Compass Box is one of the most innovative companies in the business today, weaving together whiskies from any number of different distilleries to create new blends and blended malts. I've looked at one of their lighter whiskies, Oak Cross, which displays both John Glaser's ability to blend single malts and his creative use of wood. Today I'm looking at another blended malt - Peat Monster - which is about 180º from the sweetness and light of Oak Cross.
Peat Monster is put together from a blend of a number of different peated whiskies (no surprise there) from Caol Ila and Laphroaig on the island of Islay, Ledaig from the Island of Mull, and Ardmore in the Speyside region of the Highlands. All come from refill ex-bourbon casks, which means that the focus on the malt itself, rather than the influence from the oak. Each single malt brings different characteristics to the final product, but as the name suggests, the main goal is peat. As with all whiskies from Compass Box, this one is bottled without chill filtration or color and is water down only to 46%, which leaves it with plenty of punch.
Nose: lots of green peat, wood ash, eucalyptus/tea tree oil, slightly sour, solvent-y, malty, some floral vanilla underneath, overripe fruit, savory notes, a hint of salt and toasted oak. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes a bit lighter, with the peat shifting firmly into an ashy rather than vegetal mode and integrating with the oak, it's more balanced with a bigger dose of malt and vanilla, plus some cinnamon and hay come out.
Taste: sweet malt up front with a bit of vanilla, followed by a wave of black pepper and ashy/vegetal peat, with the malt returning at the end along with a bit of cinnamon. After dilution, it becomes less sweet and more savory, with the peat becoming all ashy and merging with the black pepper notes alongside more oak tannins.
Finish: tangy, savory, peppery peat, lightly malty with vanilla, bittersweet, rubber
This one really does live up to its name. While the malt doesn't completely disappear and the characteristic vanilla of Compass Box whiskies from marrying the components in first-fill ex-bourbon casks is present, this really is all about the peat. While not as in your face as some peaty single malts, it doesn't feel as balanced as it could be. Maybe more time in the marrying casks or a bit of something with less peat to give it a bit more sweetness. Some of this can be achieved by adding water, but it still doesn't sit quite right with me. As Tim noted over at Scotch & Ice Cream, it's not bad, it's just not something that I would pick over any number of comparably priced peated single malts right now.
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