Boys you can break,
You find out how much they can take,
Boys will be strong, boys soldier on,
But boys would be gone without one thing...
... a woman's good, good heart.
Grain whisky is typically produced in continuous column stills, which can purify the distillate to a rather insane (compared to multiple runs in a pot still) 94-plus percent ABV. That's close to the natural limit of modern distillation techniques, and the resulting spirit tends to be very fine, sweet, and "neutral" ethanol. That ethanol is aged in oak barrels like any other Scotch whisky, and over time the alcohol evaporates faster than the water which brings down the proof (water is frequently added before bottling to accomplish this as well). This is not at all unlike the production processes behind many Irish, Canadian, and American whiskies. In fact, you'll notice that blended whiskies naturally deliver that desired "smoothness" that many American whisky drinkers swear by. That could be part of the reason that the vast majority of Scotch whisky sold is actually bottled and sold in the form of blends.
I'm not sure what I expected from a grain whisky, especially unmalted barley, but it wasn't this. The comparison to other distilled spirits (tequila, cognac) is as apt as it is curious, and the oak influence - apart from the bourbon and vanilla notes - really doesn't make its presence known. It's good whisky, great even (as long as you weren't expecting Springbank or Aberlour) and I'm thinking I'm always going to try to have a bottle on hand for educational purposes. Hedonism really isn't all about the glory of grain whisky, it's about showcasing grain whisky's contribution in a solid way. If you can find, it is worth the exploration and the understanding. Plus, in an age when whisky prices are running amok, Compass Box tends to be something of a steal.