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Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard

It seems apt to be writing this review of the latest addition to the Compass Box core range, whilst in Spain. This particular release ticks the sherry box for many onlookers who love the influence this cask type can bring. But as Mark laid out in his recent BenRiach 12 year old review, sherry can be very boring.

I’ve never swallowed the red pill to Compass Box land that so many enthusiasts seem to visit. Personally, beyond the packaging and design, I just don’t see the lauded greatness that many fanboys proclaim around this independent bottler. Anyone can take some Clynelish – a distillate of high quality – and add a few more whiskies into the blend. Pass the results onto the marketing team and hey presto! A new release.

I’m no Jackson Pollock of the blending world and neither is Mark. Yet I reckon we could churn out acceptable results within budget constraints. Their whiskies are ok, but you are paying for the flannel that they come dressed up in. And then there’s the transparency aspect. If you want to know what’s actually within your whisky – the blend recipe – then the team will happily reply to you with that information. That’s great for those that want to seek out this level of detail and we’ll come onto the components of this release soon enough.

That old T-world transparency. Few actually live it and are happy enough to bury it in a hashtag and say one thing but do exactly the other. I’ve been called direct and much worse, but always honest and transparent. For many years I referred to Compass Box as Compost Box. Much to the hilarity of some who even commented on the typo until they realised the joke. The reasoning behind this was the brand was full of manure and the whiskies more about the story and marketing than the actual contents.

Now things have moved on. With their recent investment from a large corporation for a slice of equity, Compass Box have flexed their muscles in a sinister fashion as shown with Box Destilleri. How a distillery in Sweden can somehow affect a bottler in London with no distillery to call their own is beyond me. Anyone else with box in the name better watch out that’s all I can say. Box destilleri couldn’t afford to legally fight Compass Box and their suited brigade. Hence why from now on they are Corporate Box and a bit of fun for me.

We’ve let our Corporate Box coverage slip here at Malt. That’s not on purpose, but a reflection of how many releases are coming out. We don’t seek samples and personally, I’d rather purchase my own whiskies and explore on my own terms. I’d rather spend my money at Cadenhead’s who keep the packaging and labels to a bare minimum and focus on giving you value to such an extent that there’s little left in the wallet for Corporate Box.

Recently, I attended the Whiskybase Gathering in Rotterdam and after an avalanche of unicorn whiskies wanted to engage more with new distilleries and concepts. The Corporate Box bottles are eye-catching even amongst such lauded compatriots and I purchased a double of this release, which returned to Scotland before venturing across to Spain. Now feels right moment to explore this new concept after we’ve dissected the recipe.

This Spaniard is bottled at 43% strength and when broken down makes for interesting reading. 85% is made up of individual single malts with the remaining 15% being a Highland blended malt in heavily toasted French oak casks. Consisting of Clynelish (60%), Dailuaine (20%) and Teaninich (20%). After all, it wouldn’t be a Corporate Box release without some Clynelish in the mix.

Back with the single malt dynamic and Deanston offers 2 cask types with a 14 year old refill hogshead (7%) and a 15 year old refill sherry butt (8%). An 11 year old sherry butt from Craigellachie with 40% is the dominant ingredient followed by a 9 year old from Teaninich (25%) matured in wine casks. The remaining 5% is a touch of class from an 18 year old Glen Elgin from charred barrels. And that ladies and gentlemen is your Spaniard recipe.

You can purchase this Spaniard via the Whisky Exchange for £49.95 or check your local retailer as Corporate Box tend to have good distribution nowadays.

Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard – review

Colour: A golden orange hue.

On the nose: More softly spoken than I anticipated initially. Orange peel, rubbed bronze and rolled tobacco give us a gentle assortment of sherry-like aromas. Toffee apples and fudge. This Spaniard needs work to lift out the individual components. It’s not as flamboyant given the fanfare. A touch of alcohol at the rear and a sense of that’s it?

In the mouth: A little bland. Yes, a gentle caress from the sherry but nothing extraordinary or enticing. Buttery, oily even with red apples and the bronze/tobacco elements. A touch of that alcohol again suggesting some youthful spirit within the mix. Ok, the whispers of sweet cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cranberries and what could have been.

Conclusions

Oddly disappointing. On paper, I expected a more robust whiskey. In reality, this is a rather flaccid affair that doesn’t deliver on expectations. Far from a sherry beast – thankfully – it’s a forgettable foray, muddled even with the component parts swamping one another..

Throughout this dram, I kept thinking about the Queen Margot 5 year old that was more vivid and about a quarter of the price. Maybe my memory is hazy? Maybe we’re seeing Corporate Box cutting a few corners to meet a market need and price point? I just expected more than this and won’t be purchasing a bottle.

Score: 4/10

Lead image from the Whisky Exchange and there are commission links within the review itself to help support Malt, but there are better whiskies out there than this.

CategoriesBlends
  1. Welsh Toro says:

    A very enjoyable review Jason. I have to confess that I share your opinion regarding Compass Box. I know many in the whisky world that are totally in love with them. Let’s take this bottle for example. I’m a sucker for all thing Spanish. My wife is a Spaniard and I spend a great deal of time in Spain. I drink a great deal of Spanish wine and I enjoy sherry as much as whisky. When I see a whisky label with the words The Spaniard and images lifted from Velasquez’s Las Meninas I’m tempted. (If you put a fighting bull on the label – Amrut – I find it hard to resist.) Nevertheless, I just felt like I was being suckered with the marketing with this one. Put another label on it and give it another name and what have you got? What is Spanish about this drink?

    In conclusion, I think I’ll drink some good amontillado and munch some salted almonds whilst looking at a book of Velasquez’s art. Much better value and far more authentic.

  2. Jason
    Jason says:

    Hi Welsh Toro, glad this one found a home. Mark gave me a kick to go check out some of the comments on FB as well. To be honest, I was fearing a backlash from the Compost Box brigade who seems to love everything and aren’t able to detach from their reality and consider if the whisky is good.

    Instead, it seems many share the same opinion which is reassuring. Sounds like you’ve got a better alternative lined up. Cheers, Jason.

  3. Carlton Welch says:

    Love the “Corporate Box” moniker. Glaser and crew seem to have forgotten what it was like to be the little guy who couldn’t afford to litigate with the big, bad SWA over Spice Tree. Any confusion between Box Distillery and Compass Box would only benefit Compass Box!

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Carlton, yep my thoughts exactly. Many in whisky seem eager to chase the next release or lap up commentary and marketing. Thereby forgetting what happened relatively recently. We are defined by our actions and I do find those of CB somewhat disappointing as was the vanishing act from Glaser & Co whilst all this simmered down.

      Here’s hoping their next release offers a bit more substance. Cheers, Jason.

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