One of John Glasser's main goals is to make whisky drinkers rethink their attitudes towards blended whisky. One of the most recent efforts has been the Great King Street line. Named after Compass Box's address in Edinburgh, the goal has been to make blended whiskies that are both high quality and reasonably priced. A significant part of this has been increasing the malt whisky content - the basic Artist's Blend is almost 50% malt whisky, which is much more than most of the blends on the market today.
The GKS New York Blend was a limited release put out in 2012 that honored the first branded whisky sold in America in 1894. Unlike the lighter Artist's Blend, this one is big and smoky, with 25% of the recipe composed of peated whiskies, most of them from Islay. The malt component is also rather high, with only 20% grain whisky to round out the contents. As with all of Compass Box's whiskies, it is not chill-filtered and the bottling strength is a very respectable 46%.
Compass Box Great King Street New York Blend
Nose: moderately heavy dirty/vegetal smoke with a strong undercurrent of creamy malt/grain, caramel, and vanilla, hints of berries and sherry, plus something floral, brown sugar bacon comes out with time, great savory/sweet balance.
Taste: peat and pepper come in almost immediately and build in intensity towards the back, underneath is a solid layer of sweet, creamy grain, something minty, and a bit of vanilla, with light oak and chocolate near the back, becoming sweeter with less peat but maintaining a savory quality overall with time.
Finish: peat and oak dominate, with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and some residual malt
I honestly cannot recommend this whisky enough. It's the perfect blend (heh) of Peat Monster's smoke and the creamier flavors of Oak Cross. While there is plenty of smoke, I find this much more enjoyable than Peat Monster, because it has a lot more going on than just peat. The touch of grain whisky and heavy reliance on first-fill casks give it plenty of sweetness without going overboard.
If I was going to speculate about the provenance of the peated whisky in the mix, I'd go with a mix of Laphroaig (dry and ashy) and Ardbeg (oily and salty), with a reasonable dose of Ledaig and peated BenRiach (both pretty vegetal) as well. Even if I'm totally off base, it's a great mix of peated whisky styles.
Fundamentally this is just an enjoyable whisky to drink. If you want something with depth and nuance, this has it. If you want something tasty that you don't have to think about too hard, it has that as well. If you can still find it for under $60, I would grab at least a bottle, if not several. I'll be stocking up because I know this is one I'll want to come back to when my current bottled it finished.
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