What a year it's been! We've done a lot together, haven't we? Loads of single barrels, new rum casks, plenty of Faultline projects, and we even printed a few punk rock records! As we head into the final night of 2016, a year that's given us plenty of reasons to drink, what are you going to raise in your glass to honor those departed? What drink will fill you with hope, inspiration, and a desire to be better in the year ahead? I know what I'll be doing tonight. I'm going to order a pizza, drink a few Great King Street Highballs, pound a bottle of Champagne with my wife as we watch the rest of OA on Netflix, and finish the evening off with the most elegant of whiskies: Compass Box's "Three Year Old Deluxe"; a whisky that mocks the minimum age statement requirement by showcasing the maturity of the blend's youngest component.
While John Glaser and the rest of the London gang are having a bit of fun with the law here (because 99% of the components in this heavenly elixir are much, much older than three years), it only takes one sip to understand what's going on inside this bottle. This is another Compass Box homage to Brora, that elusive and haunting bucket list dram that continues to inspire whisky drinkers today. If you're new to the single malt game, Brora is the original Clynelish distillery that was eventually closed in the early eighties once the new Clynelish facility made its operation irrelevant. While I was lucky enough to get into the whisky industry during a time when Brora was expensive, but not outrageous or unattainable; today a bottle will cost you four-figures. The recent Diageo 38 year release is now a whopping $2200, and while Brora is definitely delicious, there's no way I would ever pay that much personally to drink more of it.
But having tasted a reasonable amount of Brora in my life, I can tell you that the new Compass Box "Three Year Deluxe" tastes more like Brora than some of the actual Broras I've been fortunate to sample and acquire in my career. It's like going to see a Led Zeppelin cover band that can at this point actually sing and play better than the real deal. There's a group called Heartbreaker that comes through the Bay Area and is absolutely unreal. They sound, look, and play exactly like Page and Plant, but I only have to pay twenty bucks to see them at the Fox in Redwood City. To me, that's what this Compass Box release achieves. It's a whisky (composed mostly of Clynelish, of course) that replicates an experience that's no longer within reach to most consumers. It's clear from the first whiff on the nose: wax, wax, wax, and more wax. The palate is richer and rounder than what you expect from Clynelish, however. There's lemon rind and sweet vanilla, but there's a heavier undertone. Perhaps a bit of sherry-like sweetness and dried fruits, then a whisper of smoke on the finish with more of that wax and lanolin character. It's a fucking home run from front to back, and it's what I plan on drinking later tonight as I contemplate what it is I like about whisky in the first place: nuance, depth, and romance with character and grace. There's an oily note that goes on for five minutes with traces of subtle peat from the Talisker. Wow. Just wow.
If you want to join me, come on down to Redwood City. I just snagged another few cases of this delight. It's one of the best whiskies I've tasted in 2016, and it should make for a fond experience this evening, alongside pizza, Champagne, and plenty of Scotch. It's not cheap, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper than this.
Happy new year, everyone. I'll see you on the other side of the calendar.