Thursday, March 13, 2014

A whisky that stopped the world for 90 minutes - Compass Box The General...

THE GENERAL - 1926 Silent Film directed by Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton...  

Voted one of the greatest US filmmakers of all times. His "shtick" ► The art of deadpan delivery combined with physical comedy. He appeared in over 100 different movies during the span of his long career and his movie "The General" is listed as the 18th on the 100 best American movies ever made.

When the news came out in November of 2013 that Compass Box was releasing The General, I was thrilled to hear that a limited amount would be coming to Canada and then the news came that I would be receiving a bottle. Can you say "truly blessed". 

Flash forward to March 12th, 2014. We have just got home from work, it's Graham's 35th birthday and he's outside on the front lawn playing with the dogs for a few minutes while I make us some coffee.  For those of you who don't know my husband very well, he's a very old soul. He really should have been born in the era of the 30-40's. Graham loves classic movies like Casablanca, an American in Paris, Lawrence of Arabia and many more. He prefers the simple things in life, the era where you made your own snowshoes, planted your garden or listened to jazz on the radio (all things he does). 

As I watched him jumping around dressed in his Scottish tweed jacket and hand knit tuque that belonged to his grandfather I was once again reminded how much I appreciate that he's a classic in his own rights. I knew I wanted us to share a special dram for his birthday so I went and got my bottle of The General, placed it on the kitchen table and knocked on the front window. He came over quizzically. I got my camera ready and pointed to the bottle on the table.  This is the shot I got: 

Needless to say he was plenty shocked and extremely excited that we would be opening that bottle for his birthday. I didn't realize until after we sat with our drams how appropriate the whisky and moment would be. Much later on that evening when we were huddled on the couch with two glencairns, Graham passed me the bottle. I passed it back to him and said: "No, it's your birthday, you get to open it".  

"Really??" Another huge smile then he poured us each a healthy dram. Another few moments captured by the camera.  

We lifted our glasses and toasted each other at 11:00pm. We just sat there, smelling the whisky for the first 10 minutes while Graham read the back of the bottle. I tend to move to tasting much faster most of the time and this was no different. We nosed and sipped the whisky and it wasn't until Graham savored the last few drops that we realized it was 12:30am. We had nosed/drank the whisky over the course of 90 minutes and had not a care in the world. As we fell into bed, he kissed my forehead. "That was the best birthday dram ever".

Ladies & gentlemen, I give you: COMPASS BOX THE GENERAL, BOTTLE #957 of 1698.  Non-chill filtered, natural color, bottled at 53.4% ABV.

Color: Walnut wood! Dark, antique brown.  Legs slow, lazy and almost syrupy in nature.

Nose: So rich and full on the nose it makes your mouth water. Smells of rich red plums, an old library with big leather chairs & long wooden tables. As it sits in the glass and opens I get rum soaked golden sultanas or a rich rum cake.

Palate: Oily, full bodied dram.  Almost "meaty" and chewable. Detectable stewed fruit some hints of light cooking spices like ginger and cinnamon. As the whisky opens a bit, I can detect some woody components as it's a bit drying on the swallow but it's the balance of sweet and meaty that really makes this special for me.

Finish: Just as you swallow there's a hint of sour wood, almost "pithy" a bit like a lemon, then the lovely spicy heat as it lingers for what seems like 5 minutes. It's almost silky and you certainly don't feel like you are drinking a whisky that is almost 55% ABV.

Empty glass: This morning when I uncovered the glencairn a very distinct smell of lemon furniture polish hit me. Waxy, sweet and citrus.  wow...

It wasn't until I nosed the glass this morning that I really had a chance to reflect on the whisky and the moment yesterday. People might think others are crazy to pay $260 for a blended whisky. Me, I'm a live and let live kinda guy, errr I mean girl. If you like a whisky and you have the means to pay for it, why not buy it especially if it's something you really enjoy. 

Compass Box calls this release a whisky with an "antique" character.  For me, it was more than that. It was a whisky that brought me back in time. There are speculations that some of the whisky is 40 years old in this bottle. I'm sure it's a complete coincidence that Buster Keaton passed away not long before that. Funny how in 2014 they both find themselves showcased on/in the same bottle. Only seems fitting since both of these will be remembered as legendary.

After enjoying my first dram of The General, I would have to say John Glaser brilliantly created something that doesn't quite exist in the world of blended whiskies and I for one have never tasted anything else like this. There is more than old whisky in this bottle. There is nostalgia, history, simpler times and quality! 

It's a whisky I see myself sipping at when I've had the day from hell and I simply need a reminder of what I am grateful for in my life. A dram that will stop the world from spinning and let me slow down & enjoy the moment. 

I will fondly remember watching how happy Graham was to open this bottle, savoring it together on a cold stormy winter night in March and most of all how much pleasure it brought me to share it with someone so special. Happy Birthday my dear...  

The General is completely sold out in Canada and was released in the USA at the beginning of March 2014. It is still available in some parts of the UK as well. If you love Compass Box as much as I do, you may want to consider buying this one before it's completely gone.



  1. Quick question for you if you don't mind:

    When you say you found out you'd be receiving a bottle - does this mean as a gift? You have very kind family or friends that would purchase you such a limited bottling.

    1. I do have wonderful family & friends. This one was indeed purchased for me as a Christmas gift. The only issue was being patient enough to wait. I had to have it brought down from Alberta from a friend who works in Fort McMurray. He doesn't come home on a regular basis so I was really happy when it finally arrived.