Compass Box Whiskymaker John Glaser intrigues me. He’s an artist, a progressive and innovative thinker, and a creative genius who has gained the respect of the whiskymakers of his generation. He founded the Compass Box Whisky Company in 2000 with the mission to “nurture the roots of tradition in order to grow the possibilities.” He has pushed the limits, raised some eyebrows (remember the Spice Tree controversy?) and explored the full range of Scotch. Bottom line, Compass Box puts out some impressive product – standard bottlings and especially reserves.
And so, our focus for the second in our series of unusual liquors is the Compass Box Orangerie. But as a regular reader, you know we have to give you a little history lesson first!
History of the Orangery
The first orangery is believed to have been constructed in Italy in the mid 1500s. These early orangeries were not nearly as ornate as the ones to follow in the 1700s. They had no heating and relied on open fires to keep the citrus trees warm. By the 17th century the buildings reflected a classic architectural form similar to a greenhouse or conservatory allowing for the growth and protection of delicate citrus and other warm climate plants and trees.
Orangeries became the height of fashion among the elite in the 18th century, especially in Great Britain. Not just a greenhouse, the orangery was a symbol of prestige and wealth. The architecture and design became just as important as the precious fruits within. Often the orangery would contain fountains, grottos, and an area in which to entertain guests in inclement weather.
Two landmark orangeries were built in London: one at Kensington Palace (1705), and one at Kew Gardens (1761). While Sir William Chambers’ design at Kew was at one time the largest glasshouse in England, the light levels were actually too low for success and the building was relegated to housing large plants, not citrus. It was while visiting the orangery at Kew that Compass Box whiskymaker John Glaser found his inspiration for the name of his new whisky infusion – Orangerie.
Compass Box Orangerie
Orangerie is an infusion of Scotch whisky and natural ingredients, specifically orange zest. Compass Box Orangerie begins with a fine whisky – a sweet blend of Highland single malt and single grain whisky from Fife. It is important to note here that Orangerie cannot be refered to as Scotch whisky since it has taken on the flavors of the infusions. And just what are those infusions? Most important is the orange flavor. The highest quality Navalino oranges are zested by hand. No synthetic flavors or oils allowed. Add to that some Indonesian cassia bark and Sri Lankan cloves and you get a smooth, soft blend of happiness in a bottle.
The aroma? Close your eyes and you can smell Christmas spice and orange peel in the glass. The taste? On the front end you get the rich but soft flavor of the whisky followed by hints of vanilla and clove, all wrapped in the essence of orange. You can enjoy this chilled with a twist of fresh orange peel and be quite content. But why stop there? Orangerie is an excellent ingredient for cocktails.
The Southern Kick
We first tasted Orangerie as a cocktail ingredient at one of our favorite haunts – Leon’s Full Service in Decatur. As we are want to do, we asked bar master extraordinaire Miles Maquarrie to surprise us with a drink creation not on the menu. We were delighted when he presented us with his take on a Cameron’s Kick called The Southern Kick.
The Cameron’s Kick recipe does the somewhat unthinkable and mixes equal parts blended Scotch and Irish whiskey, adding in lemon juice and orgeat. The recipe first appeared in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). Maquarrie’s Southern Kick replaces Scotch and Irish whiskey with Bourbon (Buffalo Trace) and the Compass Box Orangerie. The standard orgeat is upgraded to a house-made maple-pecan orgeat. Add some lemon juice and an orange peel and you get one of our favorite cocktails in Atlanta. It is a delicate balance of flavors, smooth, touch of sweet from the maple-pecan orgeat, and the nuances of orange. Just beautiful.
Alas, The Southern Kick is a cocktail that is not on the menu at Leon’s. But that has not stopped us from requesting it many, many times. We can’t make any promises that you can get one, but like my mother used to tell me, “It never hurts to ask.” Your luck will depend on if there is any of the house-made orgeat available.
Compass Box Orangerie retails for around $40, and is available at Tower Wine & Spirits.