blended malt whisky

Review: Compass Box The Circle

The Circle, one of Compass Box’s latest releases, is a blended malt made in collaboration with London-based bartender Rosey Mitchell from Three Sheets. Mitchell won a competition run by Compass Box.

“I wanted to make an approachable whisky to be shared with friends,” said Mitchell. “I wanted something you could share in the daytime, something with brightness. It could be served as a vibrant summery highball in the garden – sunshine whisky.”

The whisky itself is a blend of several single malts, including Tamdhu, Clynelish, and assumingely Highland Park. Also included is a small portion of “a Highland malt blend finished in French Oak casks.” It’s bottled at 46% ABV and available for $150.

The nose is fruity and crisp with hints of apples, vanilla, and malt. The official tasting notes are spot on. Additionally, a slightly floral top note adds to the fresh character of this whisky. The palate is equally vibrant, and light enough for a summer afternoon. Stewed apples and creamy vanilla are the stars here. Baking spices are integrated beautifully. A touch of heathery smoke provide more structure. The finish is short and a bit spicy.

A versatile, vibrant whisky indeed. It’s flavorful enough to sip neat, but structured enough to stand up in a whisky highball. Mitchell and the Compass Box team did a nice job with The Circle. Good stuff.


Spice Tree Extravaganza Blended Malt Scotch Review

Ten years ago, John Glaser of Compass Box started adding oak staves to barrels of whisky to spice up the maturation process for what would be his Spice Tree blend.  The method is not new, as wine makers use oak staves all the time.  However in the Scotch whisky world, that was a no-no.  The SWA banned Glaser from utilizing this method.  He ended up using a different legal method for his Spice Tree blend involving toasted French oak barrel heads.

A decade later, Compass Box is releasing a limited edition version of the blend simply named Spice Tree Extravaganza.  Working within the spicy flavor profile of the standard Spice Tree, Glaser kicks things up a notch by adding sherry-cask matured and older malt whiskies.  Spice Tree Extravaganza is bottled at 46% abv for a suggest retail price of $140.  Only 12,240 bottles are available worldwide.

The nose captures the rich, spicy character of Spice Tree but adds a sherry kick.  This is thanks to sherry cask-matured Glen Ord and Benrinnes that make up close to 50% of this whisky.  I get lots of clove, sherry, vanilla and toffee-sweet malt.  In the background is a bit of dry oak and cinnamon bark.  The palate offers a blast of baking spices, toasted malt, and mulled wine, with hints of vanilla cream and blood orange zest.  The finish is long, with spiced red fruits and oak notes.

Spice Tree Extravaganza is an interesting twist on the standard bottlings of Spice Tree.  This limited edition blended malt whisky brings that signature spice, while adding nice sherry and older malt elements,which in turn provide more layers of complexity to unlock and enjoy.  8.5/10

Thanks to Compass Box for the sample!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Johnnie Walker Green Label Scotch Whisky Review

Johnnie Walker Green Label is the odd one of the bunch.  It is a blended malt whisky, whereas all other Johnnie Walker whiskies are blended whiskies.  Blended whiskies contain malt and grain whiskies.  Blended malt whiskies are strictly a blend of malt whiskies.  There’s no grain whisky to be found in this bottle.  A quick internet search reveals Johnnie Walker Green Label is a mix of Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila single malts, all aged at least 15 years.  In late 2013, Diageo, owners of the Johnnie Walker brand, announced a discontinuation of Green Label to all markets except Taiwan.  In 2015, Johnnie Walker Green Label started showing up on shelves here in the U.S. in small numbers.  This could be a limited run, however, as JW Green isn’t listed as part of the Johnnie Walker lineup on their website.