That's the Spirit: Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend

Spirit Reviews

New brands and bottles you should know.


While single malt scotches and single barrel bourbons dominate the dreams of most high-end whiskey drinkers, the vast majority of sales in the wide world of whiskey (and whisky) are of the humble blend. Taking its name from its ingredients—usually high quality straight or single malt whiskeys cut with grain alcohol—blends are typically less complex and therefore less 'interesting' than their big league brethren. Blends vary widely in quality, but are typically held in somewhat low regard by the liquor cognoscenti. However, Compass Box Whisky aims to change all that.

Compass Box has been around for ten years—the blink of an eye in the world of Scotch. But in the past decade they have made waves within the industry, producing an "illegal" Scotch, and constantly pushing the boundaries of what a Scotch whisky can be. And now, they are putting their focus squarely on the blend: "Great King Street is a mission, a mission dedicated to reviving interest in one style of whisky only: Blended Scotch Whisky." Today we try their first release of the GKS line: The Artist's Blend.

The whisky pours a light gold, and has a big green apple hit right off the bat, with some vanilla, lemon, and oak—it's a very bright and fresh scent. On sipping you're struck by how soft the spirit is—it's a creamsicle in a snifter. There are spice flavors (cinnamon, clove, ginger), butter, more oak, and a cereal/grain grounding to it all, with a pleasant alcohol bite to cut through the creamy texture. A medium finish doesn't overstay its welcome, with more of the same flavors trailing off gracefully. Not a tremendously complex dram, but an excellent, easy-drinking everyday spirit.

It's interesting enough to drink neat, but its versatility is its true strength. It's wonderfully bright in a Scotch and soda (add a lemon wedge), and I'd also like to try it in a dark and stormy (hold the dark). While most Scotches dominate the palate, this one plays nice: it would go great with even a lighter summer dinner, say, grilled scallops with a citrusy corn salsa.

North American launch in September, around $24 for 375 mL. Tasting sample provided for review.