Blended Scotch whisky is not my thing. I’m not a snob, I’ve had quite a few, and will drink blends, but I just don’t really find them all that interesting. Apparently, whereas blends shoot for smoothness, I like the distinct flavors and rough edges single malts and well made vatted malts offer (there’s only one exception for me with vatted malts – the peated ones – but that’s a review all to its own in the very near future).
Last November (2013), Compass Box came out with “The General”, a blended whisky that would give pause to any whisky snob.
The story goes like this: As proprietary blenders, The Compass Box has close working relationships with several companies (We know that Diageo is one of them, just by looking at the list of single malts in the Spice Tree and Oak Cross, which I previously reviewed and have linked to those posts). Anyway, two of those companies approached Mr. John Glaser, both having a batch of blended whisky prepared – one left to marry in sherry casks and the other in ex bourbon casks – a long time ago and forgotten. The younger of the two batches was 33 years old.
Rather than just bottling these great finds, Glaser – a true innovator who never took the “don’t play with your food” admonition too seriously – played around with vatting (I guess blending is the correct verb here) them. The result is an outrun of 1,698 bottles of this 33 years old blend of blends, dubbed The General.
This is a very complex dram, which needs water, and can take quite a bit of it. You’ll have a great time “unfolding” it as it opens with water and time.
Compass Box The General Blended Scotch Whisky (54.3% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Amber, tiny beads taking a rediculously long time to form VERY slow legs.
Nose: Oranges, honey, fresh open fields, hay, malt, cereal, dried pineapple, cherry soda, an old spice shop, bakery and chocolate fudge.
Palate: Spicy, chewy and smooth, notes of honey and citrus come together, with hints of sherry sweetness with some fresh fruit.
Linger: Spicy linger in the back of the throat, with some pepper and sweet notes on the tongue. Also, some very mild tartness on the inside of the cheeks.
Yes, age matters, and this expression has it in. But The General is more than just old blended whisky. I’ve had some old blends (and even reviewed the W&M 30 Year Old), and have never been blown away.
This is a totally different animal. The rich old sherry matured whisky plays with the mature freshness of the Bourbon aged whisky to create a wonderfully complex whisky. In truth, I’d probably find even more depth in this dram given more time (and more of it 😉 ).
It’s not cheap (Originally £180, and the few bottles still on the market are now probably anywhere up to £250), but this whisky is really special. More than anything else, The General proves that well crafted and aged blends can be every bit as layered and complex as high quality single malts, and maybe even more so.
I wish to thank Chris for the official sample. Slainte!