What Do Chiswick, Compasses and Whisky Have In Common?

Answer - John Glaser founder, blender and self confessed Scotch zealot

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Compass Box Whisky Company's John Glaser


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Chiswick is renowned for many things, history, culture, restaurants, celebrities, an award winning brewery – but whisky? However, it is for those in the know and therefore know about Compass Box, a specialist Scotch whisky company devoted to making some of Scotland's premier whiskies through the art of blending.

“We work like fine wine negociants.” says founder John Glaser, “We choose individual casks of whiskies from different distilleries that offer complementary sets of flavours and carefully blend these casks in small batches to make our proprietary whiskies.”

Compass Box bottle a range of types of Scotch whisky: malt whiskies, grain whisky, malt and grain blends but at the core of everything is the desire to bring out a purity of flavour, richness, a drinking experience “that will call you back to the glass”.

Their whiskies have unusual names like The Peat Monster and Hedonism, “It's all part of our vision: taking a contemporary approach to a traditional product.”

Glaser says, “I love whisky because of the aromas. Because of the flavours. Because it’s a natural product. Because whisky making is a time-honoured craft. Because of the way it makes you feel when you drink it. Because the stuff is always changing, and no one can ever know everything there is to know about whisky. I love it because drinking whisky with friends is one of life's great pleasures.”

He continues “When people ask me what I love about the whisky business, there is always one image I describe. It’s the image and the aromas that go with it of a whisky warehouse. Have you ever been in a whisky warehouse? I love being inside them. These are the places where casks and casks of whisky lay maturing. Whisky warehouses have this heady, great aroma. I just love it: you smell the wood from the casks and all sorts of fruity compounds evaporating off the whisky into the air--it all sorts of rolls into you like a cloud as you enter the warehouse. I guess it’s more a “bouquet” than simply an aroma, because it’s so complex, comprised of so many different, complementary aromas. Whatever … I love it.”

Compass Box sells around 6,000 cases yearly, small in industry terms but the company’s independent ways have made a big impression on the whisky world. The blends have won a vast number of awards, but have also caused quite a stir in the world of Scotch whisky.

In 2005, Compass Box developed a Scotch called Spice Tree, which was aged in bourbon casks fitted with inner staves of French oak. Although Whisky bibles declared the blend to be "beautiful ... an entirely different whisky in shape and flavour emphasis”, the Scotch Whisky Association took a different view.

The association demanded that Compass Box to stop selling Spice Tree even threatening a legal action based on their reasoning that the pioneering method used in blending was "not permissible," because it is not part of the traditional Scotch-making process. Spice Tree was discontinued after unsuccessful negotiations.

To find out more about this intriguing local company see Compass Box Whisky Company

October 24, 2007