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By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Compass Box Great King Street “Artist’s Blend”

Compass Box Great King Street “Artist’s Blend”

Day Three in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

compass-box-great-king-street-artists-blend-whisky-webCompass Box is one of my favorite Scotch blending companies. I have yet to experience a whisky from Compass Box that wasn’t wonderfully done.

Located in London, England, Compass Box was founded in 2000 by American John Glaser. They are a true blending only company, which means they don’t distill any of their own whiskies. Their blenders select whisky from across Scotland choosing the distillery, grain, and age to create a specific taste profile. It’s often aged further after the blending process.

If you’re not clear on the difference between single malts and blends, you can read a full explanation here.

Great King Street “Artist’s Blend” is a product of quite a few whiskies. And Compass Box is generous enough to be completely transparent on what that breakdown is.

Here is their explanation direction from their website:

compass box artist blend breakdown


The fact that it’s a blended scotch (mix of barley with other grains) means that it’s bound to be a bit mellower and smoother. Adding other grains to barley inevitably adds sweetness to the mix taking it further in the direction of an Irish Whiskey instead of the traditional heavier Scottish Malts.

The first thing I noticed in the nose was a heavy cherry smell. If you’re from the west coast, you may recognize it as the smell of Red Vines. Very weird thing to pick up, but once it stuck in my head, I couldn’t get it out.

It’s a bit too sweet for my taste, but it still has a nice dramatic punch on the back end with plenty of character. The oak flavor keeps it from being too boring and the caramel notes don’t overwhelm the taste.

I can only imagine that’s a combination of the Sherry barrel flavor mixing with the vanilla notes of new oak.

It’s dramatic for sure! I tried the Compass Box Spice Tree because I thought I remembered a similar taste, and I was right. The difference is that Spice Tree is a bit more mild and mellow.

I also picked up something I recognized from Irish whiskey. I detected hints of it in Redbreast Single Pot Still, but it is definitely its own animal.

Even if this is not your thing (like me), keep in mind that Compass Box should be represented on every whisky shelf. His motto could be “making blends cool again since 2000.” He’s an artist. This is a perfect example of that.


By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Miyagikyo Single Malt

Miyagikyo Single Malt

Day Two in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.




Today’s whisky is brought to us by Nikka Distillery Co which owns both Yoichi distillery and Miyagikyo Distillery among many others. (The also own Ben Nevis in Scotland)

Yoichi has impressive heritage in Japan since it is the distillery started by Masataka Taketsuru after he left Yamazaki (currently Suntory) distillery in southern Japan. He trained in Scotland, married a Scottish girl, and then helped to found the first Scottish style whisky distillery in Japan with Torii Shinjiro called Yamazaki at the time.

They had a difference of opinions that led to him leaving after a decade and starting his own distillery in northern Japan on the Island of Hokkaido. His distillery (Yoichi) named itself Nikka in 1952 and in 1962 became the first to introduce true quality Scottish style whisky in Japan.

Taketsuru opened Miyagikyo with the goal of using it as another source to help provide complexity in his whisky blends. They still provide the grain whisky used in most of Nikka’s blends. They also use two of the only remaining active Coffey Stills!


There’s no age statement on this little bottle, and the next marked single malt from Miyagikyo is the 10yr old, so I’m guessing it’s younger than that.

It’s lovely. I compared it with the Nikka 12 and the Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky because I’m guessing the Coffey Grain was made at the same distillery.

It comes off as smooth caramel with a bit of a grassy bite at the end. Nice warmth from the wood and not at all harsh from the young age.

The wild thing is that I felt I recognized it the moment I tasted it. Luckily I had a bottle of the thing it reminded me of so I was able to do a taste comparison. Turns out I was right. It tastes freakishly close to the Scottish Single Malt, Glendronach 15.

Definitely worth getting if you can find it. If you can’t get it in your area, try tracking down the Glendronach 15, and you’ll come pretty dang close.

By in Blog Comments Off on Glenfarclas 25 yr Old

Glenfarclas 25 yr Old

Day One in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

glenfarclas-25-year-old-whiskyGlenfarclas is a Speyside distillery in Ballindalloch, Scotland. Translating to “Valley of the Green Grass”, it’s definitely one of my preferred Speysides. Owned by Grant, and operating some of the largest stills in Speyside, it gets its water from Ben Rinnes and has been operating since 1836.

First, I’ll admit, I don’t normally like Speysides because they tend to be so sweet and lack the drama of a good Islay or Campbeltown whisky. But there are Speysides that have a really great complexity. Longmorn 16 is one of those, and someday I’ll explain why.

I first tried the Glenfarclas 12yr and found it to be nice, mellow, but with a bit of earth and grass. That made it more interesting to me. It’s closer to a Deanston than a Glenrothes.

Here’s a little tasting trick with Speysides. Almost all whisky has notes of caramel and butterscotch. That’s part of what happens when you age something in oak wood. But if a whisky presents butterscotch FIRST on the nose as its most dominant flavor, there’s an extremely high chance that you just picked up a Speyside whisky. Use that trick to impress your friends. 😉

Glenfarclas 25 yr is no different, in that it presents butterscotch first on the nose like a solid Speyside. But underneath that are heavy notes of the Sherry barrel and hints of cut grass. It’s the same things that remind me in a small way of Deanston 12yr. Because of its age, you get more of the barrel, and it’s actually a bit spicier than its younger brother the 12yr Glenfarclas. I like it more. It has all the mellow smoothness of age but didn’t lose the character. The back end has notes of pepper, and I really love that kind of accent on a sweet Speyside. It’s the only Speyside other than Longmorn 16 that I’ve ever found notes of black pepper that spark the taste.

This is a really great Speyside. I actually like it better than the 12, which is rare for me because I tend to like the drama of the younger whiskies.

Don’t eat anything with this one or smoke a cigar. Its flavors are so subtle, you’ll immediately ruin them and turn it into one of its more generic Speyside cousins.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Kavalan Concertmaster

Kavalan Concertmaster

The Champagne of Whisky

kavalanconcertmasterLast week I stumbled on a bottle of Kavalan in a store. I’d never heard of Kavalan, and a bit of Google research told me it was from Taiwan. That sealed it. An unheard of whisky from Taiwan? I needed it to be mine.

I settled on the Kavalan Concertmaster, and escorted it home gently buckled into the back seat.

Kavalan started in 2005 in Yuanshan in the county of Yi-Lan on the Northwest coast of Taiwan about an hour south of Taipei. Started by Mr. Tien-Tsai Lee of the King Car Conglomerate it involved Blender Ian Chang to create the new Kavalan line.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Concertmaster was more complex that I had anticipated. It has almost a champagne kind of lightness to the flavor with a bite of oak and a finish of the almond flavor in tawny port.

Concertmaster is started in American Oak and finished in Port casks (Ruby, Tawny and Vintage), and it shows in the lingering sweetness on the back end.

In smell, I pick up similar tones to a Balvenie Double Wood or the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. It’s a bit more aggressive in taste that the Glenmorangie, but it has similar after tastes.

I really enjoyed it, and it didn’t get any less flavorful as the night wore on. It’s a bit on the sweet side for my taste, but I would definitely recommend as an introduction to good whisky made outside the traditional environs of historical whisky areas.

If you can’t find it in your area, ask me for a taste when you make it back to the school.

By in Uncategorized Comments Off on Company Whisk(e)y Donations

Company Whisk(e)y Donations

If you are a company donating whiskey to the school, you can send us anything you like! Legally we cannot attach a dollar value to the donation, but I can issue you a tax form showing exactly what bottles you mailed to us.

Reach out to Daniel Whittington at:

daniel@wizardacademy.org or 512-720-8801

Packages can be mailed it to:

Wizard Academy
ATTN: Daniel Whittington
16221 Crystal Hills Drive
Austin, TX 78737

thank you

By in Books Comments Off on Proof: The Science of Booze

Proof: The Science of Booze

Proof: The Science of Booz

Adam Rogers

Humans have been perfecting alcohol production for ten thousand years, but scientists are just starting to distill the chemical reactions behind the perfect buzz. In a spirited tour across continents and cultures, Adam Rogers takes us from bourbon country to the world’s top gene-sequencing labs, introducing us to the bars, barflies, and evolving science at the heart of boozy technology. He chases the physics, biology, chemistry, and metallurgy that produce alcohol, and the psychology and neurobiology that make us want it. If you’ve ever wondered how your drink arrived in your glass, or what it will do to you, Proof makes an unparalleled drinking companion.

By in Books Comments Off on Whisk(e)y Distilled

Whisk(e)y Distilled

Whisk(e)y Distilled
A populist guide to the waters of life

Heather Greene

In the populist tradition of Andrea Immer, New York City’s first female whiskey sommelier translates today’s hottest spirit for a new generation of imbibers

Whiskey is in the midst of a huge renaissance. Ten years ago, the United States housed sixty-nine craft distillers; today, there are more than four hundred. Exports of Scotch whisky grew 12 percent just last year. Sales are skyrocketing, and specialty bars are popping up around the country, from New York City to Chicago to Houston.

Yet whiskey drinkers—especially novices—are more confused than ever. Over the past decade, whiskey expert Heather Greene has been bombarded with thousands of questions, including: Can I have ice in my whiskey? Why is it sometimes spelled “whisky”? What makes bourbon different? As New York City’s first female whiskey sommelier, Greene introduces audiences to the spirit’s charms and challenges the boys’ club sensibilities that have made whiskey seem inaccessible, with surprising new research that shows the crucial importance of “nosing” whiskey. Through lively tastings, speaking engagements, and classes such as the popular “Whiskey as an Aphrodisiac,” Greene has been demystifying whiskey the way Andrea Immer did wine a decade ago.

In this lively and authoritative guide, Greene uses bright visuals, an easy-to-read format, and the familiar vocabulary of wine to teach readers about whiskey and encourage them to make their own evaluations. Peppered with wry anecdotes drawn from her unusual life—and including recipes for delicious cocktails by some of today’s most celebrated mixologists—Whiskey Distilled will be enthusiastically greeted by the whiskey curious as well as by journeymen whiskey drinkers thirsty to learn more about their beloved tipple.