What do you get when you cross a single malt with a single grain? You get a blended whisky, a term sure to earn you the scorn of ignorant bow-tie wearing hipsters and ignorant mud-wearing Scotsmen alike.
Enter Compass Box, a secret a grain-smuggling organisation whose business model is to pipe grain whisky out of Scotland by hiding it in bottles of malt, deviously blending them so they’re utterly brilliant, garnering rave reviews worldwide, shattering misconceptions about blended whisky and turning even the crustiest Scotsmen into reluctant blend drinkers. Profit.
Compass Box are the uncrowned kings of the Fancy Blend, and while the bulk of their fame comes from their blended malts – The Spice Tree, Peat Monster – they’ve also cracked the grainy blend code. They were quick to realise that Fancy Blends require Fancy Ingredients, one of those being seriously high quality grain whisky to play nicely with the
Clynelish various high quality malts they mix.
The Double Single is their Ode To The Fancy Blend. One single malt, and one single grain. The grain from [REDACTED], and the malt of course from [REDACTED]. Two ingredients, two distilleries, one fat price. Oh Compass Box, you!
The Double Single is a light whisky. Despite bottling at a decent strength, this whisky is gossamer thin, gentle on the nose and extremely accessible. I found myself holding the glass a little more firmly, warding against the overwhelming sense of “fragility”.
It’s also quite unlike anything else I’ve huffed. I could swear there was some exotic casking – rum or some such – but the result is far more expertly blended that any of those triumphantly finished monstrosities (no Balvenie 14 weirdness here).
I get a dominant lemon zest, pineapple, coconut, a faint blanco Tequila twang, banana and white chocolate. Supremely sniffable stuff.
The first sip starts gently, much like the nose would suggest, but then escalates into a seriously punchy dram. This one’s begging for a little water, much to the offended cries of the Compass Box loyalists. Fruity, herbal and chewy. Nice!
But before adding water, let me just say that this is the single oiliest whisky I’ve ever had. When people describe whisky as being thick or oily, coating the palette – Double Single is the Octomore of oil. Your teeth and tongue enjoy this great coating of whisky varnish which sticks around long after the glass is finished, protecting you from both plaque and female attention. Sigh.
Right, a word of warning: My first glass I drowned almost immediately, with just a little bit of water. Although it may be hot when neat, it’s extremely quick to sink – again, fragile!
The next glass I played a little more carefully, and found the sweet spot with some cautious pipetting (is that a word?). Pipette wrangling. Pipettesmanship. You get a mouth full of honey and heather, apple juice, mint and those same scents finally making it to the tastebuds – lemon and coconut. Truly delicious!
Here’s my first and only real complaint – there’s a sort of grassy, “Irish pot still” quality that lingers on the finish which I found a little distracting. Not a flavour I associate with Scotch, and not one that particularly floats my boat here. It’s earthy, slightly phenolic – and it won’t go away. Like a mouthful of garlic, mixed with… top soil.
Double Single is utterly unique, and can’t really be compared to anything else. It doesn’t scream “grain”, but I also wouldn’t describe it as particularly malty. It’s not peated, not soaked in exotic casks, but not exactly an easy “Speysider” either. It tastes like either a tough blend or an easy malt, but handles the balance with ease.
But as a result I’m not quite sure where I’d position it in terms of mood, time of day, challenge or excuse-to-drink. It’s… novel, but tough to imagine specifically craving it over a whisky that makes the decision a little easier. Or maybe I just can’t make room in my life for something in between Ardbeg Time and GlenDronach-o-Clock.
Compass Box is still doing what it does best – blend like the devil herself. The flavours are expertly woven together, the experience enjoyable, and throughout you get the distinct feeling you’re drinking something special. But for my money, that bottle of the Spice Tree has me by the short and curlies, and in this case – two or three bottles!