Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #222

Compass Box Canto Cask 6
Blended/Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky

53.1% abv


As this is effectively the first week in the second year (!) of Malt Missions, I think we will commemorate with an interest of mine: we will celebrate the craft of the whisky blender. This will be a week of blended whiskies (and blended malt whiskies), the whiskies that get such a bad rap from "discerning amateurs" and are rarely given the credit they are due. Never forget that if it were not for the popularity of blends worldwide we would have lost many more Rosebanks, Broras, Port Ellens, Glenglassaughs, Lochsides, Carsebridges, etc., over the years. Bullocks to Blends?

This is the UK release (exclusive to Britain) from the Canto Cask series of whiskies from Compass Box, a series that has been nominated for one of Kevin Erskine's (The Scotch Blog) 2007 Drammies. Go vote for John... and if you feel like it, support Dr. Whisky in the Best New Product (non-whisky) category as well!

We tasted Canto Cask 46 (for the US market) back at Malt Mission #207 where you can find more info about the idea and composition behind the range. This canto is from French oak to a level-7 toast. With the 46, I made comparisons between John Glaser's Cantos and those of Ezra Pound. Without spending too much time, let's see if we can find any resonance between the three Canto 6s in Dante's Divine Comedy and Compass Box's Canto 6.

Critics have attributed Dante's appreciation of symmetry to the thematic alignment of Canto 6 in Inferno, Puragtrio, and Paradiso. They can all be read as political commentaries touching on Roman and regional Italian (1300s) political situations, addressing characters who are just among those who are corrupt, and calling for justice and civic renewal. Okay, it works in a poem, but can whisky EVER be political? Is whisky ALWAYS political? Some would say the the suppression of the production of this spirit, an economic and ecological way to use up excess or inedible grains, in Scotland and America over the past centuries makes it a powerful symbol of freedom in modern times. Some would say, "bullshit! Tear that stillhouse down!"

In Inferno, we have a very Scottish scene: gluttons lying in mud under cold rain and hail. That pretty much summarizes my years in Edinburgh... or at least most of the late Friday nights. Anyways, enough. I am having fun but it must be a bore to read. Moving on, then...

All proceeds from the sale of this whisky are being donated to Cancer Research UK. Please see Compass Box for more whisky stuff. Please see the excellent DanteWorlds(really amazing resource) at The University of Texas for more poetry stuff.


Immediately varnished, slightly medicinal and pharmaceutical, "and deeper plagues their deadly stores disclose"(C.6, Inferno). Sweet, with some Egg Nog and spice, but "foul steams arise and fill the troubled sphere,"(C.6, Inferno) with loads of a processed earthiness: cardboard, coal, and mosquito repellant. Needless to say the higher abv% initially speaks with the loudest voice, but with time, that alcoholic impression gives way to a sumptous balance of creamy sweetness (peach Campinos) and oaky dryness.

Soft, then hot and sweet, like teething a freshly charred marshmallow off a stick at a campfire. Carmelised shallots, crisy bits of steak fat. Sweet and meaty. Toasty and kind of sherried. Organic black licorice. Very drying with impressions of a wet wood kitchen cutting board. Long and oaky.


Another oddity from Compass Box that is challenging, complex, extremely tasty, and remarkably unique. The drying finish weighs a bit too much on the oak for my tastes but this is a whisky that would appeal to those who like dry sherry-type of impressions in their malts. Would be excellent in a (posh) winter-themed cocktail. Totally drinkable straight and at strength, though, just give it a chance for the alcohol to flash-off (ie. let it sit in a glass for a bit).

Malt Mission #221
Malt Mission #223
Malt Mission #224
Malt Mission #225

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