The Dozen Vol. 27 No. 05

The Dozen – Dark Spirits

Variations on a theme with two whiskey producers, one with an Armagnac bias.


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 As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.

Roger Morris writes about wine, food and travel for The World of Fine Wine, Drinks Business, Meininger's Wine Business International, Wine Enthusiast and other publications in the U.S. and Europe.

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