Recently I attended a Compass Box whisky tasting with one of the various clubs in Glasgow. I have a lot of fun at these events as I get to enjoy a few drams with like-minded folk. The event was very educational; I also found it pretty cool to listen to people reminisce about the brand, its history so far and the way some of its whiskies have changed. I am only acquainted with the more recent offerings, so I can’t really compare. It’s a shame, as I really want to try the illicit Spice Tree of ye olden days! I’ve heard many a good thing, and I wonder why they didn’t continue making the spirit as they had done. Maybe they could have labelled it something other than whisky? What a great money-making scheme… I am sure fans would snap it up! Whilst Compass Box has gained many fans for themselves since coming into existence around the turn of the millennium, not everyone is on board. For examples, you can refer to some of Jason’s past reviews!
I have tried a few of Compass Box’s range and found them quite delightful, but I do feel they can be overpriced. Take, for example, the whisky I am going to review: it sells for around £50, which I guess is not unreasonable these days; however, I could probably pick up something that is a bit better or a bit older for the same price. Hey, though—that seems to be the way it is going for many brands. Extortion! Don’t get me started on the Aberlour A’bunadh!
At this tasting we sampled the stalwarts of their core range, plus the whisky I decided to review: the latest addition, called The Story Of The Spaniard. Why? I like the name, and amongst the drams at this particular tasting, it stood out. I am fond of the interesting designs Compass Box whiskies generally have; they call to my artistic side like a doomed moth to a flame. For this particular whisky, I also love the romanticism of the name. From what I have read, it came about from a chance encounter with an older Spanish gentleman that John Glaser, the founder of Compass Box, had. The story goes that the older man welcomed him and took him on an adventure discovering local sherries. Swoon, it is like a budding love story! When John embarked on his whisky journey, he revisited those memories when he was selecting casks. I think that is quite a charming little tale and paints a picture for me of many of the things I love about southern Spain: of the sun, wine, grapes and cured meats! It sounds delicious!
You can purchase this release from Master of Malt for £49.95 or the Whisky Exchange for the same price.
Compass Box The Story of The Spaniard – review
Colour: apple juice
On the nose: up front, it is quite sweet with fresh rich red berries. Then it becomes more fruity but darker and deeper with ripe red dates, dried goji berries, prunes, figs and a slight hint of sour blackberries and apple smash. It starts to get savoury and meaty with earthy undertones, but with something else in the background that I can only describe as rubber.
In the mouth: it is very sweet and oily. Those fruity berries I get on the nose transfer to the taste and lace the back of my mouth. Weirdly, I get icing sugar on my throat; it reminds me of eating sweeties coated in the stuff and accidentally inhaling the powder, which tickles your tonsils. The mouth begins to slightly dry, and then those rubbery notes begin to make their appearance. They come in strong: rubber, plastic and then—quite suddenly for me—it turns nasty. Imagine entering a butcher shop: those smells of bleach and meat begin to overpower the previous flavours, and I get hints of stagnant pond water and rotten food. The finish is not particularly long; it becomes quite drying, but every so often, a warmth at the base of the throat, and that rotten aftertaste.
As you can see, this whisky did not agree with me. The nose was quite nice; I enjoy those rich deep tones and even the meaty savouriness. However, the aftertaste and the butcher shop aromas really made me feel sick. Horribly, it reminded me of when I used to be an art student and we would go to the anatomy building at Glasgow University to study body parts and sketch them. The smell and taste of formaldehyde are the memories this whisky brought back. Maybe some whisky fungus had gotten into it! Shivers… I thought I was the only person that experienced this, but a few others did comment that there was something at the back which was unpleasant. Phew… I thought I had gone mad! Online, there are quite a few reviews of this whisky, and it has scored relatively high. I fear I may be lynched by Compass Box fans for giving this whisky the score that I have, but I have to stay true to my senses! Saying that, I would be up for trying it again, because I don’t believe that giving it only one chance is fair.
There are commission links within this review if you wish to make a purchase. However, such earning potential never influences our judgement.
I am not sure you and I can be friends. This is a solid under $60 whiskey. It has a boldness of flavor I expect at a price point that is good. I would have a hard time picking 10 scotch whiskys that are better at this PP and I have consumed 8 bottles to date. I have introduced it to several friends and I have not heard one negative opinion. The fact that you state you can find something better and older for the same price is also disappointing. Age means so little when it comes to good whiskey. At the end of the day, you should revisit this dram. It is a fact that we taste differently from day to day, hour to hour and based on what and when you had food. This is my first visit to your site and yet I will give it another chance thou I find the tasting notes to miss on so many marks. Cheers
Hi Adrian, thanks for your comment. Yes, as I said in my conclusion I would try this whisky again as I don’t believe in making a set in stone judgment from just one experience. I have made the same observations about how tastes change through the day and depending on food etc in some of my other reviews but I don’t want to repeat myself too much. That being said, my friends who also tried this at the tasting had similar negative comments about the palate of this whisky – maybe it was a bit of a duff batch.
“I have introduced it to several friends and I have not heard one negative opinion…At the end of the day, you should revisit this dram…This is my first visit to your site and yet I will give it another chance thou I find the tasting notes to miss on so many marks.” Nice one Adrian! So you’ll read Malt again if the tasting notes and ratings agree with your own….phew!
I have a good mate like this who always seems to feel personally slighted if I’m not overwhelmed by the quality of the latest bottle he’s picked up – almost as if he’d distilled it himself. On one occasion, he actually stopped speaking to me for nearly three months after I was insufficiently impressed by some underaged Glenrothes! (Yeah, I know…”good mate”…)
For what it’s worth, I also found The Spaniard to be quite rubbery and unpleasant. Different strokes, eh?
Thanks for the comment Notnice_75. I think we all have one of those friends 😀
Interesting review. I gave this a try in a bar yesterday and found it to be OK. Not as artificial tasting as something like Dalmore 12 which would be an equivalent price on the menu. A little richer than an equivalent Macallan. But the finish is non-existent so I’d not choose this over a GlenDronach 12. Certainly wouldn’t purchase a bottle.
Thanks for the comment Graham. Just goes to show that you should always try before you buy!
Fuckn rip off. Horrible was of money.
Hi Hector thanks for the comment. Lucky for me I was able to try this at a tasting and knew better than to invest in a whole bottle!
Hugs to Adrian. The Story is outstanding blend whisky, but u have to understand its concept and have some broader view of the topic. Giving it 3 of 10 is a shame. If u say u cand find better for the price – plz tell us what it is.