Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Compass Box's Newest: Great King Street Artist's Blend

John Glaser of Compass Box has long been known as a rebel and innovator. He nearly single handedly brought the vatted malt back to prominence and was an early champion of grain whiskey. While Glaser has also made traditional blended Scotch in the past, he is now making a serious push to rehabilitate the long derided category with a new series: Great King Street.

The first release in the Great King Street series is the Artist's Blend. Per the Compass Box web page, the Artist's Blend is composed of:

  • 51.4% Lowland Grain Whisky

  • 23.2% Northern Highland Malt

  • 17.7% Northern Highland Malt

  • 7.7% Speyside Malt

This doesn't tell us that much about the specific distilleries. Many of the big grain distilleries are in the Lowlands, but we do know that Compass Box previously used Port Dundas grain whisky for last year's Double Single. And knowing Compass Box, it's probably a pretty safe bet that one of the Northern Highlanders i Clynelish.

The various whiskies are aged in American Oak casks, French Oak casks and sherry butts. The abv is 43%.

Compass Box has done two big things right in marketing this. First, they've priced it very competitively, second they've released a half bottle. Locally, the 750 ml bottle is going for around $40 and the 375 ml for $22.


This has a really wonderful nose. It's very fruity with grapes and cherries and white wine notes. The palate is rich with vanilla, fruit and oak and just a bit of sherry toward the end and lasting into the finish, though the finish is on the short side. Upon tasting, I'd say there is definitely some Clynelish in there because it has some of that Clynelish richness.

It's got a certain lightness and a feint grainyness that let's you know it's a blend, but a really good one, not hugely complex but a real easy drinker. Something you don't need to think too much about but that would be pleasant anytime (and probably do well with ice, soda and such), and I especially appreciate the 375 ml option.

Based on this, I'm interested to see where Compass Box will go with this series.


James said...

Great call with the half bottle offering--I really wish more bottles were available in that size.

JSJ said...

Northern Highland Malt listed twice?

Jason Pyle said...

Just tried this myself after a trip out west. Brought a couple of bottles home and hoped I wouldn't be disappointed. I wasn't.

As you rightfully noted, not particularly complex, it presents flavors in a very straightforward manner, but it was absolutely more lush, rich, and full than I thought it would be. The grains are there, but fruity malt shines here. I pour scotch and soda heavy (about 50/50), but still the flavors stand up. I did however enjoy this most with just a cube or two of ice.

Compass Box has been a darling of the whisky world for a number of years. I feel it's mostly justified (I'm from the "blending is an art" camp). Still, at times some of their stuff doesn't come off as well as others. With GKS however, I think they executed very well. It's a very good, unstuffy, blend at a great value.

sku said...

James, totally agree. I hope they make this a regular thing with their whiskies.

JSJ, I assume that indicates two different Northern Highland malts were used.

Jason, agree on all counts. I liked it with ice as well (I can't really do soda). While we consider it a great value, it will be interesting to see if it can compete in the blended market, where many blends are much cheaper.