Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bad Reputation: Blended Malts... Compass Box Eleuthera and Wemyss Peat Chimney

Myth’s and fabrications can make or break reputations. Many a celebrity has been thrown into the lion’s pit of paparazzi exposure and tabloid conjecture that has quashed their careers like the Resistance on Alderaan. It only takes a slight turn of phrase to turn an innocent comment into an insult that strikes the very core of human morality and creates a reputation feeding frenzy that keeps the tabloid beast sated for several months. As soon as a reputation is tarnished it becomes very difficult to scrub it clean - no amount of Brasso is going to help Matthew Kelly reclaim his former fame. The other approach of course is to revel in it, as the indomitable Russell Brand does, so that any misbehaviour can be turned into a ladder to the stars.

Reputation is central to the perception of a whisky; it can win a whisky great favour and allow them to charge increasingly high prices off the back of it. Or, conversely, it can lead to a long hard crawl back to recognition and acceptance. Beyond brand awareness reputation also affects the perception of types of whisky. No other type of whisky has received such a panning as Scottish blends and blended malt. Consistently, and I argue - wrongly, blends (and blended malts) are seen as an inferior product to the more expensive and purer single malts. This myth that blends are somehow a cop-out version of the ‘better’ single malts is in urgent need of reversal. Thankfully a small number of blending companies are trying to overturn the wash of apathy and demonstrate to the world that blended can be better.

When talking about modern blends and blended malts, one company always jumps to mind. That company is of course Compass Box, who I jump at any chance to review. Compass Box are beginning an enlightenment in the world of blended whisky. Their Spice Tree and Hedonism bottlings in particular are testament to the work they have done to show blended can mean better. Alongside Compass Box there is another company doing superb work. This company is that of Wemyss Malts. Their philosophy is that the world’s best wines are all blends so why shouldn’t this apply to whisky? It wasn’t until the other weekend when I finally got to try one of the Wemyss range (and I was very impressed, as you will see) that I have to agree with them. Why shouldn’t a whisky be better than the sum of its parts? The same weekend my dad and I visited a small beer and whisky shop in Ludlow (Shropshire) and, to our luck, we found a Compass Box bottling that as far as I am aware is no longer available. After purchasing a bottle and a fair few beers, we went home to try this elusive blended malt, as well as the Wemyss Malt my dad had purchased previously.

Compass Box Eleuthera
46% - Scotch Blended Malt
Nose: At first peppery reminding me instantly of Talisker. This leads to a soft blend of wood smoke and peat complimented with gooseberry and brine, with time pleasant banana notes introduce themselves subtlety.
Palate: There is a grainy texture I associate with the Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix with honey and red fruits (notably strawberry and raspberry) served on a smoky palette.
Finish: Peaty with salt and fennel concluding with a shot of coffee.
Overall: Why is this whisky no longer made? This for me was an instant go to whisky which unfortunately it can never be. There is peat present without being excessive, pepper without being hot, and green fruit balanced with red. Just excellent.

Wemyss Peat Chimney
40% - 8 Years Old – Scotch Blended Malt
Nose: A fantastic combination of iodine peat smoke and Christmas pudding, or maritime sherry if I can coin the term. This combination that often doesn’t work melds excellently in this blended malt.
Palate: Peat and pepper hold the ground here; the palate is beautifully light and is completely un-cloying.
Finish: A burst of spice topped with clean peat, fresh and to the point.
Overall: Exceptionally pleasant, clear but not overpowering peat, this dram has a bite but doesn’t shake. I have to try Wemyss’ Spice King and Hive soon!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great review. We would like nothing more than to bring back the utterly delicious Eleuthera. Sadly the lovely old Clynelish that formed its core was no longer available to us, and there just wasn't anything else that would do. So with great regret, we had to stop producing it. Now of course if that situation ever changes...