Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review - The Circus by Compass Box

The Circus is a new limited edition blended Scotch from the artisan whisky company of Compass Box.  It has been constructed from a set of different blends and blended grain whiskies, plus a small amount of single malt from the Benrinnes distillery, which were then aged together in ex-sherry butts for several years. There are just 2,490 bottles and these will be available in Europe and the USA only. The whisky has been bottled at 49% ABV, is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. The label is inspired by a Charlie Chaplin film from 1928, which is also named The Circus. The recommended retail prices will be £190, US$275 or €235 a bottle.

Compass Box was founded in 2000 and they have premises in both London and Edinburgh. They also have an imaginative ethos to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and craft them together into a unique product. All products are produced and released in small batches and given catchy names. By doing their own blending, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and are widely regarded as one of the most innovative whisky makers in the industry. They have won numerous awards for both their whiskies and creative packaging and label designs.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow with a hint of amber and the has a lovely mix of sweet aromas - think of malted cereals, dried pineapple, caramel, candied orange and tinned peaches.  Underneath are further aromas of almonds, marzipan, ginger and baked apples.  It offers a very promising start.

On the palate The Circus has a rich, viscous and luxurious feel.  The first characteristics to hit are that of luscious butterscotch and toffee, along with some gripping malted barley.  Next come layers of fruitiness - first some dried tropical fruits (imagine mango and pineapple especially), then some raisin and sultana followed by peach, apricots and a hint of bittersweet candied orange peel.  Underneath are further notes of almonds and caramelised walnuts with a tiny hint of black treacle.  There is also a distinct earthiness in the background that has a touch of soft peat smoke, cinnamon and gingerbread.

The finish is long, sweet and warming.  The butterscotch, caramel and dried fruity notes begin to fade and this has the effect of bringing the nutty, spicy (especially the ginger) and gentle smoky characteristics to the fore.  These have good depth and linger for plenty of time.

What's the verdict?
The Circus is another fine whisky from the guys at Compass Box.  They continue to demonstrate that they can make whiskies for all tastes and all budgets, be it in their core ranges or limited editions.  Although they are uncertain of the make up of some of the blends included in the acquired pockets of stock used for The Circus, they have clearly been sympathetically matured and are of a decent age - it is rounded, viscous, fruity, sweet with some savoury smoke and spice.

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