweet malted cereals.  There is also a decent amount of soft, earthy peat smoke adding depth and further sweetness.  Hints of brown sugar, soft baking spices (especially nutmeg) and something floral give it a complexity and decadence.

On the palate, the whisky is rich, luscious and mouth coating.  It is again initially sweet with plenty of barley sugar coming through from the cereals.  This is almost instantly joined by some lovely juicy dried fruits (think again of sultanas especially, plus raisins and apple), runny honey, toffee and a delicious hit of spiced candied orange. The honey note becomes more like honeycomb (that rock hard stuff that you get at fairgrounds) as the palate develops.  The soft and expressive peat smoke is never far away and adds an earthy edge to the flavour, as does a late ginger-like note.  The ginger is complimented by some softer baking spices (nutmeg again) and a final tangy hit of orange zest.

The finish is of decent length and combines the sweet notes (particularly the sugary, malty cereals) with the soft, delicate wood/baking spices and earthy smokiness.  The spice and smoke win in the end and turn the finish a little drier, before some late zesty orange returns to complete everything.

What's the verdict?
Almost every whisky blog, magazine, book or review that you read about Compass Box will tell you that their whiskies are superbly crafted and that they can do no wrong.  We tend to agree and this new whisky perfectly demonstrates these points and strengthens them.  The Entertainer is a big, luscious and quite smoky whisky but it also exhibits incredible depth, complexity and subtlety of aroma and flavour.

One sign of a good whisky is if it leaves you definitely wanting another glass of it and this one makes you want to pour another one ... and then another one.  The Entertainer is excellent - OK it may look a little expensive, but the quality of the product is high.  We urge you to either buy it or at least try it if you are ever near one of the Selfridge's branches.

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