Thursday, January 23, 2014

Have just tried - Peat Monster 10th Anniversary

This is a special bottling from Compass Box, the artisan whisky blending company, which has been created to celebrate the 10th birthday of one of their most popular creations. The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary is a limited edition release to mark 10 years since the award winning blend (then simply known as The Monster) was launched. That regular bottling of Peat Monster is the biggest selling whisky in the Compass Box range. There are just 5,970 bottles available.

Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and has premises in London and Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into a unique product. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three whiskies to create a new product, and all are then given a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and they are a former winner of the prestigious Innovator of the Year prize at The Whisky Magazine annual awards.

This limited edition is made using a combination of Highland and Islay single malt whiskies, with some older casks of peaty Highland malt used to add extra richness, depth and complexity. It has been bottled at a slightly higher strength of 48.9% ABV and features a bespoke label created by US artist Mark Burckhardt - this is a play on the label for the regular bottling of Peat Monster. A bottle will cost £83 from the Compass Box website or through specialist whisky retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is vibrant, fresh and full of pungent smoky aromas that catch the nostrils.  The intense smoke has a heat to it and is reminiscent of fresh tar and surgical bandages.  Once the smokiness begins to settle, other aromas begin to appear - think of oatcakes, lemon zest, green chili, dried apple, vanilla and honey.

On the palate this has a similar intensity.  The feisty peat smoke is again the most prominent feature and this has an acrid, mouth watering quality.  The smoke again has a tar-like edge to it, combined with some medicinal phenolic surgical bandage notes.  These notes are never far away but do subside to allow others through.  There is a lovely vanilla note that appears first and this is followed by malty cereals and a good dollop of honey.  Following this are more subtle notes, which battle through the intensity - these include fresh green chili, icing sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and hints of marshmallow and white chocolate.

The finish is very long with the vibrant peat smoke lingering and evolving as time passes.  Over 10 minutes later traces of this smokiness remain on the taste buds.  The sweetness slowly fades and leaves a lovely dryness.  With water, everything is softened and the smoke is dampened.  The vanilla and malted cereal notes really come through and give a creamy, softer fee.

What's the verdict?
This is another fine effort from the guys at Compass Box.  They could easily have made an older version of the popular Peat Monster for this celebratory edition, but chose to produce something different.  This seems peatier, feistier and more full on than the original but has a great warmth, depth and complexity.  This is a great example of what a good smoky whisky should be like.  Having said that, it is one for the serious peat lovers rather than the uninitiated whisky drinker.

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