Compass Box Oak Cross

Blended Scotch whisky – 43%ABV – $40 | £28 | €33

I am about to review a very nice blended malt whisky put out by the good folks at Compass Box.  It’s called “Oak Cross”.   This is a blend of Clynelish and Teaninich and (I think) Dailuaine whiskies.  I’d like to propose that this whisky be finished in ex-maneschewitz casks – then we can call it… you guessed it, Oak Star (or Oak Magen Dovid).

Kidding aside (or am I kidding?…), I’ve been very pleased with these Compass Box whiskies so far.  While this is my second post on them, I’m about four samples into their line and I’ve not been disappointed yet.  Unique blends with lots to offer many palates.

So, how does the Oak Star, I mean, Cross taste?:

On the nose Just like with the Asyla, we start off with butter – this time think buttered biscuits or perhaps rye toasty bread.

Oak for sure (hence the name!).

Honey & vanilla.

And, get this, a can of emptied Country Time Lemonade (man, I used to be addicted to this stuff as a child and I loved smelling the empty cans – don’t ask why).

Green apples.


On the mouth An overwhelming spiciness quickly pushes aside a very oily entry.

This is a sweetie (though, slightly drying/tannic)!

Some maltiness – actually, a fair amount.

A fruity mystery Dum-Dum lollipop?

Finish Shortish.  The oak and malt are fighting for dear life but, in the end, I win.

In sum I’m not quite sure where to place this.  For my tastes, I actually preferred the Asyla.  Not knocking this stuff at all.  It’s a solid vatted /blended malt for sure.  Just trying to figure out where to put this on the Mood-And-Season-O-Meter™… Perhaps the best place would be – in good company.

Laphroaig Live!! (from Jerez)

It’s amazing what comes across my desk here at the JSMWS headquarters.  This is a very cool Laphroaig event happening online – one you shouldn’t miss (sadly, I will be working a trade show so I’ll HAVE to miss this).

A Taste of Scotland with a flavour of Spain
Discover what south western Spain and the remote Scottish island of Islay
have in common with a tasting broadcast live and interactive from Jerez

Show date: Thursday 23rd September

Show time: 8pm Central European Time (7pm UK)

While a hearty Rioja or a glass of sangria are the typical accompaniment to tapas, a Scottish whisky imparted with the flavour of locally-produced sherry offers a more sophisticated solution.

Whisky-lovers are more than familiar with the distinctive taste of Laphroaig, and by introducing Laphroaig to sherry barrels for maturation, a uniquely rich flavour and hue is added to the whisky, delivering an unmistakable taste of Laphroaig with characteristics of the sherry.

It’s a subtle and rewarding combination for the consumer, but still a relatively rare one as industry estimates suggest less than 7% of whisky is matured in sherry casks, compared to bourbon casks.

It’s this rarity which makes the latest Laphroaig Live production such a must-see show. Following the successes of the first-ever live online whisky tasting in 2007, followed by live shows from the distillery on Islay, and then the Maker’s Mark distillery in 2009, this year the Laphroaig team comes live from the sherry bodegas of Jerez.

While Laphroaig whisky boasts a rich 200-year-old heritage, the Jerez region has been producing wine since 1100BC, and fortified wine – sherry – since at least the 13th century, with many believing production began even earlier.

Located in the south west of Spain, Jerez continues to produce sherry for export around the globe. In all there are more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of vineyards in the region and sherry is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from dry, light versions such as Finos to darker heavier versions known as Olorosos, made from the Palomino grape – with sweet dessert wines also being made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes.

Broadcasting live from the Harvey’s bodegas, this interactive tasting experience will offer a further insight into the ‘marriage’ between the sherried oaky flavours from the oloroso sherry casks and the sweet flavours from the ex American Oak Bourbon barrels used in the creation of some of Laphroaig’s expressions.

We will be offering a unique insight into this maturation process by comparing Bourbon cask matured Laphroaig with sherry matured Laphroaig to assess how the flavours of the wooden barrels help create the distinctive taste of the expression.

We will also be pairing a selection with authentic Spanish tapas to bring out the rich and creamy flavours and smoky notes that punctuate the individuality of Laphroaig. For those whose palate seeks a more traditional style, Quarter Cask will also be tasted to highlight the effect of different maturation styles.

John Campbell, Jose Antonio Sauto, Diego Sandrin and Simon Brooking join us live online at to take part in this live tasting session on Thursday 23rd September 2010 at 8pm CET (7pm UK)

Compass Box Asyla

Blended Scotch whisky – 40%ABV – $35 | £24 | €29

Last week (and for a couple of days the week before) I focused on kosher certified whiskies.  This week I will begin a series of blended whiskies.  I will touch on Compass Box whiskies as well as a few Double Barrel expressions.  It’s going to be a week or more of crazy mix’em ups (pun intended) here on the JSMWS whisky blog.

So, Compass Box.  Who are they?  Is this a distillery?  No, Compass Box is not a distillery.  Compass Box is a brand of blended whiskies and is the brain child of John Glaser – master blender extraordinaire.

A couple of months ago The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society hosted a whiskey tasting with Hudson American Whiskeys and something their owner said stuck with me after his seeing a bottle of Peat Monster on the host’s kitchen counter.  He picked up the bottle and said (with me paraphrasing here and him referring to said bottle and the blender of the fluid contained within): “what we at Hudson do is apply skill to making whiskey, what John does is pure art”.  That’s a compliment and a half!

So, let’s see if Ralph is right:

On the nose A light and bright nose with a fight.

Oh, you’ve got a wee bit of spunk to yeh!

However, with a touch of time to breath you reveal to me hints of fresh butter and white corn.

Unripened fruits (think pear mostly).

A touch of nail polish.

Perhaps plastic shopping bags.

Lemon meringue.

A saltiness that I can’t shake.

On the mouth Two words: Mouth Feel.

This is some thick, chewy-ass stuff!

Very soft like ‘almost-jello’ soft.

Slightly salty and a bit peppery now.

Hints of light biscuits, honeyed and delicious.

The grain influence is fairly obvious – adding a light, almost bourbony sweetness.

Finish Nothing to complain about.

Some maltiness and medium-ish in length with a lasting fizziness toward the center back part of the tongue.

In sum This is something to simply relax or, as my friend Steve of The Whisky Wire would say, Dramlax with.  Very light in style, very approachable and, actually, one to help lure in your non-whisky drinking friends into enjoying one of the finer things in life – whisk(e)y!!

Did somebody say WhiskyFest!?

I did.  Just now, I said it.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a nearly whole year since Malt Advocate’s WhiskyFest in NYC!  Come this November, however, WhiskyFest is returning to New York and it’s going to be huge.

While my focus is on the New York City event, don’t forget that WhiskyFest hits two other cities: Chicago & San Francisco (the San Fran event, BTW, is happening on Oct 8th).

With a focus on NYC (and the 270 whiskies available to sample aside), there will be some great seminars with a veritable who’s who of top-guns within the whisk(e)y industry:

7:00-7:45 pm

Ronnie Cox, Director, The Glenrothes
Vintage Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Why Maturity matters, not age. Taste through different vintages of The Glenrothes to see first-hand, the influence of spirit and oak. *New Vintage Release*

Dr. Bill Lumsden, Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation, The Glenmorangie Company
Glenmorangie’s pioneering Spirit – tradition, excellence and innovation at the home of Scotland’s favorite single malt
Join Dr. Bill Lumsden – Head of Distilling and WhiskyCreation – for a tasting tour of Glenmorangie, voted “Distillery of the Year 2010 ” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This is a rare opportunity to taste through some of Glenmorangie’s most notable and award winning expressions as well as a few surprises…

Richard Paterson, Master Blender, Whyte & Mackay
Learn from The Nose!
This tasting room, hosted by Richard Paterson, third generation master blender for Whyte & Mackay, will introduce participants to one of the most awarded single malt scotch whiskeys, The Dalmore.
Paterson is known the world over for his exceptional blending skills which have resulted in signature expressions that suggest depth, character and richness. He travels the world selecting the finest barrels and blends the aged liquid from these until the result is like a fine orchestra – harmonious, elegant and rich. In this classroom setting you will taste through The Dalmore Core Expressions with Richard while learning the finer points of tasting. Don’t be surprised when he picks you to taste ‘the most expensive liquid in the world’.

Parker Beam, Master Distiller, Heaven Hill Distilleries
Why Rye? Whither Wheat? The Great Grain Debate
Everyone knows that Bourbon is made primarily with corn, and most enthusiasts would know that there are “traditional” Bourbons that add rye and “wheated” Bourbons that substitute wheat for the rye. But what exactly are the differences between these common “small grains”, both in the taste of whiskey and in the production methods? Join legendary Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam as we explore how these grains behave on the palate and in the still, in Bourbon mashbills and in straight rye and straight wheat whiskey recipes.

7:45 – 8:30

Mike Miyamoto, Suntory Yamazaki, Master Distiller
“Suntory Time: The Art of Japanese Whisky”
Yamazaki Master Distiller, Mike Miyamoto is a respected leader who has a great commitment to excellence and tradition. Join him as he leads a tasting of a full flight of Yamazaki and Hibiki whiskies. Experience the smooth, complex and uniquely Japanese characteristics that have made Yamazaki 12, 18, and the exceptionally rare 25 year old, international award-winners. Mike will also present Hibiki 12, first seen by Americans in the feature film “Lost In Translation”, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson. Hibiki 12 has just been introduced to the American market and is no longer “lost” to American whisky lovers. “Suntory Time” is not to be missed…..

Evan Cattanach, Master Distiller Emeritus, The Classic Malts
Classic Malts Mentor
The Classic Malts Mentor seminar uses the expansive knowledge of the Diageo Masters of Whisky to educate scotch enthusiasts on a sampling of the Classic Malts Distiller’s Editions. This multimedia, multi sensory seminar takes you through the history, production process, regionality and most important the flavor profiles of this vast selection of Single Malt Scotches. You will leave the seminar with an increased confidence to order your new favorite Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

8:30 – 9:15

Ricky Crawford, The Glenlivet Ambassador
The Single Malt that Started it All
Our seminar will cover the history of The Glenlivet, and the role it played in building the single malt scotch whisky industry during the 1800’s in Scotland and more recently, the 20th century in the U.S.
We will then step through the basics of scotch whisky production, highlighting the key elements of our production process that differentiate The Glenlivet from our competitive set.
The big finish will be a tasting of six marques from our core range.

Martin Daraz, Brand Ambassador, Highland Park
Last Call with Martin Daraz
End your WhiskyFest™ New York on a high note; come and sample “the best spirit in the world”* with Martin Daraz, native Scotsman and Brand Ambassador for the Highland Park Distillery in the USA.
We will be nosing and tasting five expressions from Highland Park 12 year old all the way up to Highland Park 30 year old

*F. Paul Pacult, Spirits Journal 2005/2009

Simon Brooking, Malt Master Ambassador, Laphroaig
Laphroaig: Where the Spirit Meets the Cask
Ever wondered how the use of different casks imparts flavors into your whisky? Laphroaig Master Ambassador Simon Brooking will walk you through a tasting of four expressions of Laphroaig and will show you how the use of different casks including a Maker’s Mark cask as well as former Sherry Casks impart specific flavor profiles into each whisky.

Fritz Maytag, President and Brewmaster, Anchor Brewing & Distilling Company
15 Years of Craft Distilling
Recreating America’s original whiskey one small batch at a time and discovering why young whiskey is better than immature whiskey.

So, if you like what you see (how could you not?), I would suggest securing your tickets ASAP as they’re selling quick.  I was just informed that the VIP tickets to the NYC event have been sold out!

Click here for more info: Malt Advocate’s WhiskyFest in NYC!

A Sherried Amrut headed our way!

This just came past my desk here at the JSMWS headquarters (and it sounds delicious!):


Amrut Single Malt Releases New Limited Edition Expression

Amrut Intermediate Sherry Single Malt Whisky – 57.1% abv

Amrut Distillery and Purple Valley Imports USA announce the US launch of Amrut Intermediate Sherry Single Malt Whisky.

This is a truly unique expression. As a small family owned distillery Amrut is able to test new ideas and to continue to create world class Single Malt whisky.

Process behind this whisky

As a first step in the production of this expression Amrut Distillery wanted to make sure that there was no sulfur present in the casks. Secondly, shipping the sherry butts from Spain to Bangalore was going to be difficult. From Spain, the barrels would go through huge temperature changes and by the time it reached the port of Chennai (Madras) it would be 30 + degree Celsius. A marvelous idea came to Amrut. They instructed the supplier NOT to add any sulfur and also to drain any residual sherry in the cask completely. A few cases of Amrut Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky were shipped to the cooperage in Spain and they were filled in each of the Sherry Butts. The casks  were then sealed and rolled a few times. The logic behind this idea was cask strength whisky at 61.9% would more likely act as a kind of ‘bacteria killer’. Amazingly it worked! The Casks came through intact.

Once the Sherry Butts were filled Amrut wanted to create something other than the sherry finishes in the market today. Amrut wanted to avoid the sherry’s influence suppressing the ‘Amrut Characters’ in the whisky. The Butts were emptied back into Bourbon Casks for approximatley one year. The master distiller drew samples and was impressed with this “essay in elegance” – there was no trace of sulfur what so ever. It was like a sherry ‘Sandwich’ and fused well with Bourbon notes. ‘Amrut Intermediate Sherry’ has born. We are not aware if any other distiller has coined a phrase like this before, however it is exactly how the whisky was produced.

Purple Valley Imports will be sampling Amrut Intermediate Sherry Single Malt during the VIP hour at Whisky Fest San Francisco on October 8th, 2010


Amrut Intermediate Sherry Single Malt – 57.1% alc by vol.

Total Bottling: 275 cases

US Availability: 85 Cases (6 x 750 ml)

Worldwide Availability: European Union, Canada and United States

US Release Date: October 15th, 2010

US Availability: November 1st, 2010

Anticipated US Retail Price:  $134.99

For further information:

Raj Sabharwal, VP Sales & Marketing, Purple Valley Imports USA.

Tel: 704 497 2493.