Monday, March 2, 2015

Review - Compass Box 'The Lost Blend'

This is a new blended malt from the leading artisan whisky company of Compass Box.  The Lost Blend is inspired by the O. Henry book of the same name from 1907, in which the author writes "Distilled elixir of battle, money and high life!"  It also pays homage to Compass Box's own 'lost blend' - the Eleuthera - and combines three single malts (from the Allt-a-Bhainne, Caol Ila and Clynelish distilleries).  The packaging also features other items lost to history, including a gramophone and the dodo.

Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and has premises in London and Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into a unique product. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three whiskies to create a new product, and all are then given a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and they are a widely regarded as one of the most innovative whisky makers in the industry.

John Glaser explains, “In 2001, we created our first single malt blend which we called Eleuthera. It was an elegant marriage of approximately 80% un-peated Highland and 20% peaty Islay single malts. Alas, after three years, we were no longer able to obtain one of the key whiskies required so, sadly, we retired Eleuthera in 2004. Quietly, I have been looking for whiskies that we could use to bring it back, even if temporarily, but without any luck. Until now ...”

The Lost Blend was released in August 2014 and bottled at 46% ABV, is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There are just 12,018 bottles - these will be available in Europe, the UK and the USA, costing €100/£85/$125 respectively.

Our tasting notes
The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose is fresh and vibrant.  There is a lovely mix of fruity and sweet aromas - think of crisp green apples, pears, honey and refined sugar.  Underneath are further aromas of menthol, damp moss and lemon zest along with a distinct ashy peat smoke that seems to grow in the glass.

On the palate the smokiness is immediately more prominent, as is a malty cereal note that was not really detected on the nose.  The whisky again feels fresh and vibrant with plenty of fruitiness and sweetness present.  The fruit characteristic is driven by notes of crunchy green apples and stewed pear, while the sweetness has a mix of honey, icing sugar and vanilla.  The fresh feeling is also helped by notes of green grass and the damp moss on the nose.  This moss-like quality evolves to become earthy and ashy, with the peat smoke adding depth and a pleasant bitterness.  Final hints of lemon sherbet and hints of cinnamon and white chocolate round things off.

The finish is of decent length.  The smokiness lasts longest and creates a lovely lingering dryness in the mouth.  The fruity and sugary notes fades to reveal some pleasant bittersweet malted barley and wood spice.

What's the verdict?
The Lost Blend is another delicious offering by the guys at Compass Box.  It combines a classy delicacy with a lovely sweet vibrancy.  The fruity, and smoky notes work particularly well as a partnership and creates a mouth watering freshness that makes you want to go back for more.  The lingering dryness on the finish is also an enjoyable twist.

Unfortunately, the original Eleuthera was retired before our time and we have never tried it.  If it was anything like this, then it must have been a fine whisky indeed ...

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