Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Compass Box Canto Cask 46
Blended/Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky
This is part of the Cantos Cask range from Compass Box Whisky Company. These are 16 single cask, cask strength whiskies that are, in effect, variations on a theme, or as John Glaser writes, "a canto within a poem." Using the same malt whiskies (Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuaine) Glaser has created 16 unique malt whiskies for different corners of the world. Each bottling has been selected by local importers and have exclusive availability within those markets (thus qualifying for my internationally-themed weeks here on the Malt Mission). This one was chosen by Park Avenue Liquor and is only available in the USA.
A 'canto' is a song or a division of a long poem used by many poets throughout our literary history. Dante uses the form in his Divine Comedy but I have spent more time with another 'infernal' canto-user, Ezra Pound. I have worked with The Cantos of Ezra Pound for years and would be hard pressed to name anything pleasurable after them. Even Pound grew to see them as a failure. They were never decisively completed, and Pound himself admitted he had 'botched' The Cantos, writing in the final 'complete' Canto (116):
Beauty is not the madness
Tho' my errors and wrecks lie about me.
And I am not a demigod,
I cannot make it cohere.
Pound uses many different 'tools' available to the poet to construct his epic: different languages, verse forms, musical and ideogram notations, etc. Without getting too ostentatious, but feeling the need to make some connection here, John Glaser has similarly used different tools of whisky-making available to him, creating new forms. For the canto range each cask held the same malt whisky, but for the last 18 months the whiskies were aged in a range of different new oaks, both French and American, toasted to variable levels. For Canto 46, the oak is French and toasted to the level '7' (the range within the Canto series is from 4-9).
Pound's Canto 46 is part of the Fifth Decad of Cantos and addresses themes of usury, banking and credit, economic obsessions of Pound's. 46 follows a well-known Canto, Pound's 'litany against usury', "With Usura":
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
(45, ll. 37-40)
Enough. Let's get to the whisky and celebrate a product of Glaser's unrusted (and well-priced) craftsmanship. All Compass Box whiskies had on the mission can be viewed HERE.
Dessert at a candlelit dinner. Soft smoky atmosphere with vanilla, and Honey Nut Cheerios. Firm, hard, strong oak presence in a whisky that, in spite of the abv%, allows deep, prickle-free nosing. The inside of a Mars bar, dish-drying towel moisture and scents(sense?) of cleanliness. Lots of oak influence and a touch of cantaloupe (hehe, CANTOloupe... sorry), the seedy bit.
Big bourbony opening with the gorgeous Clynelish shining through, becoming toasty, smoky, and caramelised. Apples and honey, apples with bitter skin, or grapeskin... late flavours of licorice root and honey-sweetened fennel tea. Tingling. Oaky.
Single malt whisky snobs of the world, give it up; Compass Box adds (due) credibility to the art of blending and John Glaser has yet to misfire on a single creation (that he let's us taste). Great development in the mouth, engaging. Water is not necessary but unleashes more oily, waxy vanilla notes, perfumy spice like walking past LUSH, and baked elements in the nose as well as adding cumin seeds and peanuts on the palate. Not rich in a traditional sense. If 'rich' can mean a whisky that is oily, spicy, and sherried, this whisky abandons the sherry and allows a small serving (milk on porridge) creaminess, while the spice spits song. That kind of rich. Big and packing a lot of flavour into a very approachable dram. Very much an apertif style malt whisky with the fennel-y pastis flavours enhancing my appetite. But of course, I haven't had breakfast yet, so perhaps anything would rouse an appetite...
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