I believe this was the 5th edition of Compass Box’s Flaming Heart, released in 2015 to commemorate their 15th anniversary. I’ve had earlier editions of Flaming Heart and quite enjoyed them—I still have one unopened bottle; not sure which release it is, but it was purchased in 2012. Anyway, this edition is said to contain 27.1% 30 yo Caol Ila from a refill bourbon hogshead, 24.1% 20 yo Clynelish from a rejuvenated bourbon hogshead, 38.5% 14 yo Caol Ila from a refill ex-bourbon hoghshead and 10.3% of a 7 yo blend of Highland malts from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine that came out of some cask with French oak involvement. So officially this is 7 yo whisky for $140 (the price at release) and don’t let the fancy decimal points distract you from that. I kid, I kid: they could easily have left out that 10.3% and asked for even more money for this. That said, I’m not quite as enamoured of Compass Box’s whiskies as many whisky geeks. As I’ve said before, I can never quite shake the feeling that their bespoke presentation and ability to speak in the language of whisky geeks has a lot to do with their reception. That said, I did like the 10th anniversary Peat Monster a lot and I hope this will be in that vein. Let’s see.
Compass Box Flaming Heart, 15th Anniversary (48.9%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Sweet, mild peat at first sniff; gets briny fast and the phenols begin to pop out as well along with some preserved lime. Water pulls out more of the citrus—lemon now—along with cereals; the peat gets dialed down and less phenolic.
Palate: Starts out mild here too but picks up intensity fast with pepper and increasingly ashy smoke. On the second sip the smoke is quite bitter, somewhere between tarry and vegetal (artichoke). The salt and citrus are there in the background as well. Less bitter and a little sweeter with water and there’s some wood smoke mixed in with the peat now.
Finish: Long. The smoke gets quite tarry as it goes. The salt pops out again at the end. With more time the citrus emerges here as well, but now it’s bitter lemon rind rather than preserved lime. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is very fine peated whisky but its composition seems like a complicated way to get to a not very unusual end. I liked it better with water. Both ways I would have liked a little more fruit to pull it towards the next tier.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Matt G. for the sample. (Read his review here.)