Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Whiskey Wednesday: A Grainy Hedonism

Hedonism is one of the most acclaimed products of popular blender Compass Box. What makes it different from most popular Scotches is that it's a grain whiskey.

In the language of Scotch, malt whiskey is whiskey made from malted barley. Grain whiskey is the whiskey made from any number of unmalted grains, which could include barley, corn, wheat or rye. Grain whiskey added to malt whiskey is blended whiskey.

Grain whiskey often gets a bad rap because of the tendency of some blenders to use inferior grain whiskies in their blends. However, there is nothing inherently inferior about grain. In fact, almost all of America's best Bourbons and rye whiskies would be labeled "grain whiskey" if they were produced in Scotland as they are made from a mixture of unmalted grains.

Hedonism is a vatted grain whiskey, meaning that it is a mix of grain whiskies from different distilleries. Under new rules recently issued in Scotland, such a whiskey will now be called a blended grain whiskey.


Compass Box Hedonism, vatted grain whiskey, 43% alcohol by volume, non-chill filtered, natural color. Compass Box is an independent blending company. $90-100.

The nose on this is pure Bourbon...sweet, corny Bourbon. The taste is much lighter. It has some bourbon, but also some sweet fruit and some barley too. Clearly, corn and barley are at play here. I don't taste rye, but I suppose a small amount could have snuck in as well.

In terms of whiskies I've had, this tastes a lot closer to American whiskey than malt, which makes sense since, as I noted above, American whiskies are mostly grain whiskies. Interestingly though, the whiskey I think it comes closest to in flavor is Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, an American single malt. They both have the same light, fruity notes, though Stranahan's has quite a bit more fruit.

This is a nice, light whiskey. Good for a summer's day, and I'd even consider it on the rocks. While I enjoyed it, I wasn't blown away by it. It's interesting for its uniqueness and for the insight it gives into the other Scotch whiskey, but I wonder if it isn't respected more for these qualities than for its objective taste.

Next Week: Finally, Speyside

No comments: