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Compass Box: whisky born of obsession

By Connosr

Compass Box: whisky born of obsession

It's the little things that teach you an awful lot about someone. On our arrival at Compass Box headquarters John Glaser offered us a cup of coffee, nothing unusual in that, but it's how he made the coffee that was interesting.

Interview with the author

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Having filled the kettle with a measured dose of water, he carefully ground and weighed the coffee before switching off the kettle at a precise temperature - shortly before the water could boil. The coffee was then carefully filtered, with just the right amount of water and grounds at the optimum temperature, into three cups. It was of course delicious. This is a man with obsessive attention to detail.

John Glaser, a charismatic and intense American, is devoted to “craft” which he defines as “making something better for the sake of it” and works tirelessly to produce blended and vatted whiskies which are just that – better for the sake of it.

Along the way he has experimented with wood technology, breaking some of the rules, causing him to come into conflict with the whisky regulators over the use of new oak staves inside casks. Today he operates within the rules, gone are the internal structures in his casks, but he still strives to innovate and move the whisky industry forward.

Tradition is a moving target

His ethos is based on a mixture of respect for tradition - where lessons can be learned - and pushing boundaries - where things can be done better.

His ethos is based on a mixture of respect for tradition - where lessons can be learned - and pushing boundaries - where things can be done better. “Tradition is a moving target”, he says which is why he has taken lessons learned from wine production and put advanced wood techniques into practise in the crafting of his whisky.

His blends and vattings only contain whisky from carefully sourced active casks, never contain spirit caramel - which he abhors with a passion, are not chill filtered, contain fewer ingredient whiskies than most blends and are married and further matured in casks after blending.

In our film on Compass Box you can find out more about his approach and philosophy and get a sense of what drives the man behind some of the most interesting blended whiskies on the market.

Also check out the Compass Box competition in this issue as well as the views of the Connosr tasting panel on some of his whiskies.

Have your say

Tell us what you think about some of the issues John raises in the film interview. Can caramel colouring ever be a good thing? Should he be allowed to use oak staves in casks? Should traditions be preserved or should the whisky industry be allowed more freedom to move forwards with new technical innovations?