I've had the opportunity to taste Hedonism several times recently - particularly paired with Pacari Lemongrass chocolate. When I attended the event at the St. Giles I took the opportunity to pour myself a 50ml sample from Compass Box brand ambassador Robin Robinson's own bottle of Hedonism and I finally got around to pouring it for critical review. That's why I have no bottle pictures - just lots of pics of my dram of Hedonism in the lovely fading light.
Hedonism is, quite famously, a blend of grain whiskies - not malt whisky. That's part of the iconoclastic fun of Compass Box. They turn a lot of things on their heads. Peat Monster is a blend of 3 malts - but only one is from Islay. Orangerie is *gasp* flavored. Spice Tree and Oak Cross use a unique and spicy kind of oak in the barrel finishing. They slaughter sacred cows ruthlessly. Having their highest priced semi-regular expression be a blend of grain whiskies is iconclastic because we've all come to believe grain whisky is cheap - and is what's wrong in cheap blended whisky. We say of a lower quality blend that it tastes "grainy". We praise better blends for their higher percentage of malt (and thus lower percentage of grain). However, as The Scotch Noob pointed out in a recent post called "What does Grain Whisky Taste Like": the problem with cheap blends is CHEAP grain whisky. Good grain whisky is a whole different ballgame.
There are actually a whole bunch of grain whiskies where nicely aged examples can be had that have nice flavors: Invergordon (check out Ralfy video log #256), Carsebridge (Ralfy #255), Cambus, Port Dundas, North British, and Cameronbridge come to mind. However, the business of vatting - blending - them is almost unknown in the current marketplace. Other than Hedonism, only Famous Grouse's Snow Grouse expression is a blended grain whisky - to the best of my knowledge.
So, what's in Hedonism? The contents, according to the Compass Box cut sheet for Hedonism says: "Will vary according to batch but typically whiskies from the following distilleries: Cameron Bridge,
Carsebridge, Cambus, Port Dundas or Dumbarton". That "vary according to batch" part is important. Unlike the other regular issue Compass Box offerings, each bottling run of Hedonism is a one off. When the batch is gone the next batch will be a different blend. FYI - there are two fancier expressions of Hedonism in the Compass Box lineup too: Hedonism 10th Anniversary (120 bottles made worldwide) , and Hedonism Maximus (1500 bottles made worldwide). Good luck finding them. Park Ave Liquors has the Maximus - but it will set you back three benjamins. Let's get on with the tasting:
First fill American oak. Non chill filtered. No colors added.
Color: Pale Gold
Nose: Cocoa butter, white chocolate, unsalted butter/Devonshire cream, oak vanilla, medicinal alcohol, faint citrus (tangerine). Subtle, yet rich and dessert like.
Creamy bright opening with sweetened whipped cream. Then the expansion begins with toasted coconut. A bright brassy note that is hard to put words to: citrus or acid without the acidity. The mouth feel is light but has some oil thickness - it's silky. Then more creamy notes with a big floral bouquet of oak vanilla. Pepper heat arrives late with some warm almost prosciutto fat flavors for a moment, but they disappear as the finish begins. The finish lingers nicely and exceedingly gently: egg custard and birch wood and then finally gentle oak at the fade out.
The dominant impressions here are subtle, off dry, elegant, and tasty. Coconut cream pie eau de vie. This isn't a big booming dram. It's more like a 1000 thread count silk pillow. Silky, rich, buttery, and sweet like a cloud.
Adding a couple of drops of water releases spirit heat in the nose which clears in a moment and amps up the coconut and a slightly meaty and also a slightly herbal note in the nose. The water increases the sense of sweetness as well as the floral and herbal flavors. I'd definitely recommend experimenting and adding 2-3 drops. But be careful - Hedonism is very light and subtle. Only add a little bit of water. Over dilution is just around the corner.
Conclusions: Tasty. Surprising. Eye Opening. Excellent. A whole new world.
Hedonism is $90 at Shopper's Vineyard. It's between $80 and $110 in general. That's pretty expensive. I'm not sure where Hedonism fits on a the value scale. It's a very unusual item. I suggest you try it. If it's your thing, you'll definitely know it.