By Richard Thomas
As we’ve covered previously, those crafty blenders at Compass Box want to add expand their Great King Street line, heretofore comprised of the original Artist’s Blend and a limited edition, to include a new permanent expression. Sharing experiments has become a popular gimmick with whiskey-makers on both sides of the Atlantic, as has monitoring the response to those batches with an eye on future products, and in that vein Compass Box chose to release two experimental Great King Street batches. These experiments have very scientific sounding alphanumeric identifiers, but are referred to by some as simply the Orange Batch and the Blue Batch.
The Great King Street Blue Batch (TR-06) is a 1/3 Lowland grain, 2/3s malt blend. A big chunk of the malt side comes from Brora (probably meaning Clynelish, since the other Brora distillery is closed), with the rest drawing on distilleries from the Highlands, Speyside, and Islay. Most of this whisky was aged in first-fill bourbon barrels, but some came from new French oak (French oak being a Compass Box specialty) Released in September 2013, the run consisted of 3,085 bottles, non-chill filtered and at 43% abv.
Although the other King Street experiment was intended to be the fruity one, it’s the TR-06, Blue batch that has the lemony, pale yellow coloring. The nose shares a little of that fruity character, with an aspect of citrus zest, mint, and ginger spice, but balanced with salty sea spray and a few drops of oily creosote.
This experimental batch was supposed to be the smoky, salty one of the pairing, though, and it’s on the palate where it lives up to that billing. The citrus note disappears, leaving behind a smoky scotch with an oily texture. The sweetness goes to seaweed and salt, with a little crisp pine for good measure, but the spicy notes of ginger and mint remain. This batch is a slow slipper for sure, and sports a pleasantly sophisticated flavor. The finish leaves a spicy coat on the tongue, and winds down with buttery warmth.
Frankly, I like this batch as much or maybe a little more than the original Great King Street. My fingers are crossed that this is the one chosen for regular production.
All the Great King Street expressions come in 50cl bottles, and this one is priced at £32 on the Compass Box webstore.