Booze Review

Compass Box Whisky Reviews – Great King Street New York Blend, The Entertainer, and Flaming Heart 2012 Release

Compass Box Trio of Samples

Throughout 2012, quite a few emails were exchanged between myself and Chris Maybin, Commercial Director of Compass Box Whisky. In most cases, these emails dealt with press releases for Compass Box events and new whisky releases that happened throughout the year.

In mid-September, after hearing so much about the latest edition of Flaming Heart, I decided to email Chris to see if we could get a sample for a future review. While Chris agreed to send us a sample, I couldn’t have picked a worse time of year to ask for a favor. From September to early December, there are countless Whisky events happening across the globe, so our sample request was delayed for a couple of months.

By early December, I thought for sure that our Flaming Heart request had fallen through the cracks, but then on December 17th, I received the following email:

Hi G-LO,

Well, everything comes to he who waits! Three little whisky samples are finally finally winging their way over to you, including the exclusive Entertainer whisky we did for Selfridges Department Store in London. The other two, Flaming Heart and Great King Street New York Blend, are of course very available in the US.

I’ve attached the press releases for all three. I hope you like them!

So sorry again for all the delays on this.

Merry Christmas!

Kind regards

Now that you know where these itty bitty bottles of booze came from, let’s get on with our reviews…


Great King Street New York Blend

Here is what Compass Box has to say about this expression:

The New York Blend is a custom Limited Edition created especially for this famous city. It is inspired by the origins of Scotch whisky in the US in the late nineteenth century and recipes from this Golden Age of blending, reinterpreted in a Compass Box style.
Back then, Blended Scotch featured much higher proportions of malt whisky than recipes of today. The New York Blend aligns perfectly with our desire for Great King Street to offer different blends for different regions, people and tastes. 
Bottled in August of 2012, The New York Blend is a one-off, limited release of 1,840 bottles. A hearty, full-flavoured style of Scotch whisky with notes of smoke, dried fruits and malty complexity.

And here’s what we think…

G-LO’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Pale golden color.
  • Aroma: Quite light on the nose overall with a whisper of smoldering coal and cigar ash, vanilla nougat, dried apricots, and a bit of licorice.
  • Taste: Thin mouthfeel with a slightly oily texture. Starts off slow with a bit of white pepper spiciness mixed with some vanilla and powdered sugar sweetness. Some light smokiness kicks in at mid-palate and the pepperiness intensifies a bit. Lingering white pepper and cigar wrapper finish with a hint of licorice in the background.
  • ABV: 46%

Conclusion: I bought a bottle of Great King Street Artist’s Blend for The Rick last Christmas. Although I tried a wee dram on Christmas Eve of 2011, I don’t really remember much about it, so when this sample of Great King Street New York Blend arrived in the mail, I was really excited to get the opportunity to fully evaluate the latest expression from this range of Compass Box whiskies . So was New York Blend worth the wait? Absolutely! I really enjoyed the subtle complexity of this whisky. If I had to compare it to something else, I think it lies somewhere between the Compass Box Asyla and the Peat Monster due to its level of smokiness. Well worth seeking out.

Limpd’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Golden yellow with some legs
  • Aroma: A little menthol, a little licorice and matches.
  • Taste: Spicy (cinnamon, black pepper) with a nice blend of sweetness (toffee, spun sugar, candied buttons) and a warming heat at the finish.
  • ABV: 46%

Conclusion: I had tried the Great King Street at the NY SMWS event and really enjoyed it. So, I was expecting the Artist’s Blend to be a higher octane version and it did not disappoint. While not exactly well-balanced, the flavors moved in a nice progression from front-to-back ending with a long, lovely finish.


The Entertainer

From the moment this sample arrived in the mail, I have not been able to get the Billy Joel song of the same name out of my head! I’m hoping that sharing this video will help…

Ahhhhh! Much better. Back to business…

Here is what Selfridges & Co., the London based retailer that commissioned this whisky, has to say about The Entertainer:

At Selfridges we have always loved the whiskies that Compass Box creates, so when we decided we wanted to produce a whisky to show our passion for the category, Compass Box was the obvious choice. The brief to them was something that challenges the norm, that seduces and excites. Stylistically, this Blended Scotch Whisky harkens back to the turn of the 20th century, when blends contained higher proportions of malt whisky to grain whisky, and when the whiskies themselves were peatier and were aged in more active casks. All of this yielded whiskies with greater concentration of flavour. The Entertainer is a raucous, full-blown, extravaganza of a whisky. It’s rich, it’s decadent, it’s smoky and it’s surprising. Only 1000 bottles of this limited blend have been produced.

And here are our impressions of this limited edition spirit…

G-LO’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Liquid gold in a glass.
  • Aroma: Quite a bit of alcohol on the nose when I first poured it, so this dram had to sit for a bit. Once I let it open up, I picked up some dried figs, cinnamon, nutmeg, caramelized brown sugar, pipe tobacco, and Earl Grey tea.
  • Taste: Slightly viscous with a smooth and silky texture. Starts off with some pipe tobacco sweetness and mild cinnamon spiciness. At mid-palate, the baking spice flavors intensify a bit and some brown sugar sweetness makes an appearance. All of the flavors come together at the finish, i.e. sweet smoke, baking spices, and dried fruit, and linger for a really long time.
  • ABV: 46%

Conclusion: While the New York Blend is a perfect middle of the week dram, I would reserve The Entertainer for those “TGIMFF!” moments after a long week at work. This is one seriously flavorful and well balanced whisky, and I really like that they bottled it at a very respectable 46% ABV. My only gripe is that I don’t have anymore of it to drink. Well done Compass Box!

Limpd’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Golden honey with nice legs.
  • Aroma: Astringent, cigar smoke, dried trail mix fruits (pineapple, papaya, dates) and a little bit of rubber.
  • Taste: Velvety with a fair amount of smoke (peat, tobacco, ash) followed by a very pleasant sweetness and a slight cinnamon/wint-o-green spice ending with almost no heat in a long finish.
  • ABV: 46%

Conclusion: This was a shockingly good whisky. I was expecting more smoke and heat from the aroma and was instead treated to a whisky so well-balanced, I’m left speechless.


Flaming Heart 2012 Edition

Here is what Compass Box has to say about this expression:

And here are our impressions of this limited edition spirit…

G-LO’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Pale amber color.
  • Aroma: There’s a good bit of smokiness going on here followed immediately by some fruity/herbal notes. I’m getting peat smoke, brine, green pear, menthol, black licorice, and a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar.
  • Taste: Very light mouthfeel. A bit more watery than I was expecting. The smoke flavors are front and center. Once they subside a bit, a cinnamon/white pepper heat starts to kick in. Lots of smoke in the finish with some licorice and menthol notes as well.
  • ABV: 48.9%

Conclusion: I have been trying to get my hands on the Compass Box Flaming Heart for several years, but alas, it hasn’t been easy to track down in the Philly/South Jersey area. Now that I finally had a chance to try it, I am happy to report that this is a very good whisky. It has a bold smokiness that I really enjoy along with a fruity/herbal quality that keeps this whisky from becoming a one trick pony. Once again, my only regret is that I wish I had more. Thankfully, this version of the Flaming Heart is currently available in Pennsylvania, so perhaps I’ll have to pick up a bottle.

Limpd’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Apple juice with a lot of legs.
  • Aroma: Leather, licorice and a little honey.
  • Taste: A lot of alcohol with a hickory smoke/beef stick kick followed by some sweetness and then a nice, warming heat.
  • ABV: 48.9%

Conclusion: While lacking the balance of the Entertainer, the Flaming Heart seriously throws out a variety of flavors. Your taste buds are assaulted with a lot of front end smoke (not so much peat as a smoked meat quality) followed by a green tea sweetness and then the warming heat from the extra bit of alcohol.


Many thanks to Chris Maybin of Compass Box Whisky Co. for sending us these very generous samples! 

2 replies »

    • All three were excellent, but The Entertainer really left a lasting impression. That being said, I’m still considering a full bottle of Flaming Heart since I suspect that it would definitely grow on me once I temper my expectations a bit.


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