January 31 2013
Christina Ohly Evans
A good friend of mine – an American who has lived in the UK for two decades – is
a connoisseur of premium wines and spirits. So, when it comes to
furthering my own education – or buying gifts for true Scotch whisky fans – I
immediately turn to her for guidance and good taste.
Her latest recommendation – Great King Street by Compass Box Whisky – has become a new favourite of mine, and I love the story behind this unlikely London-based whiskymaker. Founded in 2000 by American John Glaser, who had for years worked with the Johnnie Walker brand in the UK, Compass Box is devoted to blending and bottling “rich, sweet, fat on the palate” whiskies – like none I’ve ever tasted before.
Compass Box has three primary brands: Signature Range, Great King Street and Orangerie, as well as a limited-release programme that changes year to year based on availability. The Signature Range features five whiskies: Asyla (£36.50), Oak Cross (£39.50), Spice Tree (£44) and the cheeky Peat Monster (£43) and Hedonism (£64). But it is the newest, the Great King Street line (and the Artist’s Blend – £27 – in particular), that had me at first sip. Inspired by the golden age of whisky making in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Great King Street fuses innovation with the best barrels (French oak and all-natural ageing are standard) and the finest ingredients – all without colouring or chill filtering. The finished product is a high-strength drink that is best enjoyed straight, but adds distinction to a classic cocktail.
Glaser has been hailed as “one of the most progressive and innovative whisky blenders in this generation” by The Whisky Advocate, and has won Whisky Magazine’s “Innovator of the Year” award no fewer than four times – more than any other in the business. Judging by his penchant for sourcing from 10 Scotch distilleries, he is clearly a craftsman who delights in finding new flavour niches. I hope to enjoy more of his bold, unique blends as he creates them.