I have been moaning for quite some time now about the vast numbers of ‘luxury’ whiskies being released on the market which seemed to be more about the packaging and brand image than the product inside. To my mind, the word ‘luxury’ implied an element of quality or craftsmanship to justify the ridiculously high price tag. Compass Box’s new release inspired me to do a bit of research into what ‘luxury’ actually means, in the literal sense, and I must say I was surprised.
I checked 3 different English dictionaries; Chambers, Collins and the OED (I studied languages, I have a lot of dictionaries in the house) and not one of them mentions the word ‘quality’ in the definition. Expensive, rich, indulgent, yes. But not a word about being quality. I even checked the French Petit Robert and Spanish Santillana dictionaries (told you I had a lot of dictionaries) but no mention of quality there either. So I was wrong. Turns out a whisky doesn’t need to be quality at all to describe itself as luxury - a high price tag alone is justification enough it seems if we follow the dictionary definition.
In that sense then, Compass Box’s new release may not be considered ‘luxury’ - it’s £150 price tag, while not cheap, is fairly tame compared to many whiskies on the market these days.
The good thing about dictionaries though, is that they generally offer more than one definition. Another definition of ‘luxury’ is ‘something that is pleasant and enjoyable but not essential’. This definition pleases me a lot more. By that token, any whisky that brings enjoyment can be called ‘luxury’ regardless of how much, or how little, it costs. Of course, the question of whether it brings enjoyment or pleasure or not depends entirely on the individual, so everyone will have a different idea of what a ‘luxury’ whisky is to them.
So, by my reckoning, if you like Compass Box’s new release then it is a luxury whisky. If you don’t like it, it’s not. Simple! The same logic could apply for any whisky from the cheapest blend, to the most expensive single malt. Luxury, like beauty, would appear to be in the eyes of the beholder.
Whisky Impressions is run by Kate Watt. Previously at Springbank and then Glenfarclas, I now design some whisky related stuff and write about it, and anything else that takes my fancy, on this blog.