Thanks to /u/scotchchick for the sample.
Distillers usually get all the glory. We pick out single casks, store picks, and everything else and note the interesting mashbills, cask choices, and water sources. They deserve this praise because seriously it’s an art.
However, when it comes to vattings and blends of whiskies, master blenders are sometimes mixed. We don’t always have them in mind when a good whisky comes out. And by we, I mean me, and I’m projecting it onto all of you.
Enter Compass Box Circus. Why name it Circus? Were there exquisite elephants used in the making of this? Luckily no, this has nothing to do with the bad environments animals go through in circuses.
Charlie Chaplan is famous for many parts, though the most iconic is probably his clown makeup. So iconic that it doesn’t even have a name; it’s just Charlie Chaplan. And without the influence of other clowns, who came up through the circus, we wouldn’t have his masterpieces. Which includes one of his famous 1928 movies, The Circus.
Thus a good blend here is being compared to the art of a famous clown. Why not name it clown? Because beyond Charlie Chaplan, clowns are frightening, have always been frightening, and that will hurt sales. Seriously the first clown was an alcoholic, and the second one, his son, committed suicide.
This is a bit of a rollercoaster today, isn’t it?
Back to blends: An art that, when done really, really well, can elevate a dram beyond the amazing whiskies before it.
Compass Box Circus is a blend of four different whiskies, three of which are blends that have been married prior to this. And like one of John Green’s recent books, it’s blends all the way down.
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Components: 57.2% Blended Scotch Whisky Parcel 1 in a Refill Sherry Butt (long-term marrying cask), 26% Blended Grain Scotch Whisky in a Refill Sherry Butt (long-term marrying cask), 15.4% Benrinnes in a First Fill Sherry Butt, and 1.4% Blended Scotch Whisky Parcel 2 in a Refill Sherry Butt (long-term marrying cask)
Colour: 10YR 5/8
Nose: Chestnut, cotton, floral, baklava, raspberry
For a whisky that uses nothing but sherry and more sherry casks, this doesn’t initially hit you with red fruits. No, it’s more nutty and floral. Some linen in there. Water brings out a bit of honey and combines with the nuttiness for really, really tasty baklava flavours.
I’m in a flavour country. And like Greece, it smells of baklava and society improving itself over the course of thousands of years through islands. Or at least that first one.
Taste: Rum raisin sauce, ginger, grass, buttered popcorn
Lots and lots of molasses, rich flavours. Some lighter notes around that, however, I’ll say the strong, rich flavours steal the show here.
It’s like being anyone other than the high wire act or the clowns or the elephants at the circus. Sure, you’re good at what you do, but… seriously, we came for the danger… of being trampled by a constantly tortured animal.
Or the rollercoaster.
Finish: Raspberry, raisin, thyme, anise, sorghum, sulphur
If the nose surprised us with a more developed sherry display, and the taste was all about rum raisin/cream, then the finish heard our surprise at not being overly sherry dominated and said “Hold my Sherry”.
Lots of raisins, raspberry, and sweet, sweet notes. This is a lot, and may be too sweet for some. Not me, I see diabetes sometimes as a goal.
Conclusion: Raisin dominant dram that surprises me in a variety of ways. This is a whisky geeks dram, pure and simple. It’s not going to be a universal dram for all. You have to like the unique aspects of it.
It never feels like a sherry bomb, or an overly sherried whisky, save for the finish. It’s balanced. I somewhat wish this was a bit stronger, as I feel like we lost a bit of the subtle aspects. However, maybe it was (I didn’t read either way) or maybe that’s the point? None the less, this was fun to try.
Just like the circus.
Scotch review #906, Blend review #87, Whisky Network review #1450