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Compass Box Whisky

Jeff Harris A Magic Cask

Photo: Jeff Harris

The folks at the independent whisky company Compass Box are alchemists: They make malt magic. The seven-year-old company, headed up by whisky maker John Glaser and managing director Robbie Millar, previously mixed some of the market’s most exciting releases in a cramped London office, where whisky samples were stacked to the ceiling. As its renown grew and awards poured in, Compass Box moved upward, but it’s like a great indie-rock band: Success has meant better production skills but no compromise on quality.

So good has the company become at its art that its releases are in on the magic act—now you see them, now you don’t. Whisky lovers will have to work hard to get hold of the latest creation, but they won’t be disappointed. Compass Box has concocted a masterpiece—or, more accurately, masterpieces. The range, newly named Canto Cask, is a release of sixteen single casks, all at full strength, each destined for a different country.

The magic of Canto resides in a highly unusual final maturation process. After the mix of Highland malts has been aged to the highest standard, it’s poured into a cask made of virgin French sessile oak, the finest available. Different levels of toasting are used on the wood, so each cask is different. The whisky is further matured for a minimum of eighteen months. The United States has been assigned cask number forty-six (fifty casks were poured, the best sixteen selected), and of the five outstanding Cantos I’ve tried, it’s the best, all zesty citrus notes, fresh maltiness and a tangy richness as clean as a Speyside stream in spring. You’ll find it at Park Avenue Liquors ($65, 212-685-2442, parkaveliquor.com), but if you can’t get a bottle of forty-six, go for any of the others. I’m sure you’ll agree: total magic.

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