Compass Box Transistor and Punk IPA

Compass Box Transistor and Punk IPA

The boilermaker. An annoying name for a tradition as old as modern whisky – drinking it alongside a beer. With BrewDog having expanded into spirit-making and continuing to grow its bar estate, it was only a matter of time before it got in on the action. While this isn’t the first time they’ve done whisky and beer stuff, it’s certainly the most concerted effort – three whiskies, from three producers, each matched with a BrewDog beer. I’m not a big fan of two of the three, but the third I’m quite partial to: Compass Box Transistor paired with Punk IPA.

BrewDog Boilermakers

While the traditional boilermaker wasn’t something that was thought about enough to find a complementary beer and whisky match, we’re now in a flavour-obsessed future and it’s all about the pairing.

BrewDog has worked with boutique blender Compass Box, Scottish independent bottler Duncan Taylor and Dutch distiller Zuidam to produce three whiskies, each of which pairs up with one of the brewer’s headline beers:

  • Compass Box Transistor with Punk IPAIf you wan
  • Zuidam Torpedoed Tulip (a spicy rye whiskey – one of Zuidam’s specialities) with Dead Pony Club pale ale.
  • Duncan Taylor Skeleton Key (a smoky blended malt) with Jet Black Heart stout.

When they came out, I headed down to my local BrewDog to try them, and was fairly unimpressed with the Zuidam and Duncan Taylor whiskies – they both worked quite well with the beers, amplifying and contrasting flavours in appropriate fashion – but the drams themselves didn’t really hold up. Transistor, however, was a different matter.

Compass Box Transistor X BrewDog Punk IPA

Nose: Butterscotch and vanilla toffee, and a touch of spiced apple ready to go in an apple pie – an uncooked Granny Smith, sliced and dusted with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. A hint of candied lemon leads into fruit jellies and sultanas. Shortbread and brown butter develop.

Palate: Slightly thin with a lot of vanilla to start. Gets richer, with butter, almonds, butterscotch and sharp-but-thick apple sauce. Candied peel and fruity jelly appears with cream and some gently tingly spice. A touch of dry oakiness sits right at the back.

Finish: Almonds and spice – cinnamon nut brittle.

Punk IPA then Transistor: the Punk emphasises the candied fruit and creamy elements of the whisky.

Transistor then Punk IPA: the whisky kills the fruitiness of the Punk and most of its interest. Chase the beer with the whisky, not the other way around.


As a long-running Compass Box fanboy – my proper first post, almost 10 years ago, was about Compass Box Hedonism – I’ve been slightly disappointed by some of its most recent releases. However, Transistor is very much a straight down the line CB blend, invoking the things that made me like Great King Street and its variants, while also fulfilling the boilermaker brief.

It also looks really pretty…

I don’t think it has quite the tropical fruit character that Compass Box boast of in the official tasting notes, but it is run through with fruit in the way that I seem to demand from whisky these days. It also doesn’t shy away from first-fill bourbon cask vanilla and spice – the tell-tale signs of modern whisky, which this most definitely is.

Transistor is now my go-to dram in BrewDog bars. I don’t often stray from their beer offering, but as they do a £5 deal for a schooner of Punk with a dram on the side, I am occasionally tempted.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a BrewDog shareholder and get a discount in BD bars. I suspect the company is never going to pay a dividend, so you may drink its beer safe in the knowledge that you will not be affecting my material circumstances.

Caperdonich 18 Year Old – Peated

Caperdonich 18 Peated Secret Speyside Collection

Travel retail, the artist formerly known as duty free, is a strange place. From the ridiculously high-end to the cheap and cheerful, you normally have to do a bit of digging to find something that is both of interest and in your price bracket. It’s a useful place for companies to try out new ideas, and I tried one of those on my most recent trip through Heathrow. It was part of the new Secret Speyside range of whiskies from Pernod Ricard: a rare official bottling of Caperdonich 18 Year Old with a twist – it’s peated.

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Glen Grant 1956 62 Years Old – Mr George Centenary

Glen Grant 1956 Mr George Centenary

Gordon & MacPhail is well known for having some of the best stocks in the whisky industry. The company’s Elgin warehouses are filled with ridiculous whiskies from over the past at least 75 years, with rumours abound of more ancient things hiding in the darkness. This is all thanks to the Urquhart family’s long-standing approach of laying things down for the future, which really came into its own under the stewardship of George Urquhart, son of John, the first member of the family to run G&M.

This year, 2019, is the centenary of his birth, and to celebrate Gordon & MacPhail have released a new whisky, from George Urquhart’s favourite distillery and with enough tie-in numbers to make the most jaded marketing twitch with joy – Mr George Centenary Glen Grant 1956 62 Years Old.

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Iron Root Republic Icarus 2019 Straight Corn Whiskey

Ironroot Republic

Ironroot Republic is a distillery that I have been much impressed by. From its Texas Legation bourbon, bottled specially for Berry Brothers & Rudd, to Hubris corn whiskey, I’ve not had a bad drop. However, despite generally offering a Texan twist on more traditional styles of American whiskey, they’re not afraid to experiment. This is definitely one of those experiments: the 2019 release of Ironroot Republic Icarus.

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Heaven Hill 2001-2015 Sherry Cask – Malts of Scotland

Malts Of Scotland

Scotch whisky and American whiskey have an interesting relationship. Ideas have bounced back and forth for years, with emigrants from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England taking whisky to the new world, and everything from grain and casks to tips and tricks flowing back across the Atlantic in the years since – a process sometimes called bourbonisation. But sometimes it needs an outside influence to make something a bit different – step forward German bottler Malts of Scotland and this whiskey, part of a series finished in non-traditional casks: Heaven Hill 2001 matured in a sherry cask.

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The Holy Dram IL Inchmoan 2004

Holy Dram Inchmoan 2004

Last month, this blog turned nine years old. While that’s a scary thing in of itself (I’ve been writing about booze for about a quarter of my life), it also shows me how long it’s been since I first met (at least virtually) some of the folks in the whisky blogging world. I’ve known Gal Granov from WhiskyIsrael for almost a decade and now, after years of me sending him whisky from work, he has returned the favour and sent me a sample of a dram that he’s bottled – The Holy Dram Inchmoan 2004.

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Singleton of Dufftown Malt Master’s Selection

Singleton Malt Master's Selection

The Singleton range of whiskies is a monster. I don’t mean that in a necessarily bad way, but like many monsters it is misunderstood, not particularly appreciated and big. Probably too big. However, after a promise of demonsterification a few years ago, it looks like we might finally be making progress. Step one, simplify the range and launch a new entry level bottle – introducing The Singleton Malt Master’s Selection.

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