Since I fell in love with the Spice Tree (the expression that started all of their shit-stirring) a lot has happened in the Compass Box fight for transparency.
They were slapped on the wrist for declaring the ages of the components in both the This is Not a Luxury Whisky and Flaming Heart 5th Edition blends. Next they released Enlightenment, designed as a somewhat-subtle reference to how the Scotch Whisky Association is still bumbling along in the dark ages, alongside a blend whose age they don’t even know (The Circus).
The latest, far more blatant stab at the status quo comes in the form of Compass Box Three Year Old “Deluxe” – a drippingly sarcastic, delightfully arrogant work of sheer genius.
They blended together some old whisky from two of the most highly regarded distilleries in operation (one in Brora, the other on the Isle of Skye. Hmmm…) Then as an almighty, beautiful “fuck you”, threw in a few drops of 3-year-old moonshine, instantly scuppering their right to put a fat age statement on the bottle. Actually no – the fat age statement is there, but in the form of a cheeky, embellished “3” – the legal minimum age for Scotch and a number no whisky producer would dare have the balls to print on their labels. And of course, Three Year Old Deluxe comes at a hefty price point – the most expensive, old-young whisky you’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
The message is clear: who cares about a little barely-legal whisky in the mix? Cask type, distillery and the maturity of each component are really what determines a quality spirit, not just the youngest age in the bottle. #transparency #makewhiskygreatagain
Three Year Old Deluxe is presented at 49.2% ABV, and of course natural colour and non-chill filtered. There were only 3282 bottles released – get in my belly:
A dark, ruby-tinged honey.
Woah. Intense and “musty” – that smell you get in an old library full of out-of-date encyclopaedias and out-of-date old people. Lovely. Leather, shoe polish. A sweet candle wax (beeswax?) Richly malty, and a little fruit (apricots, oranges). There’s a whiff of peat lurking in the background, soft and warming, and lots of spicy aromas that tickle my fancy – cinnamon sticks, roasted sesame seeds. Absolutely awesome – one of those where you worry that taking a sip is going to dilute the smells, so you end up with your nose in the glass for far longer than is socially acceptable.
Boom. Yes. Aha. Phwoar. So, so much to get into here:
First up, take note Talisker lovers – the influence is clear and very, very welcome. Ocean water and salted fish (anchovies!) It’s obviously not as Talisker-forward as say, er, Talisker is (the “Isle of Skye” component accounts for just under 10% of the blend), but it sits there comfortably nuzzling alongside the
Clynelish distillery-near-Brora spirit. That fantastic, musty leatheriness follows in the taste, along with a slight sherry note lending a hint of cherries and mince-pies. Very, very oaky – mossy bark – but not over-wooded. Certainly a love-it-or-hate-it quality, but I’m happy to say I love it. A long, rich and salty finish – this is Clynelish on steroids. Incredible!
Hesitant to dilute/pollute such a cracking dram, but glad I took the plunge – dialling the alcohol down to around 45% makes the overall experience richer, fresher and brings that looming peat to life.
A stunning, brilliant, amazing, life-changing whisky. Few manage to balance a little of all the flavours I love so well – a little peat, a scoop of fruit, a touch of sherry, a pile of wood/spice and (of course) plenty of fermented old furniture. A rare find, and a major box-ticker – if these flavours float your boat, Three Year Old Deluxe needs to be on your bucket list!
Or rather, on your “if I won the lottery” list. No doubt the price is part of what makes this such a powerful, shameless statement about the industry’s obsession with “age” as being the marker of quality, much like This is Not a Luxury Whisky. That being said, it does mean casting this waaaaay out of reach for anyone with a shred of common sense or financial intelligence. Sigh. Much like Highland Park 25, this is confined perhaps entirely to the beg/steal/mortgage category of whisky appreciation.
As much as the price is a massive downer, the quality speaks for itself: Three Year Old Deluxe is one of the best whiskies I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and my precious bottle will have to be clawed out of my cold, dead hands. Absolutely not to be shared – one to hoard and sip quietly and covetously!
P.S: Due to a loophole in the law, whisky producers are allowed to tell you the ages of their blending components… but only if you ask them directly. Needless to say Compass Box (and Bruichladdich) have capitalised on this big time. If you’re interested in finding out what makes Three Year Old Deluxe (and Spice Tree Extravaganza) tick, check out the “Request Age Info” links on their product pages or drop a friendly mail to [email protected]!