By Richard Thomas
Interest in grain whiskies has been coming back in recent years, with single grains in particular appearing in the Irish and Scottish sectors. Yet the idea of making a vatted grain whisky, a blend of grain whiskies from more than one distillery, remains a relatively small niche. Part of this is the relatively small number of grain distilleries in Scotland (just seven), and part is lack of interest. To date, the only vatted grain of real note has been Compass Box’s Hedonism.
Compass Box makes a habit of celebrating anniversaries with limited edition versions of their regular line, and so it is with Hedonism, which I described as an ideal aperitif whisky. At the eight year mark was Hedonism Maximus, and now that the expression has reached 15 years we have Hedonism Quindecimus.
Bottled in February 2015, Hedonism Quindecimus is a 5,869-bottle run of a limited edition, and a 46% abv, five-distillery vatted grain.
The color of this whisky is of wet, yellow straw, while the nose delivers a core of ripe apples seasoned with a hint of vanilla. As I’d expect from a vatted grain, it’s sweet, light stuff.
On the palate, the vanilla comes more to the fore, taking a turn into solid caramel territory. In that, it’s strongly suggestive of bourbon barrel aging. Throw in the fruity notes of apple and pineapple, and you’ve got something that smacks of candy while retaining it’s light, grain whisky texture.
Now keeping all that in mind, I’d expected a light finish, and the aftertaste is light enough as to almost not be there, but the wind-down on Hedonism Quindecimus is actually quite warm and lingering.
My opinion is that Quindecimus veered away from the flavor template of the regular Hedonism, and while it is a fine whisky, that wasn’t necessary a good thing. I was very sincere in my admiration of Hedonism as an aperitif whisky, and this special version doesn’t fit that bill in quite the same way. Good as it is, it’s not filling a particular niche in such a near-perfect way.
Compass Box sells Hedonism Quindecimus for £128.