In a world that has been somewhat unchanged for years, John Glaser is beginning to turn some heads. His method is unconventional, although quite common in the wine world. His company, Compass Box, is responsible for producing around 6,000 cases of award winning Scotch a year, with one catch: they don’t make it. The company contracts with about 15 different producers, and blends unique traits from each cask at their warehouse in London, creating a final blend that garners attention. For example, the Spice Tree, a whiskey that was blended and aged in barrels that contained Oak staves to infuse a rich flavor, was deemed impermissible by the Scotch Whiskey Association, and Glaser was forced to discontinue the blend. He laments in the announcement on his website:
Not much we could do at that point, with a gun, (figuratively speaking) pointed at our head. But don’t worry! The good news is we’ve got lots of other whiskies in development. We have no shortage of ideas. And no diminished passion for creating extraordinary and delicious whiskies. Stay tuned.
Glaser kept close ties to his former employer, Diageo brands, producers of Johnny Walker, and his contacts in the industry, giving him an “in” to buy the whiskey’s he blends. A man in his 40’s originally from Minnesota, he has done much to raise awareness of the spirit, helping to showcase a profile that hadn’t really been seen, and it’s beginning to pay off.
Compass Box has won Whisky magazine’s Innovator of the Year award four times in six years, which may say less about the recipient of the award than about the very conservative industry, in which even little innovations make big splashes.