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Compass Box The Peat Monster

A Rewarding Misnomer

0 1687

@dbkReview by @dbk

5th Sep 2010

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It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: in this day and age, with phenol levels reaching 140 ppm (here’s looking at you, Octomore), the Compass Box Peat Monster is hardly a “monster” at all. A vatted malt—Caol Ila, Ardmore, and more recently, Laphroaig expressions—the Peat Monster is a much gentler beast than a Lagavulin 16. The choice to lean on Caol Ila, which I’ve always felt to be cleaner and lighter than most Lagavulin expressions I’ve sampled, may have something to do this, but I suspect the use of first fill ex-bourbon casks played no small part.

The smoky nose has a candied sweetness to it, not unlike the Bruichladdich Peat, though less brown sugar-barbecue and more campfire sweets. There are deep, woodsy notes of dried tinder and ash, as well as orange peel, maple syrup, and sea breeze. It’s all very reminiscent of camping by the ocean.

Whisky tears dot sides of the glass beautifully. The light, oily palate follows through with pine smoke and balsam wood, brine, honey, and ginger. Bourbon vanilla makes a welcome appearance here, too. Sweet peat smoke expands over the finish, leaving soft traces of cocoa and toasted pecans behind.

So why the “monstrous” misnomer? Compass Box clearly have their own style of marketing. Their packaging is artistic and tasteful, and their expressions’ names—Asyla, Oak Cross, Eleuthera, Spice Tree (etc.)—recall something nostalgic and something majestic. But (fortunately) Compass Box whiskies are not chill filtered, nor is colour added to them, so perhaps they see the competitive arena as a little more of a challenge to get into than with some of their other releases. Peat-heads can be tough to impress at times, staying faithful to their favourites. A peat “monster,” however, is a tough thing to refuse, and perhaps this is all there is to the name: a simple marketing scheme.

In any case, the Peat Monster is a delight. It won’t replace certain other favourites in my cabinet, but it has grown on me steadily since first opening, so perhaps give it a few tries before weighing in on it yourself. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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16 comments

@antihero
antihero commented

Good review. The addition of Laphroaig to recent bottlings has brought this up several notches.

Great whisky.

11 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

Thanks, @antihero. I think there's something interesting about the combination of Caol Ila and Laphroaig. It's not a pairing I would have thought of, but it works well. Unfortunately, I don't know Ardmore well enough to sort out how it figures into everything.

11 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

The compass box offerings certainly seem to stack up well. Hard to get over here in Australia though... :p

11 years ago 0

@LeFrog
LeFrog commented

I love everything I've tried from Compass Box so far.

11 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

@jdcook: I'm sorry to hear that Compass Box is hard to find in Oz. They're doing quite well, critically, so I wouldn't be surprised if you see their stuff eventually.

@LeFrog: Peat Monster is the only CB I've tried so far, but I have access to others. Any real standouts to you?

11 years ago 0

@LeFrog
LeFrog commented

Oak Cross is a very nicely balanced whisky. Plenty or fruity notes, wood and spices but still a very approachable drinking malt.

11 years ago 0

@galg
galg commented

dbk : have u tried 'Big peat' from D.Laing?

11 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

@LeFrog, thanks for the suggestion. I've been curious about the Oak Cross for some time. I'm also wondering about the newer Spice Tree release. Any thoughts?

@galg, no, Big Peat isn't one I've seen out here. Laing bottlings aren't all that common in my neck of the woods, but I can keep an eye out when I go abroad. You'd recommend it, I guess?

11 years ago 0

@galg
galg commented

@dbk - yes i'd recommend it. it's a very nice vatting, with some PE inside. nice stuff. not a replacement for a good Laph, or CI but a worthy addition to any peat-head's bar.

11 years ago 0

@galg
galg commented

btw: how do i make your name show as a 'link' in my comments?

11 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

@galg, a vatting with Port Ellen? Sounds lovely.

As for making my name show as a link, I think you just did! I believe it just requires a screen refresh before the link becomes active.

11 years ago 0

@galg
galg commented

oh yea. lovely!

laters. Slainte mate.

11 years ago 0

@galg
galg commented

chris, your notes are on the money !

11 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

Very interesting discussion and great review. I've been wanting to get a bottle of this for quite some time, I don't know why but I've always been put off by the name, despite it's good reviews (a shameless case of judging a book by its title), but will now definitely be familiarising myself with the monster in the very immediate future. Thanks @dbk!

11 years ago 0

@dbk
dbk commented

@OJK, there's nothing generally wrong with judging a book by its title, but it does mean the occasional miss. For instance, I missed out on Neutral Milk Hotel (my favourite band ever) for two years after hearing of them because their name put me off... I'm really glad I finally gave them a listen, though; perhaps you'll feel the same after tasting the Peat Monster. Cheers!

11 years ago 0

@OJK
OJK commented

@dbk: you are preaching to the converted! I have since tried the Peat Monster and although I would not label it a 'great' whisky, it is certainly a very good one, and certainly more refined than the name would suggest. Now I just need to listen to some Neutral Milk Hotel...

11 years ago 0

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