(photo from Compass Box’s website; I hope they don’t mind)
Compass Box The Peat Monster
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv (92 proof)
$48 – $58
Overall rating: Nip/Bar
If you haven’t, first read my Intro to help you understand my review process.
Here we are at the fourth Compass Box (CB) expression from their standard lineup. As per my previous CB reviews, this was part of a sample pack of 50mL vials. I sat down to do the tasting with Jake, my go-to whiskey buddy (who provided the sample pack).
Hey, peat. How about that? I wasn’t expecting that at all… Sarcasm aside, it’s not a face punch of peat, but it’s gently assertive. Fortunately, this isn’t a one note blend and there was more to be found as time passed. Charcoal smoke. There’s a red berry note that is hard to pinpoint but it reminds me of Apple & Eve’s Bert and Ernie Berry juice or raspberry gelato. It has that sweet and tart raspberry character to it. There’s a sweet note far below but I found I could only catch glimpses of it if I inhaled faster than normal (I typically just breathe slowly through my nose above the glass); when I did this, it would separate from the peat and would rise with hints of the berry. There’s a note of birch beer and hints of melon (cantaloupe). With time, the peat becomes less assertive and I pick up some hints of white flesh fruit (maybe more of that apple I’ve found in the other CB blends).
The nose on this blend was an enjoyable experience, much more nuanced than I expected from a scotch bearing this name. That red berry note was enticing and kept me searching for more complexity, and the overall smell experience was nice. The mouth had less complexity and seemed to center around a sweet, malty peat with little else detectable, at least by my palate. Because if this, the Peat Monster experience peaked for me at the nose (which, to be honest, happens with a lot of whiskies).
So exactly how assertive is the peat here? When I pour myself a glass of something called “The Peat Monster”, I have certain expectations. I’m used to scotch like Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Kilchoman that are, to me, peat monsters (though not at all one note whiskies). With that in mind, this isn’t what I would call a “monster” per se, though it’s certainly the most peated of CB’s whiskies. Relative to the rest of CB’s lineup, this is a monster. Relative to the scotch world at large, it is not.
The aforementioned Laphroaig is a monster like Sully from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. It can be scary but it’s also sweet. It might be able to beat up your palate but it won’t; it’s meek (power under control). And because of these characteristics I find Laphroaig wonderfully aggressive and simultaneously approachable, and greatly enjoyable.
The Peat Monster is like a monster from Sesame Street. It is gentle, easy to get along with, and much softer than its name suggests. I don’t find these attributes to detract from the whisky and, in fact, I’m not surprised. Delicate approachability seems to be CB’s style. Where some whiskies do this in a predictable, boring manor, I don’t think The Peat Monster was boring. The mouth may have been less complex than the nose gave hope for but it’s still a good whisky. Like Grover, despite its gentle nature, I found it entertaining.
At an average of $53 a bottle, this wouldn’t be my go-to peated scotch. There are cheaper options that are more to my taste like Laphroaig 10 year ($48) or Quarter Cask (around the same price as the 10 year) or Ardbeg 10 year ($48). I think it’s fair to compare these because while The Peat Monster is a blend, it’s a blended malt. That means it’s only a blend of single malts; no grain whisky added like with Johnnie Walker Black Label (JWBL) or most of the other ubiquitous blends (Famous Grouse, Chivas, Ballentine’s…). If we were comparing blends, regardless of content, I find Peat Monster wholly more enjoyable than JWBL. However, it’s difficult to justify the price difference considering that JWBL goes for $30-$35. If I were to compare it to JW Double Black, which is more fair given that JWDB is JWBL’s more peated brother, I’d probably go with JWDB given the average bottle cost is $35. I’ve only had JWDB once and it was a while ago, but I remember liking it. And for $23 less, I would easily give JWDB a good chance over The Peat Monster.
My overall rating of The Peat Monster is Nip/Bar. I came to this rating because I think it’s worth a try; you may enjoy its gentle Sesame Street monster character over more assertive peat monsters. But I can’t justify recommending a whole bottle given its price compared to cheaper peated scotches that are as good, if not better.