Whilst chatting with Jonathan, it was impossible not to be impressed by the brand’s passion for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within the Scotch whisky industry. Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser, who had a wealth of previous experience in both the winemaking and whisky industries.
However, it was the Scotch whisky industry where John felt he found his calling. He believed that too many companies existed making and selling Scotch whisky in exactly the same way. Compass Box was founded to dare to be different; with an unrelenting desire to create unique blends that bring the joy of Scotch whisky to a wider audience.
“Like a chef, our Whiskymaker’s job is to combine various layers of flavour to develop new and exciting blends that could not be created any other way,” said Jonathan.
“We place huge importance on cask creation. Using the highest quality oak direct from leading cooperages allows us to develop a quality and intensity of flavour that would otherwise be impossible.
“It’s not a ‘producing by numbers’ process [here at Compass Box]. We check and select every single cask we use.”
Compass Box market themselves as Scotch ‘Whiskymakers’ – a word they invented themselves to describe their profession and obligation to make things better; to challenge and to experiment.
Interestingly, when we discussed their most popular blends, Jonathan stated that the company doesn’t distil its own whisky: preferring to go out and source fantastic whiskies from all four corners of Scotland.
“Our primary focus is on blending together, marrying the liquids, maturing them and creating complexity of flavour. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a single cask or a larger parcel of whisky, we take the time to find the right components.”
A business home brimming with character
In terms of its long-term base at Chiswick Studios, Jonathan said the company’s initial attraction to the building was that it was close to where owner, John lives in Kew. However, as the brand has grown over time, the flexibility that Workspace has been able to provide has been invaluable in allowing Compass Box to create a working environment that perfectly reflects their ethos.
“Chiswick Studios is in a really convenient location. It’s within close proximity to most of the team and easily accessible by road and rail,” said Jonathan.
“We’re really fortunate in that we were able to secure a characterful business space that helps set a great scene for the brand. It’s also in an area of little pollution, which is great for Gregg, our Whiskymaker, who needs to be able to nose, taste and assess flavours free from outside interference.”
A mandate to make Scotch whisky more accessible
So, what does the future hold for Compass Box? More of the same, says Jonathan, as the business seeks to find new ways to spread the word to new markets and demographics.
“We’re trying hard to make Scotch whisky more accessible. We’re extremely transparent with our customers and it’s our genuine intention to do something different that has resonated so well with our long-standing customer base,” said Jonathan.
“Compass Box is already widely distributed but we will continue to innovate and see where it takes us.”
For novices, what’s the best way to try Scotch whisky?
“There’s no right or wrong way!”, Jonathan says. “Think about how you would usually drink a spirit. If you prefer long drinks we’d recommend enjoying your first Scotch in a high ball glass topped with soda, lime and mint.
“It’s okay to add ice or water; or if you’d rather enjoy it neat then that’s okay too!”
For anyone new to Compass Box blends, which one would you recommend?
“A fantastic place to start for anyone new to our range should be Hedonism. It is actually the world’s first Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, with a rich vanilla, caramel nose that’s the perfect accompaniment to a dinner party dessert. It’s also a brilliant example of the way we marry distilled spirit with high-quality oak maturation.”
Aside from its Signature Range, Compass Box also provides a host of Limited Editions that feature rare or unusual blends, making them highly desirable for those excited to try something new.
“The very nature of the way we work means that we often have Limited Edition blends available and once they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s certainly an air of exclusivity about this range as they offer a fleeting glimpse of whiskies or combinations that will be hard or impossible to repeat in the future,” said Jonathan.
Finally, what advice would you give to any budding food and drink entrepreneurs?
“Get into it with a bigger and better motivation than just making money.' Jonathan says. ‘If you have a genuine passion and interest in your niche this will always shine through in the long run.”
It’s truly inspiring to see a business with such a forward-looking approach to both style and substance. The Compass Box team want to ensure Scotch whisky remains one of the world’s great drinks for generations to come and with their enthusiasm and expertise we’re sure they’ll succeed.
The spacious lofty studios of Chiswick Studios make an ideal base for creative industries, just moments from the restaurants, bars and boutiques of leafy Chiswick and Gunnersbury. If you’d like to work in close proximity to the M4 motorway and Heathrow Airport, whilst maintaining good tube links across the capital, why not arrange a visit of our available spaces today.