I bought a bottle last week. Yesterday I poured my first dram of this stuff, here are my findings:
What an esthetically pleasing bottle. The cork has been sealed with wax, which gives it a somewhat nostalgic feel, and the black on black with complementary gold lettering really invites you to this drink. The mellow gold color of the dram is very pleasing too, it definitely looks like Ardbeg.
Incredible. What a nose. An incredible melange of different kinds of smoke. Definitely the peaty smoke of Pier Road, but also a more complex, musty smoke, almost like a smoldering bonfire that's been doused by an autumn rain. Autumn leaves come to mind as well. It's a pretty damp nose at first, but in a very good way. Further nosing leads to the typical Ardbeg-y lime zest and ripe apple/pear notes. There is little to no alcohol on the nose, giving away that this isn't a blend of very young whiskies.
The first taste is a little overwhelming due to its smoky complexity. Besides the smoke, there is a definite nutty flavor at first and a very oily palate. There is also a motor/engine-oilish flavor somewhere in there, which put me off a bit at first but actually works really well with the whisky. A few sips down the line, the complexity starts to clear up as your brain adjusts to the smoke galore. It is then that this whisky really starts to shine. The smoke is still present but starts to give way to citrus fruit, grapefruit, orange peel, ripe apples and a tobacco hint, but also a briny maritime character, which reminded me strongly of sal ammoniac licorice (a popular licorice in the Netherlands). The undertone does bring back memories to Clynelish, with a bitter sweetness, some oranges and leather.
The finish is medium long. The smoke and nuttiness lingers on, with those typical briny licorice and tobacco notes, very warming. A very unusual but undeniably pleasant aftertaste.
This is the stuff that proves the added complexity a blended malt can provide when a connoisseur is in charge of handpicking the barrels. Complex layers of smoke, coastal, bittersweet and damp. If you love Ardbeg, this is an immediate buy. If you love peaty whisky altogether, this is a masterclass in tasting notes and complexity of smoke. Compass Box delivered a massively interesting dram that definitely reminds of Ardbeg, but with added depth and layers.