November 2014 Archives
Compass Box Whisky Company is no stranger to controversy within the sometimes staid world of Scotch whisky. Whiskymaker John Glaser has been not only challenging popular attitudes toward blended whisky but his innovative approaches to maturation has also ruffled some feathers. In 2005, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) threatened legal action to halt the production of Compass Box's wildly successful "Spice Tree" blend. The whisky had undergone a secondary partial maturation stage in casks containing additional, flat French oak inserts (also known as 'inner staves') which violated the SWAs interpretation of the laws regarding traditional practice in the production of spirits in European Union countries. In response, Compass Box altered the production process for subsequent releases of "Spice Tree" wherein the secondary maturation stage takes place in casks containing toasted French oak heads instead of using the new inner staves.
But opportunity can appear at the strangest times, even in the depths of defeat. With the green light from the SWA on the use of new French oak heads, the conditions were set for the development of the Oak Cross blend. Made up of Highland single malts from Alness, Brora and Carron, the blend is subject to two maturation processes. The first occurs in a mix of first-fill and re-fill American oak ex-bourbon casks before a portion is selected for additional maturation in the Oak Cross marrying casks that contain new French oak heads on American casks. Adding new heads to a cask doesn't sound like a big deal, this type of maturation happens all the time in the wine industry, but for whisky - especially blended whisky - this remains an oddity. To date, Compass Box remains the only company to release a blended Scotch whisky matured in this fashion.
Bottled at 43% ABV, free from colouring additives and non chillfiltered, Oak Cross is billed as a food-friendly whisky capable of performing double duty as an aperitif with a splash of chilled water in the winter and "full enough" to act as a digestif in summer months.
"Conspicuous consumption or classic construction?"
This is what I pondered hustling downtown on a typical Toronto November night. Frankly, I was a touch surprised, albeit pleasantly so, to be invited back to another event for The Macallan after what many have called a rather scathing indictment of The 1824 Series. While I stand resolutely by those statements, I must confess that the concept of the evening makes sense, and is something that I genuinely feel should become more common in our local and national experiences.
Rather than stepping into a bar, cellar, or restaurant surrounded by the typical trappings of whisky tastings such as old wood, leather seats, and dim lighting, Ryan and I stepped into Harry Rosen's store in First Canadian Place in the heart of Toronto's financial district. Known for being Canada's carrier of top-end men's attire, this co-branding exercise was designed to launch The Macallan Lounge experience.
The core concept: enjoy a fine dram while shopping for fine clothing, thus simultaneously achieving sartorial and sensory advancement. Aside from the obvious gender-specific intent of the marketing, I must say that the idea of imbibing while shopping is one that appeals to me on a personal level, as well as making great business sense. After all, what better way to add value to the act of shopping while also loosening a man's financial restraint mechanisms to aid in the sale of a Canali suit?
For those of you looking to enjoy The Macallan Lounge and its "Scotch and Shop" experience, it runs daily at the First Canadian Place location until November 21, 2014 each weekday from 3pm to 6:30pm. For those looking to find out what it's like to indulge the pinnacle of the 1824 Series, read on.
In 1987, legendary Jim Beam (now Beam Suntory) Master Distiller Booker Noe introduced his own signature bourbon to the Small Batch Collection. His Kentucky Straight Bourbon was one of the first widely available straight-from-the barrel, uncut, unfiltered and unadulterated bourbons to hit the shelves. Unlike many other cask strength bourbons, Booker's bourbon is subject to slight batch variation and can therefore appear between 59% and 67% ABV and may be aged between 6-8 years. It is this commitment to "authenticity" of product in an era of flavoured whiskies and bland, watered-down, non-age-stated whiskies that has kept connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike enamoured with now deceased Master Distiller's namesake bourbon for over twenty years.
We've loved every bottle of Booker's that's ended up in our collective glasses and so a review of this whisky is long overdue. The bottle in this review is from Batch No. C06-K-8, was aged 6 years and was bottled at 65.2% ABV.