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”

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 Hedonism Quindecimus

HedonismQuindecimus

Rating: ★★★★

Recommendation: Buy it

Type: Single grain whisky

Origin: Scotland

ABV: 57%

Reaction: 🙂

Nose:

Wood vanilla, varnished pine, white paint and plaster, gooey salted caramel, coconut, cherry ripe, cinnamon, a bag of oranges, and, rum and raisin. 

Taste:

Salted caramel, chocolate, warming spices, cinnamon, pepper and lots of zesty orange. The taste is also strikes me as quite rummy and brandy-like, the initial taste of Cognac fades into sugar rum notes. It is a little drying, more of an English style rum than Spanish or Navy style. 

Finish: 

Candied orange zest, date and cinnamon scone linger with butter, warming spices and clove. After these flavours fade, find cracked pepper and lemon. 

Bottom line: 

Buy it. This is a warming and spice filled single grain whisky bursting with character, especially salted caramel and candied orange zest. My immediate temptation is to smuggle a sample of this fine dram into a chocolate shop, unbuckle my belt, and endevaour to find  its chocolaty soul mate.  A superb product. 

Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend

glasgowblend

Rating: ★★★

Origin: Scotland

Type: Blended whisky

ABV: 43%

Having produced the downright delectable Great King Street Artists Blend, Compass Box have seemingly decided to keep pushing the boundaries and produce a more full bodied blend that appears to be aimed at satisfying the Glaswegian palate. The aptly named Great King Street Glasgow Blend is intended to be a fuller bodied whisky with peat and sherry notes.  

Nose:

At first it is fiery with pepper and undertones of dried red chilies, reminding me of the smell of red charcoals burning bright in a Tandoori oven as the drying sherry is almost steamy and vaporous. The malt and peat are nicely integrated with the other aromas, and sitting behind the bittersweet smell of dark chocolate nonpareils are mild coastal and winy notes that meld grass and sea – mussels in a white wine cream sauce and chives comes to mind.      

Palate:

The taste of chocolate is soon accompanied by sweet sherry and maraschino cherries, and the peat then takes a more dominant role after a few moments as a grassiness emerges with white wine and a distant coastal note. The sherry is both sweet and drying.  

Finish:

The finish presents with sweet drying sherry, with lingering grassy notes and steamy alcohol vapours as the aftertaste of sour cream and chives lingers. 

Bottom line: 

Consider it. Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend  is a flavour packed whisky with a theme of grassy soft peat, white wine, chocolate, and, both sugary and drying sherry. Despite its pale colour, the sherry is pronounced and the flavours are nicely integrated. It does strike me as a somewhat sweet dram, and even though the sherry is certainly a presence in the whisky there does not seem to be much flavour extracted from the wood. This might suggest that the whisky is quite young, and young it does taste. Its impressive nose lifted my expectations very high, and I could not help but feel disappointed by the lack of depth and complexity on the palate. That said, this is a lovely drinkable Scotch whisky and at an affordable price. Just don’t expect any fireworks on the palate.