Compass Box 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.


Compass Box Enlightenment Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of Compass Box Whisky

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past several months, you know about Compass Box founder John Glaser’s push for transparency in the scotch whisky industry.  Specifically, he is looking for the ability to write the ages and percentages of the whiskies that make up his blends.

The current European law states that a whisky producer may only list the age of  youngest whisky in the blend.  That law was meant to protect customers from certain marketing practices.  For example, say Producer X puts out a whisky that’s made with 99.99% 3-year-old whisky and 0.01% 40-year-old whisky.  In the past that producer could have marketed the whisky as containing 40-year-old liquid inside, even though it may amount to a thimble full of 40-year-old whisky.  As it currently stands, the law says that whisky must be labeled as 3 years old IF the producer chooses to put an age statement on the label.

Enter Enlightenment, Compass Box’s new limited edition blended malt whisky that, according to Glaser, “draws attention to the issues with the current regulations and encourages the industry to respond.”

If you want to sign a petition to help change this law, visit

Enlightenment is non-chill filtered, natural color and bottled at 46% abv.  It retails for about $85.  While no age statements have been released, we know where the whiskies came from.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • 48.2% malt whisky from Clynelish aged in first fill American barrels
  • 36.7% malt whisky from Glentauchers aged in first fill American barrels
  • 10.8% malt whisky from Balblair aged in first fill American barrels
  • 4.3% malt whisky from Mortlach aged in rejuvenated American barrels

The nose is light, sweet and fruity.  Ripe green fruits, vanilla, candle wax and spice spill out of the glass.  Taste-wise, Enlightenment keeps the light character of the nose, at least at first.  Tart Granny Smith apples and honeyed berries dominate the front of the palate.  Lemon peel and vanilla creme soon develop alongside a touch of cinnamon.  Towards the end of the finish a richness in the form of toffee appears, leading to a spiced pear finish.

Enlightenment makes for a great sipper on a summer’s eve while sitting on the porch with a good book.  Not too heavy.  Not too complex.  It is one of the lighter blended malts I’ve had in a while, but the blast of richness near the back palate really elevates the experience.  I’ve read a few reviews stating lack of complexity in this whisky, but I like Enlightenment for what it is, and not what I think it should be.


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

Compass Box The Circus Whisky Review

I’ve pretty much liked everything I’ve tasted from Compass Box.  Oddly enough, they have all been limited release whiskies.  I’ve never tried anything from their core lineup.  Hey!  I said it was odd.  Don’t worry, I’ll get to their core lineup soon enough.  In the meantime…

Compass Box’s The Circus.

One of my favorite whiskies of all time, not just one from Compass Box, is The General.  That one was made up of two parcels of very old blended whisky.  There was just a little to go around, and unfortunately I didn’t get to pick up a bottle.  Thankfully, one of my whisky buddies sent over a sample for me to try, and it was a dreamy whisky.  Again, one of my favorites.

Now, John Glaser has released his latest blend – The Circus.  Like The General, it’s also a blended whisky made from a couple of parcels of old blended scotch whisky, alongside a blended grain whisky and malt.  The Circus is bottled at 49% abv for a price of about $275.  There isn’t a lot of the stuff.  Only 2,490 bottles have been released.

While Compass Box isn’t allowed to give the ages of the whiskies, they did provide a breakdown of what’s in the bottle:

  • 57.2% blended whisky parcel 1 matured in a refill sherry butt.
  • 26% blended grain whisky matured in a refill sherry butt.
  • 15.4% malt whisky from Benrinnes matured in a first fill sherry butt.
  • 1.4% blended whisky parcel 2 matured in a refill sherry butt.

We aren’t sure what those parcels of blended whisky are comprised of, or where they come from.  Something else of note is the exclusive use of sherry butts.  I believe most Compass Box releases feature mostly ex-bourbon casks.  I could be totally wrong here.  So a  Compass Box sherry monster?  Let’s see how it fares.

The nose offers a burst of rich sherried fruit and plums, followed by honeyed malt and dark toffee with a touch of aged vanilla and toasted oak.  There’s an initial sweetness on entry.  Sweet brown sugar, dark fruits, citrus peel and dark chocolate fill the palate.  The long finish leaves behind a honeyed, spiced fruit.

This one was sweet, fruity and showed some age, but not in a bad way.  The grain whiskies kept it on the lighter side up front, and the richness developed towards the end.  I won’t compare it to The General, as it’s a totally different whisky in nature.  Apples and oranges, so to speak.  The Circus is one of the more unique blended whiskies I’ve tasted in a while.  Now, to find a bottle…

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