Tag Archives: Compass Box

A trip down memory lane in North London & new whiskeys.

I decided to revisit some of my old drinking dens of times past & enjoy a few whiskeys along the way.

The High Cross, Tottenham N17

How could I resist this?

A recently opened micro bar in an elegantly designed 1920’s public toilet that I can’t recall ever using – despite living round the corner for years – but do remember passing daily.

It looks the same on the outside. You enter via the ‘LADIES’ – which is a little disconcerting being a man – and behold a white tiled space replete with chunky wooden tables & chairs. The bijou bar at the ‘GENTLEMEN’ end of the building offers a good selection of local craft beers, assorted spirits & a tasty range of wholesome bar food.

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I’ll have a Nikka. c/othewhiskeynut

Spotting a Nikka From The Barrel on the top shelf I went for it.

Nice!

This blended whisky drew me in with clean & fresh flavours offering decent depth & complexity – with a bit of bite from the 51.4% ABV too.

I’d happily have this one again.

The Beehive, Tottenham, N17

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The Beehive, N17 c/othewhiskeynut

It’s probably around 30 years since I last had a drink in the Beehive.

I remember a traditional bar with carpeted floors, comfy sofas & polished wooden tables leading to a grassy beer garden.

I found a bare wooden floored open space – filling up with Spurs fans – leading to a concreted patio adorned with large sports screens.

Ah well – change is the only constant in London.

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Single Barrel please. c/othewhiskeynut

From the small whiskey selection Four Roses Single Barrel made my glass – or rather plastic cup – Spurs were playing.

Now Four Roses haven’t exactly bowled me over. Their entry Bourbon is decent enough – and this Single Barrel did boost the flavour experience with it’s higher ABV & higher rye content.

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Four Roses Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Just not enough character to enthrall me.

I toyed with The Ship – but the pre-match crowds were getting larger – so a short bus ride to Wood Green & a spot of lunch set me up for an invigorating walk up to the magnificent Ally Pally with it’s panoramic view over North London.

The Phoenix Bar, Alexandra Palace, N22

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The Phoenix @ Ally Pally c/othewhiskeynut

It felt like I’d just been taken back to the time my better half – now wife – and I spent an anxious few hours here over 20 years ago. All our worldly possessions were in a transit van nearby awaiting the exchange of contracts allowing us to move into our first flat down in Turnpike Lane at the foot – almost – of the wooded slopes beyond the fine windows of this very establishment.

A Dewar’s White Label was ordered.

Having just been introduced to the delights of Dewar’s 12 Year Old Ancestor blend – a lovely balanced example of peated Scotch – the White Label was rather more basic.

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An aged blend. c/othewhiskeynut

Aged – in this instance – is better.

The Great Northern Railway Tavern, Hornsey, N8

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The Great Northern c/othewhiskeynut

A fine venue to round off the day.

I found it poignant to be in London celebrating a 60th entering a bar where a memorable 30th was had by one sadly departed.

The Great Northern has had a facelift since then. Gone was the sticky carpet & shoddy armchairs. In was a sleek craft beer selection & fine foods with varnished floors & comfy seating.

The whiskey choice was a bit thin though.

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Peat Monster c/othewhiskeynut

I’d previously enjoyed a wonderful Compass Box here – but made do with Jura 10 this time.

A soft smudge of peat over a sweet caramelly base just didn’t cut it with me.

Never mind – It’s all part of the rich tapestry of life.

Bar of The Day – High Cross.

Whiskey of The Day – Nikka From The Barrel.

Sláinte

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2 Mackmyras And A Box

No.

It’s not an order of flatpack furniture from Swedish retail giant IKEA.

It’s 3 quality whiskies from 2 of Sweden’s growing whisky distillery scene.

The samples arrived on my doorstep courtesy of Irish Drams blog here.

Stort tack!

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Which one would you choose?

I’ve previously enjoyed a Mackmyra before – Edition 1 to be precise – so I was looking forward to more delightful flavours from these sample jars.

Box I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting before – nor will do in the future as the distillery has been renamed as High Coast Distillery after a legal dispute with Scottish whisky bottlers Compass Box. The sample before me was bottled as Box however – and I’m reassured the liquid will remain the same in the new livery.

Pity they didn’t call themselves Hygge – as I got a lovely warm & cosy feeling after drinking their Single Malt 2nd Step Collection 03.

At 51.3%  it’s both strong flavoured yet delicate at the same time. A lovely dry ashiness permeated throughout the spice rich taste. Fabulous.

I may have tried the samples in the wrong order – as the Mackmyra Svensk Ek – Swedish Oak – failed to ignite my tastebuds as instantaneously.

At 46.1% it’s possessed of more subtle & smoother notes with a gentle spiciness mixed in – it may have been overpowered by the Box. One to savour at a later date.

What wasn’t overpowered was the Mackmyra Reserve Single Cask.

At 58.2% this was Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy!

Just my kinda whisky!

It said peated bourbon cask on the label. Yet I got ash.

Damp ash in a Swedish forest after a smorgasbord of barbecued meats and fish from the night before.

The wonderfully oily beginning assaulted the palate with flavours dancing all over the place before drying out into a fantastically ash laden & long lasting finish.

If it possibly could have gotten any heavier – I’d have cut it up into chunks.

Superb stuff.

Now you could go onto both Mackmyra & Box websites to read up all about the transparency, terroir & provenace of these whiskies – but when they taste this good – it’s only icing on the cake.

I’m happy to let my tastebuds tell me all I need to know.

My palate has fallen in love with Swedish whisky.

Sláinte.

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Compass Box, Peat Monster, 46%, blended malt.

A 60th birthday party in London was the excuse to pop over the water for the weekend.

The balmy weather – which Storm Ophelia had pushed up from the South – allowed us to have our Sunday lunch alfresco. Our chosen venue was the recently refurbished Great Northern Railway Tavern in Hornsey.

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A fine facade! c/othewhiskeynut

A few of us recalled one of our last visits to this grand venue – a 30th birthday party – and wondered where all the years went.

Along with the expected Fullers offerings – the Great Northern is now a Fullers pub – there is a varied range of fine craft beers too. What tempted me however was the Compass Box Peat Monster whisky which was situated on the back row of the small yet varied spirits display.

The bottle label itself is a very attractive piece of work & the rich clear peaty aromas emanating from my glass certainly pointed to an equally attractive whisky inside.

Compass Box is the well respected blending & bottling whisky making company of John Glaser who sources the best malt & grain whiskies from around Scotland – ages them in barrels – also carefully selected – and expertly blends them together to produce a range of fine tasting whiskies highlighting the art of the blender.

The Peat Monster is certainly an angel of a whisky.

The familiar peat nose is crisp and clear – but not overpowering.

The taste is suitably smooth and silky. The peat pulls you in & opens up into some beautiful spice notes.

The long & gentle finish wafts all the perfectly balanced notes around in your palate before they fade away.

Bottled at 46% with no chill filtering & no added colour – Peat Monster certainly raises the bar for how good a blended malt can be.

Simply stunning.

Sláinte.

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Tigh Neachtain, Galway.

On leaving The Dail Bar in my Galway Whiskey Trail adventure – I’d popped across the road from the pub and into another famous Galway institution – Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

Charlie’s is a cornacopia of culture and literature. Over the years I’ve picked up a few titles related to my poison of choice. One of them being the famous – or infamous depending on your point of view – Jim Murray’s ‘A Taste Of Irish Whiskey’ which has given me lots of source information regarding distilleries and brands – particularly the old Cooley brands I’ve been enjoying today.

Going into a book shop half cut probably has it’s risks – but on seeing ‘How To Cure A Hangover’ by Andrew Irving in the drinks section I couldn’t resist buying it considering I could be experiencing one next morning!

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Too much of one and you might need the other! c/othewhiskeynut

Back to the trail.

Tigh Neachtain’s occupies a prominent corner spot made all the more striking by the deep blue colour scheme and attractive murals outside. Inside it’s a warren of wooden nooks and crannies where you can loose yourself in conversation and craic. Most of the snugs were busily occupied  by cheery customers when I visited so once more I happily found a spot by the bar.

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Some of the whiskeys in Tigh Neachtain’s c/othewhiskeynut

Suitably situated to spy on the whiskey shelves I quickly spotted the Titanic. NOT the doomed ocean liner now – NOR the DiCaprio-Winslet love story either – but another discontinued Cooley expression for the Belfast Distilling Company.

But wait a minute – what’s that?

A rather tatty & worn whiskey bottle was retrieved from the shelves and placed on the counter for me to inspect. Bailey’s The Whiskey – I didn’t even realise they’d done a whiskey!

‘Don’t know much about it.’ proffered the bar tender,

‘Bailey’s did make a whiskey but pulled it at the last moment before the launch for some reason. There’s not much of it about now, but we have a bottle or two.’

Despite the higher price incurred by the rarity – and visions of a sickly sweet and creamy whiskey like a Bailey’s Original liqueur – I just had to give it a go.

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Bailey’s The Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Mmmmmm!

Well yes it is sweet – but not overpoweringly so – and well within the taste experience of other whiskeys I’ve had. It’s also very smooth with a very satisfying whiskey rush.

Very nice!

Why Bailey’s binned this lovely tipple is beyond me. I did an internet search when I got home and found very little. The best I could find from the Irish Whiskey Society chat site is the following;

‘In 1997, the innovation team at Grand Metropolitan’s spirits division International Distillers and Vintners were about to extend the franchise of the “Baileys” Irish cream liqueur brand. The idea was to turn Baileys – a cream base containing among other things Irish whiskey – into an Irish whiskey base containing cream, chocolate, vanilla etc. The concept was revealed “exclusively” in the “Irish Independent” newspaper on 12th November 1977. A follow-up piece on 12th March 1988 confirmed that the product – now named as “Baileys. The Whiskey” was to be tested in the Dublin market prior to a wider rollout in Ireland and the UK. Before it could go much further however, “Baileys. The Whiskey” ran into a major obstacle in the shape of the Scotch Whisky Association and the European regulations on spirits drinks. The production method used to create “Baileys. The Whiskey” involved finishing the spirit in casks that had been infused with the key flavouring elements from the “Baileys Cream Liqueur” product. This technique was marginal in terms of its adherence to the EU regulations and while in normal times, the management of IDV would have fought its case these were not normal times. IDV’s parent Grand Met had just merged with Guinness PLC to create Diageo in December 1997 and IDV Managing Director John McGrath was in the Chairman’s seat at the SWA. When it became apparent to the wider business that Baileys were engaged in a whisky project that would push the legal boundaries of the EU whisky definition, there were some rapid and terse discussions. The industry was still absorbing the formation of a formidable new lead player in the shape of Diageo and any row with the SWA over what the Association would regard as a non-compliant product would embarrass John McGrath and potentially tarnish his SWA Chairmanship. The decision was taken quickly and effectively. “Baileys. The Whiskey” would be withdrawn with immediate effect. News of the brand’s demise does not appear to have entered the public domain and in the continuing turmoil that marked the integration of the Guinness and Grand Met businesses within Diageo, the project was quickly consigned to history. It is not certain how many bottles ever made it into the Irish licensed trade but it is likely that this is one of only a handful of bottles still in existence. The distinctive bottle departed from the “Baileys Liqueur” pack although the front label retained a family look with a bronzed landscape. In gold beneath this label is a specially composed ode to the spirit.’

Compass Box may not be the only whisky company to arouse the SWA rule book!

Unless anyone has any other theories as to the disappearance of Bailey’s The Whiskey – the above premise is all I can go on. Another site did suggest the team that put the whiskey together went on to form Castle Brands Clontarf brand.

Whatever the truth – this is a great dram.

I enjoyed it so much I ended up walking out of the pub without paying!

What else can I say? All apologies.

‘Down with this sort of thing!’ as Father Ted used to say.

Even in my inebriated state there is no excuse for such bad behaviour!

I’m glad to say Tigh Neachtain were very understanding when they contacted me.

After settling my debt I’ll even be allowed back in again!

Which is nice.

As this is a gem of a bar!

Sláinte

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