BOTTLED AUGUST 2012
Not sure which version I have here, but this scotch deserves some thoughtful analysis.
Firstly, I'm quite happy with the ABV up rather high. Not only is it a terrific value for my wallet, but it allows me to add water to suit my taste, rather than the accountant watching his bottom line in the office of a distiller, who then pockets the difference.
Lately, I've become more and more comfortable with the process of adding filtered water that I leave out overnight so that the chlorine gas evaporate.
The trick for me was learning how to add just a little at a time after the initial taste. Waiting in between teaspoonfuls is also a matter of grace. Flaming Heart demands a little of one's time. Letting the whisky acclimate to one's glass is worth the wait. You know, with whisky like Flaming Heart, it's worth preparing my water ahead of time: Room temperature, filtered, no fluoride, and no chlorine gas.
The higher ABV of this whisky also offers the blend (actually I still prefer to call it a "vatting" since it's all single malt, sue me) as a craft presentation with a very handsome label that reminds me a little of some medieval art I've seen, and a little of the Goya engravings from Spain.
This is a nice bottle to leave out atop one's cabinet. Mine is now next to a bottle my friend brought back from Vietnam with rice wine inside featuring a real baby cobra biting the tail of a real black scorpion. The bottle's presentation didn't start out with the scorpion's tale inside of the cobra's mouth. This happened quite by accident when my dog knocked the bottle off my coffee table a few month's ago. When I picked it up: voila. Kind of archetypal.
Anyhow, getting back to this review, I really like the way Compass Box takes three different whiskies (aged in bourbon casks, sherry casks, and French oak casks) and then blends them together. In my estimation, this adds an impressive degree of complexity and depth to the blend, as you will see from my tasting notes (below).
The nose reminds me of my bottle of Talisker Distiller's Edition (12 year, I believe?), which also feature some slight sherry influences. I also get a sense of summer fields with the grass dried and fragrant. To me, this is different slightly than "hay," which has a more musty scent. I get a bit of warmed soil and living grass in my glass of Flaming Heart rather than simply hay bales.
Why? Well, as a teenager, I worked in cattle ranches in Wyoming and Oregon bailing hay. Here in Oregon, I also have friends with cattle who keep hay in a barn. The smell of open fields with a faraway horizon is quite nostalgic for me. I know the difference due to experience.
I also get a really enjoyable mixture of barley grain and fruit in the nose. The fruit is hard to pin down. There are elements of "savory" fruits, like Papaya and Mango, as well as a bit of a sweeter fruit such as Bing cherries or even cranberries.
And yes, there is smoke and peat, as well, but it is not front and center on the nose. It is lurking there like a lunker, deep beneath the surface, that is too smart for the average fisherman to catch.
On the tongue and in the mouth, the peat really comes into its own. It reminds me a little of the smokey beach flavors of Caol Ila, but in a more sophisticated way. Then comes the bitter-sweet admixture of woody sherry, aged leather (the kind on a book binding) and some hints of the Spice Islands, such as cloves and All spice. I also am reminded of a very very slight hint of dried lemon peels that swirls through a luxuriant mouth feel with a nice oily consistency that reminds me of Springbank's fantastic triple distilled gems, in terms of the way it coats the mouth pleasantly.
This mouthfeel flirts a bit between a smokey peaty side, a fruity side, with an indefinable context that also conjures up a scent I remember while making sand candles as a boy (wax and hot coffee can tin) to melt the wax and then sand to form it into Christmas presents for relatives. Actually, the taste of the whisky (which reminds me of that smell) lends itself to nostalgic associations.
The finish of Flaming Heart is no disappointment, that's for sure. There is a certain nutty flavor that reminds me a little of macadamia nuts, and then the nuttiness yields to a kind of paraffin smoke that is vaguely industrial in a nice way (not unlike certain pleasing aspects of a Hazelburn CV finish).
After all of that, I'm left with an herb-like bready essence that reminds me of the smell of Italian bread with rosemary, lemon, and pork baked into it.
As for Flaming Heart, I'm glad that I got this bottle. What a great one to enjoy on the porch, sometimes with a cigar. I won't be drinking it while I watch television, that's for sure. To me, it seems like more of a leisurely scotch.
I'll save my my Aberlour 12 year non chill filtered, my Peat Monster, or my personal Caol Ila & Highland Park 12 Year vatting to sip while I watch the complete 7th season of Dexter that is waiting on my desk. I consciously chose not to watch the seventh season on cable this year so that I could "marathon" my way through it.