Jun 052019
 

Compass Box No Name 2 is the sequel to the 2017 No Name, which looked to highlight the peat, and did so in a very ‘in your face’ way. The first No Name was composed of about 75% Ardbeg, 11% Caol Ila, 13% Clynelish and a wee bit of Compass Box’s Highland malt blend finished in Compass Box’s custom French oak casks. While I didn’t publish a review on the No Name, I clearly remember not being overly keen on it.

John Glaser

Photo Credit: port-magazine.com

This edition is different, with far more complexity and made with much more thoughtfulness. This edition is replaced the harsh Ardbeg from the previous edition with a heart of Caol Ila from refill sherry butts (75.5%). This choice took the expression from an ‘in your face’ peat to a complex blend with the subtleties of the other components of the blend. Those components are 10.5% Talisker in a recharred bourbon cask and the obligatory Clynelish (13.5%) and a drop of the custom French oak casks Highland malt blend (from Spice Tree) at one half of one percent.

This edition is a real pleasure to drink, and is, indeed worthy of its (no) name….

 

Compass Box No Name, No. 2 (48.9% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light gold, thin legs coming off a sturdy necklace, with quite a bit of residue on the glass.

Nose: Very rounded and balanced nose. Peat is the first note on the nose, but there’s a hint of minerals, pine and honey, together with a little bit of ash. Gentle wood spices and a little hit of red fruit with some fresh apple eaten while tending the grill.

Palate: Ashy peat with citrus peel bitterness, granny smith apple, honey, light cinnamon and confectionery notes. The mouth is full bodied with a hint of waxiness that blends very nicely with the paet.

Linger: Honey and ash on the tongue, alongside peppery peat in the gullet. Green pear and a dabbing or raspberry with a bit of thyme.

Conclusion

This is a masterpiece of blending. It’s nothing like the first No Name, which was somewhat harsh and not as balanced.
Well done!

Official sample provided by Compass Box Whisky.

May 152019
 

I’ve been waiting for over a year and a half to write this post, although I had no idea back then it would be called Affinity.

The beginning of the story is at the 2017 Whisky Show in London, where I took part in a great masterclass led by Becky Peskin bringing whisky makers to short but small “dates” with a table of six or eight whisky aficionados. In the third round, my table was joined by John Glaser of Compass box.

John poured us a dram from a bottle labeled “Project Overlord”, and said that the dram has something to do with an Operation with the same name. Now, I know that the Allied landing in Normandy, in June 1944, was code named ‘Operation Overlord”, but what could possibly be the connection?

Operation Overlord

Photo Credit: US Army

Well, things became very clear once I nosed the dram. This wasn’t whisky. All of a sudden the Normandy connection became clear, as this was clearly Calvados. But it wasn’t! There was whisky in there, with creamy barley and a lot more spice than I’d expect from a Calvados.

That was a “simple” vatting of some unnamed Calvados and Compass Box’s Spice Tree, offered at 43%. Coming to think about it, that’s probably simply the Spice Tree’s 46% and the Calvados’ 40% averaging each other out.

Affinity is a bit more complex than ‘Project Overlord’, with the Calvados third of the drink (OK, it’s 37.5%, not 33.3%, but 3/8 is close enough to 1/3) matured in French oak barriques. The whisky part of the parcel, the other 5/8, were matured in first-fill sherry butts (Craigellachie finished for a year, comprising 20% of the mix), 29.5% matured in varying toast levels custom French oak casks and some blended whisky matured in refill Sherry butts making up 13% of the drink.

 

So what is this “non Scotch” like?

Project Overlord (43% ABV, I assume it was NCF and NC)

Appearance: Gold, thin and slow legs coming off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Dry and very fruity, with the pears jumping out at you, followed by the apples. White pepper and hints of white dessert wine, with an earthy note and some creamy barley. Some wood spices, namely cinnamon and nutmeg show up too.

Palate: Dry apples, with green apples mixed with yellow apples in there, black pepper, with cinnamon and a drop of a hotter pepper

Linger: Dry and spicy, with the gullet and tongue carrying most of the pepper. The inside of the cheeks tingle, with a dry and chalky mouth feel.

 

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Compass Box Affinity, 6,028 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Same gold, the legs are thinner and a little slower forming than the PO.

Nose: Earthy and richer, with the fruit a little toward the “green” side. Baking bread and some damp dirt. A rich creaminess, with a lot of the Calvados character apples. Notes of vanilla and red wine, with a sprinkle of cinnamon appear. There’s also a floral note in there.

Palate: Very spicy, hot and peppery, which obliterates the mildly sweet honeied first wave. The fruit and the Calvados are there, they’re just behind the pretty harsh spices. You get apple and pear,

Linger: Peppery tingle on the tongue, with a hint of citrus rind and cardamom. It’s relatively long and spicy, but the sweetness of fruitiness is less present.

Conclusion

For me, Project Overlord was a better sipper, while Affinity wins on the nose, which is both sweeter and richer. That’s probably he effect of the sherry matured whisky in there. On the palate, the more complex Affinity delivers spice almost exclusively, which is a bit of a miss for a drink that could have merged the dry fruitiness of the Calvados with the rich creaminess I’d think this marriage should have taken. I can’t help but wonder if Oak Cross wouldn’t have been a better choice than Spice Tree for this cross Channel marriage…

Dec 022016
 

Spice Tree has had some controversy around its inception, an issue I’ve covered in the original Spice Tree post on the blog.

We’re now a full decade past the taking of Spice Tree off the market, and David Glaser is marking this anniversary with an upgraded limited edition of the Spice Tree. As usual, we get an almost complete rundown of the contents, missing only age statements. Of course, as per Compass Box’s policy on ‘private transparency’, you’ll be happily given a full listing of the ages of each of the lots that went into the makeup by dropping a line to hello@compassboxwhisky.com, or by hitting Compass Box up with a private message on their Facebook page or through Twitter.

Composition of Spice Tree Extravaganza

Composition of Spice Tree Extravaganza

So onward to the tasting notes:

Photo Credit: Compass Box

Photo Credit: Compass Box

Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza Blended Malt, 12,240 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, slow thin legs.

Nose: The sherry comes up first, with a dry sweetness and some red berries, delicate Christmas cake, wood spices (cloves, dusty cinnamon and some nutmeg), with some leather and a hint of old tobacco. It’s very clear that at least some of the sherry components aren’t young. There’s also a fruity freshness with a baked green apple, some freshly ground white pepper and heather. Some time in the glass also bring in some freshly cut hay and a hint of balsamic vinegar.

Palate: Spicy, with orange marmalade, and some fizzy lighter spice. Honey with a tinge of bitterness, like a good bittersweet chocolate.

Linger: Citrusy and spicy on the tongue, with a hint of pepper on top of the gullet. When the spice disappears, a hint of bitter citrus and some light sweetness remain in the mouth.

Conclusion

Complex and well made, this is clearly an upgraded version of the Spice Tree. You can definitely feel the influence of those special hybrid casks and the combination of the strong sherry influence and the older whisky works very well. This is an excellent Highland blend (well, almost 20% is Speyside, but still).

Oct 102016
 

So they call This whisky a three-year-old. Now, of course, it technically is as 0.04 of it is, indeed, only three years old. Yes, you read that right, four tenths of a percent is three-year-old whisky from Clynelish that was aged by Compass Box itself in their own first fill American Oak casks. In the PR text, they claim that “it imparts a lively vivacity to the blend” but honestly how much can 4/10 of a percent influence a blend. In your 700 ml bottle, You’ll find only 2.8 ml of this new Clynelish. It was added not to impart a vivacity nor to celebrate Compass Box’s own spirit, but to flick the birdie to the industry as a whole together with EU and UK lawmakers, the SWA and probably to the big companies as well. This is John Glaser saying, loudly and clearly, I can sell an officially labeled three-year-old whisky for £200, and you all know that I’m probably the only one in the industry who can do that.

The beautiful thing is that fans, anoraks, and pundits alike received news of this forthcoming creation with great interest and ovation as is evidenced by the fact that the initial news of this impending release, brought to you freshly off the TTB website right here on Malt and Oak has climbed to the third most popular post on the website, not to mention the numerous likes, wows and comments on social media on the post’s shares. I will note that the USA label said it would be released at 51.6%, whereas this version is 49.2% – I’m not quite sure where that discrepancy comes from, and being Sunday night, I can’t find out at the moment. ***SEE UPDATE ON ABV BELOW***

But that’s not all. Following legal advice that Compass Box received, they have concluded that interested individuals who wish to know the exact composition of their blends, may be given that information if contact is made directly with the company. Without wasting a moment, I contacted Compass Box and asked for the exact composition of the three-year-old deluxe. This information was sent to me posthaste, with a very direct request that I not divulge this information publicly on the blog, so that they may not be accused of using bloggers as a channel to circumvent the law. While, entre nouz, I would have no scruples in making this information public, I will fully respect the company’s request, simply because they will happily provide you with that information should you contact them directly by dropping a line to hello@compassboxwhisky.com, or by hitting them up with a private message on their Facebook page or through Twitter.

So what is in the blend?

Credit: Compass Box

Credit: Compass Box

We have 90.7% of the blend coming from Clynelish, the youngest component of which is obviously three years old, I will say though that the rest is far from being young in any way, with 9.3% coming from what must be a very rare find indeed: a nicely aged Talisker drawn from a first fill Sherry butt.

Like I said, John Glaser has an incredible nose both for making beautiful whisky, and for creating beautiful PR to go with that whisky. In this case the master outdid himself and really stuck this one in the face of the regulators.

Okay enough with the blabber, I have a glass with a measure of this Three Year Old Deluxe and I’d like to get to the tasting!

 

Photo Credit: Compass Box

Photo Credit: Compass Box

Appearance: Gold, very thin legs forming rather slowly office sturdy necklace.

Nose: The Clynelish is strong in this one with honey, a waxiness and yet with quite a bit of wood spices coming from the Sherry cask. Orange blossom, clove, lemon scented car wax, hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the freshness that quite belies the true age of all but the touch of young whisky in your. Maybe it does impart a “lively vivacity” after all…

Palate: first the spices wash over your tongue, with black pepper, clove and a hint of chili. There is also grapefruit rind, and only in the second tasting and you actually discern the peat from the spice there is also a subtle sweetness that washes over your tongue for the briefest moment before it is again washed over by the peppery spice.

Linger: a jalapeno coated in wax would probably leave your mouth as dry and tingly with a waxy feeling all around. The spiciness and bitterness play around in the very dry mouth you’re left with by the dram. The top of your gullet remains full of spice, and after a few minutes go by, the spiciness leaves your mouth peaty and waxy which remains with you for quite a long time.

Conclusion

I expected nothing less, but this really is a beautiful dram. Clynelish and Talisker work together beautifully and the refill American Oak hogsheads work so beautifully with the first fill sherry butt from Talisker. One caveat though would be that if you’re not a fan of spicy whisky this dram is in for you. For the rest of us though, this is pure delight in a bottle.

I’m glad I got to taste this whisky and post my notes for it before my pilgrimage to Scotland begins tomorrow. My review of the Spice Tree Extravaganza will probably have to wait for my return in two weeks.

Official sample provided by Compass Box. Slainte!

***UPDATE: Mr. Jonathan Gibson of Compass Box replied to my query about the ABV saying that the TTB label approval has to have a lead time measured in months, and the final formula wasn’t finalized yet at that time. Mr. Gibson stated that: “In the weeks that followed it was tweaked slightly both in terms of the proportions of components and the bottling strength to what we felt was the best possible recipe.  The final bottling strength is 49.2%”.