Tasting a trio of show-stopping whiskies from Compass Box: The Circle, The No Name No. 2, and The Affinity

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A trio of whiskies from Compass Box

Compass Box are whiskymakers who craft whisky by blending whiskies from different distilleries and batches, thereby creating unique flavour profiles from what is essentially a concoction of “ingredient” whiskies. This is the art of whisky blending. Blending to create a whisky that matches the blue print in one’s mind is much harder than it sounds or looks (as I learned aboard the Glenfiddich Whisky Wanderer!). Trying to unpack a whisky blender’s creation is even harder. To help unravel their complex whiskies, though, Compass Box provide a break down of the “ingredients” that go into each of their whiskies. Trying to piece together the puzzle of a Compass Box whisky by smell and taste is, in my experience, a lot of fun.

The newly released trio of limited edition Compass Box whiskies that sit before me ready to be tasted are Compass Box The Circle, Compass Box Affinity, and Compass Box No Name No. 2.

Continue reading “Tasting a trio of show-stopping whiskies from Compass Box: The Circle, The No Name No. 2, and The Affinity”

Old St Andrews “Twilight” 10 year old

Type: Blended Malt Scotch whisky

Origin: Scotland  

ABV: 40% 

Malt Mileage rating: stars 4

Reaction: 😃 Continue reading “Old St Andrews “Twilight” 10 year old”

Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky

Type: Malt blend 

Origin: Scotland 

ABV: 40%

Malt Mileage rating: Stars 3.5

Monkey Shoulder is described as a “triple malt”, presumably because it marries single malt from three distilleries which are located in Scotland’s Speyside region.  This means that Monkey Shoulder is all malt whisky, and there is no grain whisky in its recipe. Continue reading “Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky”

Compass Box Flaming Heart Limited Edition (2015)

Flaming heart

Recommended use: Serve neat

Rating: ★★★★★ Top pick

Recommendation: Buy it

Type: Scotch malt blend

Origin: Scotland

ABV: 48.9%

Compass Box Flaming Heart Limited Edition (2015) is a blend of malt whiskies including 38.5% 14 year old Caol Ila, 27.1% 30 year old Caol Ila, 24.1% 20 year old Clynelish and 10.3% seven year old blended malt from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine.

Nose:

Vanilla, caramels, waxy green apples, grape lip gloss and honeycomb add some sweetness to what is otherwise a very complex bouquet of old whisky with a beating heart of smoky Coal Ila malt; find a whole workman’s shop, textiles, freshly varnished wood and saw dust. Some of the peat is softened and refined from many years in oak, while the rest is younger and carries more vibrant maritime qualities. A fascinating medicinal note hits my nose mostly in the form of cough drops and menthol chest rub, with a minty burst; but as the whisky rests the smell of sweet and sour barbecue pork with dried orange zest and pineapple leaps out and stays.

Taste:

Like smoking the butt of a heaven sent but dry and flaky Cuban cigar, burning embers and ash carrying the taste of tar and spicy wood spark to life on the palate. There is the taste of a smoldering hot barbecue, and peat smoke gives way to dry apple cider. Oysters Kilpatrick seem to be pronounced, with spicy Worcestershire sauce and smoky bacon, and, a dollop of barbecue sauce.  With that taste of oyster is the faint bite of rock salt, perfect.  This beautiful whisky is spicy, sweet, smoky and downright delicious. Also find cinnamon, dried orange zest and mango skins.

Finish:

The finish is smoky with barbecue, dried cranberries, drying peat, dark chocolate, wood, roasted hazelnuts, lingering spice and a resurgence of that herbal menthol and minty note detected on the nose. 

Overall:

Buy it!  The Compass Box Flaming Heart Limited Edition (2015) is the kind of whisky we all dream about, but rarely have the opportunity to taste; it is basically a Frankenstein of a whisky with a number of different component parts which combine to electrify the palate with lots of smoke, spice, old wood, refined and aged peaty malt, younger peaty malt, herbs and mild medical notes. This very special whisky melds the finest qualities of young and old whisky to create a seasoned peat head’s fantasy, all designed and brought to life by Compass Box; all the bottle needs is two bolts on either side of its neck.

Compass Box The Lost Blend (Bottled 2014)

lost blend

Rating: ★★★★★

Origin: Scotland

Type: Blended malt 

ABV: 46%

Limited to 12,018 bottles, Compass Box The Lost Blend is a Scotch malt blend comprised of whisky from two Highland distilleries (Clynelish and Allt-A-Bhainne) and one Islay distillery (Coal Ila). It is marketed as a revived version of the Compass Box Eleuthera, which was a blend the company ceased to produce in 2004 because the whiskies that made up the blend were no longer available. Times have changed, and it seems that Compass Box got its hands on malt whiskies that can reproduce some of the flavours of the Eleuthera. The whisky, being a recreation of what was once lost, is appropriately named after O. Henry’s “The Lost Blend” , which was published in 1907. 

Nose:

There is so much happening in this bouquet, it makes me stroke my strangely (for an Italian) Scottish looking red beard and ponder at the masterful blending that has gone into creating this Scotch whisky. The aromas are creamy and textured, with notes of vanilla ice cream, rum and raisin, melting tartufo and cherry ripe. Green Sicilian olives in lemon then emerges with ruby grapefruit, fresh orange segments (as they would be devoured at the half time of  football game), lemon and lime leaf, allspice, white pepper, bakery spices, fresh mint, spearmint, fresh parsley, caramels and, lush grassy notes. The peat is infused with soft creamy vanilla and sugars, which seems to create a fresh mint note with faint hints of honey and lemon cough drops.

Palate:

On the palate the whisky offers a lovely mouth-feel, and as it sits on the tongue the taste of a dark herbal organic honey is most prominent, and as it slowly fades a host of other notes come out from the sticky layer of that delicious honey – mint and mixed fresh herbs, citrus, vanillas, green pear, cinnamon, dusty nutmeg and sour apple flavoured hard candy. This is not peat as it is commonly known.   

Finish:

The spices tingle with the soft glow of honey, as a soft hue of creamy vanilla, raisin, and sliced Granny Smith apples offer a drying finale, which is both sweet and sour. 

Bottom line:

Buy it, if it is within your budget. The Lost Blend is a whisky that is a must try for any whisky aficionado well versed in Scotch whisky from Islay and the Highlands. Despite the Coal Ila in this blend, there did not appear to be any kick of famous Islay peat or coastal flair common among island whiskies. Instead, the peaty Coal Ila whisky merged with the Highland whiskies from Allt-A-Bhainne and Clynelish to create a unique flavour profile that is neither emblematic of a peaty Islay whisky or an unpeated Highlander. This whisky, with its lovely dark honey and herbal notes especially, is a distinctive and very interesting dram. It is highly recommended.