In this Dozen, we look at variations on a theme – a half dozen spirits each from two producers, one famous for Scotch, the other for Bourbons, and more recently for Armagnacs.
We’ll start with Compass Box, which for the past 20-some years has specialized in blending Scotch whiskies and which offers sampler packages of three 50 ml bottles each.
The other six – well, seven actually – are from Raj Bhakta, the Elon Musk-style whiskey producer who founded WhistlePig in 2010 and was forced out in 2019. He is back with his own brand – Bhakta – of mainly brandies with a Bourbon and a rum in there.
Confused? Wait until you’ve tasted all 13.
Compass Box Malt Whisky Collection ($25 for 3 x 50 ml. sample packs). Of course, they all have the caramel notes of whisky barrels and cracked grain overtones. Let’s begin with The Peat Monster Blended Malt Whisky (46% ABV), which is quite peaty but more like a blanket than a penetrating fog and is very smooth with an undertaste of tea spices. Next, Spice Tree Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (44% ABV) is lightly spicy with complex flavors concentrated in the middle and with a vortex of vanillin in the finish. Finally, The Story of the Spaniard Blended Scotch Malt Whisky (43% ABV) has light chocolate on the nose and slightly in flavors with hints of mint.
Compass Box The Blenders’ Collection ($25 for 3 x 50 ml. sample packs). This collection consists of blends of malted and grain Scotch whiskies. The Glasgow Blend Blended Scotch Whisky (43% ABV) features whiskies finished in sherry casks and is fairly peaty but smooth with lightly sweet caramel, toasted nuts, and dried fruit flavors. Orchard House Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (46% ABV) is quite different – less peat and with herbal, spicy flavors accented by dried apples and pears. Finally, Hedonism Blended Grain Scotch Whiskey (43% ABV) is lightly flavored and quite aromatic with minerally and toasted vanilla notes.
On to the Bhakta collection:
Bhakta 2013 Armagnac Cask Finish Bourbon Whiskey ($149 – 50.3% ABV). Think of any very good Bourbon and add a dollop of maple syrup – almost, but not quite too sweet – that shows itself at the finish, and you’ve nailed this one.
Bhakta 1990 Rum ($500 – 62% ABV). Scheduled for release in June, it is somewhat on the fruity/sweet side, apparently a Bhakta signature, with lots of almost-dried fruits and a strain of vanillin throughout.
Bhakta 1973 Armangac ($399 – 62% ABV). Just to be clear, this is not a brandy-barrel finish but the classic brandy itself—sweet flavors of sorghum and a nice hint of rancio, and a fairly tightly wound structure.
Bhakta 2000 Armagnac ($164 – 51.3% ABV). It has surprisingly bright caramel flavors, some metallic notes, and a touch of light brown sugar in the finish.
Bhakta 50 YO “Barrel #24 – Gandhi” French Brandy ($450 – 48.5 ABV). More notes of rancio (a good thing), very rich, some sorghum, some earthy notes.
Bhakta 50 YO “Barrel #23 – Morgan” French Brandy ($450 – 48.2 ABV). Great grainy flavors, tight structure, and, again, notes of earthiness.
Bhakta “Islay Finish” French Brandy ($80 – 45% ABV). Described as the line’s entry-level brandy, it is a blend of 90% Calvados or apple brandy, and 10% Armagnac, or grape brandy, with very fruity, plummier flavors, some fragrant honey sweetness and traces of salty minerality. Although entry-level, it has a lot of good personality if not polish.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
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