Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review - Flaming Heart (5th Edition)

The Flaming Heart is made by Compass Box, the innovative artisan whisky blending company. This is the fifth edition of this award-winning blended malt and has been released to celebrate the company's 15th anniversary.  It remains true to the original 2006 expression of Flaming Heart, but uses older whiskies. This is a marriage of Highland and Islay malts ranging from 14 to 30 years in age, plus a seven years old blended malt featuring three Highland distilleries that has been matured in French oak casks for a minimum of two years. The Flaming Heart takes its names from the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, where he states: "Every great achievement is the victory of a flaming heart".

Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser. They have premises in both London and Edinburgh and an imaginative ethos to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and craft them together into a unique product. All products are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three whiskies, and all are given a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and they are a widely regarded as one of the most innovative whisky makers in the industry.

"In celebrating our 15th anniversary we wanted to re-visit a classic Compass Box style without simply replaying it. Age does not mean everything, but in this case it adds depth, complexity, and richness."
John Glaser, Founder of Compass Box.

The Flaming Heart (5th Edition) is bottled at 48.9% ABV and there are just 12,060 bottles available.  These will be sold through specialist whisky retailers in Europe and the USA, plus via www.compassboxwhisky.com.  The price will be £100 or $150US per bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale gold and the nose is instantly expressive.  The aromas are sweet and fruity with some warming wood spices and smoke in the background.  There are immediate aromas of honey, vanilla and dried tropical fruits (especially mango and pineapple).  Underneath are further aromas of malted barley, dried apple, oat cakes, candied lemons and ashy bonfire smoke.

On the palate this feels warming, velvety and luxurious.  There is a lovely sweetness to begin with that is driven by distinct notes of honeycomb, vanilla, golden syrup and ripe peach, plus a hint of white chocolate.  Then comes a wave of more bittersweet elements - think of malted cereals, candied citrus (both orange and lemon) and a hint of molasses.  All of these characteristics are supported by a delicious combination of warming wood spice (especially cinnamon and cedarwood) and smoke, which is reminiscent of dying bonfire embers and ash.  Additional hints of dried fruits (both the apple and mango from the nose), liquorice, ginger and cocoa add further depth and complexity.

The finish is long and becomes increasingly dry.  The sweeter and fruitier elements take time to fade, but once they do the bittersweet and smokier notes remain.  This gives a warming and savoury feeling that lingers for ages.

What's the verdict?
The Flaming Heart (5th Edition) is a superb whisky and one of the best that we have sampled in recent months.  The balance and complexity created by the blending team is excellent and combines a delicious, sumptuous sweetness with a brooding underlying smokiness and spiciness.  There is a lovely depth to the whisky and it has a great mouth feel and collection of characteristics.  It is definitely a whisky to get another glass of, savour and enjoy.

Compass Box rarely lets the consumer down and this is another great example of the quality of their work.  Some have commented online that the price seems high for a blended malt, but we think it offers decent value for the quality of liquid.  Remember that a high proportion of the whisky included is of a significant age.  Keep up the good work guys ...

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