It’s not a revelation to anyone who’s visited my house that I have a thing about some of BrewDog’s beers. If you are a long-term reader of this blog (hi mum!), you will probably realise this too, even if in more recent times I’ve not said much about them. Unfortunately this is a sign of their success, as they’ve become more ubiquitous and part of the establishment – the kind of thing that new-thing-loving bloggers like myself drink more than write about. However, they recently sent me a bottle of beer, so it’d be rude not to say a word or two about it, especially as I’ve already picked up a couple of bottles of it for my stash. The beer in question: Paradox Compass Box.
The idea behind Paradox is quite simple: take a big, strong imperial stout and stick it in a whisky cask for a bit. I’ve heard times bandied around from three months to a year, depending on how the cask influences the beer, but the aim seems to be to create a distinctive beer that is different from the others in the range. My occasional Paradox acquisitions have shown varying levels of success on that front, with some beers differing mildly in a batch variation kind of way, whereas others (more noticeably the beers matured in casks that previously held smoky whisky) are more different.
Beers from the Paradox series have only appeared in passing a couple of times here on the blog (back in 2009 and 2011), despite my having many of them sat on my shelf. The reason why they are sitting on my shelf rather than in my belly (or in past-me’s belly) is that I’ve found they do well with some time in the bottle. They’re big beers, and some time sat on the side lets them contemplate their existences for a bit, helping them to mellow out and become more integrated. While they’ve had up to a year of maturation in cask already, some extra time without that influence has definitely helped some of them, although quite a few (I’m looking at you Paradox Heaven Hill) have come out very well right from the off.
If you have somehow not heard of Compass Box, they’re a boutique whisky blender who produce some of the whisky-geeks’ favourite blends and blended malts. My first whisky post on this blog was about Hedonism, their blended grain whisky, and over the years I’ve loved pretty much every whisky they’ve produced.
The Compass Box folks told me that Great King Street casks with new French oak ends were the ones that BrewDog used. Great King Street was their first blended whisky, only released back in 2011 – all of their previous blended whiskies have been blended malts and grains, rather than a blend of both – and uses an array of different casks. You can read more about it over in this post I wrote at work. As the casks have new French oak ends, it sounds like it could be the ones used to mature the Highland component of the whisky, similar to the ones that they also use for Oak Cross and Spice Tree. So, these could well be spicy Clynelish casks, based on some wild guesses about what might be in the whisky…
On the nose it’s obviously a bit of a beast, with a thick Marmite streak studded with raisins, leather and a touch of rubber – almost a hint of medicinal smoke. It’s almost all umami, with a bit of stewed fruit behind. On the palate, it’s thick with some obvious oak influence – damp wood and barrel char bitterness. However, it’s still a strong dark beer, with some residual dried fruit sweetness and the umami hinted at by the nose: burnt beefy bits and Marmite. It hangs around for a bit, with sweet raisins quickly turning to damp wood and bitter char.
All in all, this is one that I think needs to sit around for a bit. It’s rich, oaky and fruity already, but it doesn’t all feel pulled together yet. I’m hoping that some time in the bottle will allow the more charred parts of the oak aging to calm down, and that more of the fruitiness I’ve found in other Paradoxes will come out. Fortunately, I have a shelf full of Paradox bottlings to keep the Compass Box happy. Hopefully, one day soon I’ll convince myself that drinking them is better than looking at them.
BrewDog Paradox Compass Box
Whisky-cask Aged Imperial Stout, 15%. ~£10 for a 330ml bottle
Thanks to BrewDog for the sample bottle