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Great King Street Artist’s Series Blended Scotch

I was thrilled to hear John Glaser talk about his company’s (Compass Box Whiskey Co.) new mission at this past April’s WhiskyFest in Chicago, IL. As the event winded down, I spoke with John for what seemed like 10 minutes about whiskey, blending, and his focus on the best oak he can find (he flew in that day from Independent Stave Co.’s Ozark, MO facility). The discussion however quickly came back to pure, simple, whiskey enjoyment, something John is clearly passionate about.

Glaser and his band of creatives put the subject of Blended Scotch on their backs this past June with the UK release of Great King Street (it was released in the US in late September). I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bottle and I hoped it would do justice to such a mission. At $40 retail it includes a significantly higher percentage of single malt whiskey than most blends.

So, pardon me, my American Whiskey loving friends, as I am compelled to jump across the pond into the world of Blended Scotch for a brief moment.

Great King Street Artist’s Blend (Blended Scotch), 43% abv (86 Proof), $40/bottle

Color: Chardonnay

Nose: Roasted pear and golden delicious apple – honey-sweet, juicy fruit. Vanilla and lemon custard, lush malt, and confectioners sugar. The nose is so buttery soft and round.

Palate: Beautifully rich mouth feel like over-oaked, velvety chardonnay. Baked orchard fruits, pressed cider, vanilla cream, cinnamon stick, and nutty toasted oak.

Finish: All vanilla, oak, and fruit. There’s a faint hint of cocoa and toasted nuts that adds interest to an otherwise brief finish.

Overall: If you ask me, this is an example of how the grain spirits can dress down such rich and velvety malt (and frankly make it better). Is this whiskey nirvana? Nope, it wasn’t intended to be. Is it utterly delicious, rich, and fruity blended scotch that is so effortlessly drinkable you will not want to put it down? Without question!

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to present it a little differently. John Glaser and Compass Box have done just that and I’m damn glad they did. The only thing I’d correct is the (implied) intended use. Great King Street’s website and the guys from Compass Box themselves are big on the old classic scotch and soda cocktail (measure of blended scotch, measure of good quality soda water, and ice). Ehhh, I much more preferred this neat and uncut or with just a cube or two of ice and maybe a splash of water. It’s just too velvety and beautiful to blast apart with soda water.

11 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    Wow, a scotch review on Sour Mash Manifesto! I haven’t had this scotch, but I enjoyed the review, and your comment about how the grain spirit makes it better. I have only had cheaper blends, and frankly, haven’t had one where I really enjoyed what the grain brought to the table. Not to say some blends aren’t enjoyable, but I’ll have to try this one.

  2. Tommy Viola says:

    Good review, Jason. I have been eyeing this at under $40 out the door at my favorite shop, but have been reticent to pull the trigger (maybe in part because of the stigma of it being a blend?) I think I’ll take the leap soon.

    Are some other blends that you’d recommend? I used to drink Famous Grouse pretty regularly, but I haven’t had it in years.

  3. Dave in Oklahoma says:

    Wow,a Scotch!!! Not much of a Scotch drinker, but here is what I do enjoy.

    Blended: Johnnie Walker-Red, Black, Gold and Green. Still looking for the Double Black..one day.

    Aberfeldy…the only one that has a smooth and somewhat fruity flavor. A friend of mine owns a liquor store here in Oklahoma City. I went to him on day and asked him to help me pick out some Scotch. He told me that I like Bourbon and American whiskey…so stick with it. I won’t like Scotch, and he refused to help me with my purchase stating that I won’t like Scotch. Long story short….brother, was he correct.
    Jason, I can’t wait until you review more Scotch. I want to see how many are like me and really stick with one or the other…verses..people who like both.
    Keep up the great reviews!!!

    Dave in Oklahoma
    Go Sooners!!

  4. Dave, Ryan, and Tommy, I am an obsessive compulsive by nature. I focus on what I love and know best – that’s American Whiskey. There are great many sites and blogs that do great justice to Scotch. I simply choose to focus my efforts on one exciting and ever growing segment of whiskey. This one however was too compelling not to give it a review. I won’t say I won’t have some other Scotch and Global Whiskey reviews, but they won’t be frequent.

    Tonight was a Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished Bourbon evening followed by a St. George Single Malt. They did the trick!

  5. Ryan, Johnnie Black is great whiskey. It may be cliche, but it is for a reason. Sometimes you just stick to a great thing. The Double Black is even better to me. I’ve had a small sampling of it and look forward to having another. Be on the look out for it in your area. I do recommend it highly.

  6. Mary says:

    Jason: You referenced Independent Stave – the barrel-making company. I have to put in a plug for their tour in Lebanon, KY. My husband & I were there last month & it was a fascinating tour. You are up close, in the shop. It was a highlight of our bourbon trail adventure! The craftsmen (& they earn that title!) answer questions & put together barrels right in front of you. The tour is free & offered 2x/day (9:30AM & 1PM). Go to their website & make a reservation. Anyone interested in whiskey, woodworking, etc. will enjoy this tour.

  7. Lazer says:

    I’ve been drinking straight american whiskey exclusively for almost 2 years. I’ve gone through about 20 bottles, nearly all bourbons, (one bottle every 6 weeks more or less). Recently I cheated too. I bought a bottle of ‘Ralfy recomended’, glenmorangie. I was very impressed but ultimately I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. It didn’t pass the EW black label test. In other words, I’d rather be drinking Evan Williams Black Label for $12 than this stuff. As Ralfy would say, “it was quite a malty educational experience.” Thanks for the reviews Jason, I appreciate you efforts.

  8. Eric S. says:

    I haven’t tried this yet, but I will as soon as I can find it.

    I must be the odd man out… I like all styles of whisk(e)y. I’ve been a Scotch drinker for 30 years and I’ll probably always have a special fondness for it, but I love Bourbon and Irish too!

    Lately, it’s been all about Bourbon, but I’m sure I’ll get an itch for a nice peated Islay on one of these crisp Ohio evenings, though.

  9. You are definitely not an odd man out Eric. I am the same – love it all. Just choose to focus on the American Whiskeys. There’s enough going on in this category to keep me buys.

  10. R. W. H. says:

    How does a distiller create or bring out all the different flavors and notes attributed to that specific whiskey? Is it mostly the yeast or the combination of grain? I’m sure there are secrets and even family recipes that will remain secret; however, I’m sure that you could explain the ways that they achieve this. I detected “banana” in the finish of Woodford Reserve; was this correct?

  11. R.W.H., Whiskey is a natural product from grains, water, barrel, and time. The mashbill plays a key factor in how the flavors develop, but so does the still design. This is more of a factor in Scotland and Ireland where pot stills at different distilleries have varied shapes. Here in the US, most of the whiskey made by the big boys has a first run in a column still, before a second distillation in a pot still.

    In addition, the barrel, the length of age, the air, you name it all play key roles. Certain distilleries over time just create a flavor profile with all of these components at work. Also, there are common flavors that whiskeys share, but in varied levels depending on the distillery. Example, banana has closely related components to vanilla. Vanillin is contained in the barrels and so it’s quite common to detect such flavors in a bourbon for instance.

    I don’t believe distilleries necessarily set out to create a whiskey that tastes like X, Y, and Z flavors. But they start to see what predominant flavors their distillery produces and that’s what they try to make consistent or tweak slightly by varying some of the above components (mashbill (grain recipe), time in the barrel, aging level, etc).

    It’s a complex answer I realize, but there you have it. I will have a whiskey flavor factors video very very soon. Cheers.

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