Tag Archive: Compass Box

Compass Box The Circus

Compass Box: The Circus (Scottish Blended Whisky: 49% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Mostly fast, thick streaks.

Nose: Heather. Potpourri. Treacle. Stewed apricot. Thick. Heavy honey. Water – white chocolate and grain husks.

Body: Toffee and treacle. Glacier cherries. Warming alcohol. Gin. Dried apricot. Sugar shell coating. Water makes very smooth. Caramel and fudge. Sweet lime. Kiwi. Blueberry. Sweet pastry.

Finish: Juniper berries. Oak. White grapes. Chocolate to choc orange. Water makes kiwi and lime yogurt. Pear drops. Blueberries. Cheesecake base. Light aniseed comes out with more water.

Conclusion: A tale of two whiskies time again, though not as divergent as usual. As you may have guessed from that, this is a whisky that is quite, quite different with and without water.

Neat it feels kind of highland whisky like – a quite thick texture and aroma – ruggedly sweet with treacle and stewed fruit. Pretty smooth, warming but not burning – but a fairly standard whisky, and nowhere near what would be expected at the price point.

Water makes it so much more, more speyside like fruity, but before that the thick heavy sweetness melts into delicious fudge and caramel smooth notes. These then melt into the background as a cavalcade (or possibly cornucopia) of dessert sweet fruit notes come out. Even sweet lime and kiwi notes that mix with everything else to give key lime pie impressions, to blueberry and blueberry pie styling. There is light and dark fruit, but all sugared and wrapped in pastry, or layered over a cheesecake base. There is probably more hiding in there from the feel of it, but I think I would have to shell out on a bottle to examine it to find the full range. Tempting, even though it is absurdly expensive.

The downsides? Well neat it shows little of its charm, and with too much water a very small touch of aniseed comes out, which is not to my liking. In general though, as long as you add water this is an utter luxury. In fact probably the best blended whisky I have ever tried. It is so very good.

Background: The final of the samples provided by Independent Spirit for me to do tasting notes on, and it is a doozie. Many thanks. A mix of two already blended whiskys, a blended grain, and a sherry cask Benrinnies. According to Compass Box, even they don’t know the exact nature of the blended components. It was fairly warm when I tries this, so I left the computer that I play my music on off, so this was contemplate in silence.

Compass Box Enlightenment

Compass Box: Enlightenment (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain.

Viscosity: Medium speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Waxy. Menthol. Warming alcohol. Meringue. Watercress. Water adds watermelon, bright green apples and jolly ranchers.

Body: Smooth. Waxy. Lemon curd. Pomegranate. Apple crumble. Alcohol is present. Water however soothes the alcohol, adds lots of apples and pears. Honey. Meringue.

Finish: Pomegranate. Pumpkin. Watermelon and seeds. Apples. Light woody and malt chocolate. Slight jolly ranchers. Water adds pears.

Conclusion: Another very interesting one from compass box – the elements are so well defined that you can distinctly identify what they were aiming for with this and what they very well achieved as well. It takes a couple of the less common whisky elements and mashes them together into this new form.

First up is that it is waxy, very much so, along with a thickness that reminds me of Ben Nevis’ spirit. What I find interesting is that most other waxy whiskies that I have tried have also been quite heavy – while everything else about this whisky pushes the other way with light and fruity notes.

The base seems to initially built around thick lemon curd and meringue, however they hang off it everything from pears to watermelon. It really is a green fruit delight, pushing the range far past the usual set of apples and pears. What is really nice is how the elements mix – the waxy character and fruit notes blend in a way that remind me of jolly ranchers, but without the artificial sweetness.

It is especially impressive that it has so caught my imagination as the first impressions actually didn’t grab me. The waxy character dominated the aroma, along with slight watercress greenery. I got the impression is was going to be too light yet dominated by alcohol notes. The first issue was resolved by sipping it which showed the range of character. The second issue was resolved with water. The aroma never really comes into its own, but the rest is so fine I can forgive that.

Another good example of what you can do by blending malts.

Background: Another kind gift of a sample of whisky from Independent Spirit, and one that allows me to try these very different whiskies from Compass Box. Again, many thanks! Compass Box are doing a quite cool thing, trying to get signatures to allow the full contents of a whisky, including all age statements, to be allowed to be shown on a bottle. Interesting, and as long as full information is give, a worthy cause I feel. What we know currently is that this is a mix of first fill American oak Clynelish, Glentauchers and Balblair, and rejuvenated American oak Mortlach. Over 80% of the spirit is the first two, with the remaining 15% aprox made up of the last two. Drunk while listening to some Swamp and Coitus Futon – had been at their duel EP launch gig earlier in the week and had grabbed their CDs.

Compass Box Spice Tree

Compass Box: Spice Tree (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Copper touched gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Honey. Rosemary? (Maybe, been a while since I smelled that). Coriander. Pencil shavings and oak. Light menthol. Turmeric. Crushed nettles. Water brings out twigs and hints of dark berries.

Body: Smooth. Vanilla fudge. Heavy oak. Red berries. Treacle. Nutmeg. Blueberry and blackcurrant come out with water. Spicy grapes. Cherries. More water brings out chocolate toffee.

Finish: Cinnamon and coriander. Dry oak. Blueberry. Water makes spicy red grapes, cracked pepper and malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, either I am stupidly easy to influence, or when they called this Spice Tree they really were not lying. Or possibly both. Anyway, yes, this is spicy, very wide ranging spicy, though thankfully not too high intensity. I am digging hard into my vague memories of the varied spices around to try and match the notes found here.

Neat it is probably a bit too much spice rack, or more correctly, the problem is not the spice but that you can taste the wood from the rack it is in. It is too dry and too oaken which makes the spice seem harsher and gives it no real room to move.

As ever, the clear lifeblood of our planet H2O comes to our rescue. Water lets soft vanilla fudge and red and dark berries come out. The dark berries call to a spicy red wine and the vanilla notes call to a more traditional whisky base – the combination of which gives a more soothing character – something to return to when the spice gets too heavy.

Overall it makes me think of the base idea of a whisky but ramped up to an impressive level of complexity and smoothness. It doesn’t do that much to stand out character wise, it just does it well. It tends towards the more robust Highland malts in my mind. I enjoy it, but it is not one that stands out too much. Maybe it is because I prefer the lighter Speysides or the heavier Islay malts, but still it does what it says on the tin and it does it well.

Background: Compass box have been a good one for Blended whisky and blended malt, so I thought I would give this a try. It comes in those fun test tube looking containers – the shine of the gimmick will probably wear off shortly but for now it still amuses me. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk with a nice bit of atmospheric Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Compass Box Great King St Glasgow Blend

Compass Box: Great King St: Glasgow Blend (Scottish Blended Whisky: No Age: 43 % ABV)

Visual: Light grain to gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow, medium sized streaks.

Nose: Peat over sherry trifle. Vanilla toffee. Smoke. Honey drops. Pencil shavings. Cherries. Light menthol. Water numbs the aroma.

Body: Smooth, thick and warming. Honey. Dry beef slices. Sherry trifle. Vanilla toffee. Peat. Toffee apple. Smoke. Cherries. Water brings out trifle and lime and smoothes smoke notes.

Finish: Dry beef. Light charring. Menthol. Honey. Vanilla toffee. Water adds lime and takes away the slight alcohol feel. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, blending has really shown what it can do with this one in its corner. I don’t think that without blending we would ever see such a fruity dessert like whisky with such a lovely peat weight.

Ok, in the past I have , occasionally, been a bit of a single malt snob and the shadow of that does still impact my thoughts – but this is lovely sweet peat juice.

The main body is an alcoholic cream trifle with masses of red fruit, the peat is beefy and robust. You might imagine that such a pairing would be obscene, but admit it, who hasn’t wanted to ditch a trifle onto a well cooked steak and then eat them both?

Oh. Just me huh. Now I’m embarrassed.

It is great. Trust me. There is a solid toffee backing which becomes more obvious with water which calls the whisky back to more traditional whisky elements. Though, despite that, it keeps an odd light menthol freshness which I can’t quite work out if it is intrusive or a vital element to keep this from becoming too heavy.

In the end I wouldn’t call it a flaw, the only real down element is a slight alcohol burn that builds up over time when neat – and you will probably want this neat as water dulls it too quickly. Minor points aside, this is sherry trifle on smoke cooked steak. Lovely jubbly.


Background: Compass Box have done well by me so far, so I grabbed this from Independent Spirit when I saw it. This is the heavier, peatier and sherried expression from the blenders. Drunk while listening to a bit of Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes, as well as some Television Villain. great stuff.

Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend

Compass Box: Great King Street: Artist’s Blend (Scottish Blended Whisky: No Age Statement: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Becomes cloudy with water.

Viscosity: Quite slow but thick streaks.

Nose: Baileys. Lemon cream. Toffee liqueurs. Pencil shavings.

Body: Very smooth. Vanilla toffee. Custard. Light alcohol tingle. Key lime pie. Light oak. Water smoothes more, but still a slight thickness to the texture. More key lime pie comes out.

Finish: Dry oak. Drying overall. Water adds lime touch and a tingle. Malt chocolate and toffee.

Conclusion: You really can make a very smooth whisky with blended malt (and since it turns out I was wrong and this is a blended whisky with grain, you can with any blending it seems) – and this whisky really seems to be seeing how far it can push that concept. There are nearly no rough edges to it at all. In fact the creaminess and sweetness brings in an almost cream liqueur style to the whole proceedings. This is most evident up front with a smooth baileys style character, but on top of that a sweet toffee liqueur element keeps popping up throughout and re-emphasises the original impressions.

The more traditional whisky character seems to lie underneath those really creamy notes. Because so much of the whisky is filled with creamy lemon and sweet custard notes I was actually relieved to see the brighter green fruit whisky notes poke out from underneath. You know, just showing some stable whisky base character.

Now, the finish is probably the only element in this where it lets its creamy liqueur and dessert whisky imagery down. There are some secondary notes to it, but generally the finish is quite simple, dry and oaken. A pity considering the class shown by the rest of the whisky.

Water isn’t much needed, which seems to be common amongst the vatted malts, but suprises me for a whisky with grain which usually benefit from it – though if you do use water then you do get a bit more emphasis of the more traditional whisky notes and it dims down the creaminess a bit. Both are good, so it is just drinkers preference there.

Overall it is very nice, very different and definitely shows how to use vatted malt (ooops – blended whisky – still shows how to do a much maligned style right) in contrast to the single malts and offers a very smooth and very worthy experience.

Background: I have been meaning to get around to a Compass Box tasting notes for ages. I’d seen these at the back of Brewdog Bristol so asked for advice on what they were like. After this I decided to try this, which had been recommended as the lighter and smoother of the two. Thanks for the info!

I initially thought this was a blended malt whisky, but my mistake has been pointed out – the notes have been edited to update with the correct info. Many Thanks. (I still think blended malt should be called vatted malt whisky, but then again I still hold that the term Hacker has shifted far from what I would hold to be correct usage so I may be a bit of a linguistic dinosaur.)

%d bloggers like this: