Compass Box The Circus Review

“There’s No Business Like Show Business”

Whisky Review # 644

Country: Scotland
Brand: Compass Box The Circus (Limited Edition)
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 49%
Maturation: Pre-Blended and then married in Sherry Butts
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 250-300 (September 2017)
Buying Advice: 😒 Interesting but too expensive for what it offers.

Colour: Golden Amber - Bronze (Natural Colour)

Nose: Much lighter than I expected. My first impressions are Sweet Wood, Hay, and Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup. A little Varnish as well. Make sure to give The Circus enough time in the glass. The Grain Alcohol is clearly noticeable but certainly not in an aggressive way. The overall impression is a little Dusty & Musty with both Sweet and Sour notes. After a while I find Apple Strudel with a generous portion of Rum or Brandy-Soaked Raisins and Sultanas. I also identify Toasted Nuts and Cereals, Buttered Toast, Caramel, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Nougat, Blackberry Jam, Dusty Road, Orange Liqueur, Peaches with Whipped Cream, Cinnamon, Ginger and hints of Tobacco and Leather. It's not bad and certainly interesting but there is an old and slightly tired feel to the nose of The Circus.

Palate: Again not as intense as I was expecting. The Grain Alcohol is certainly more noticeable now. I find Toasted Cereals, Toasted Hazelnuts, Dried Fruit like Sultanas and Apricot, Caramel, Butterscotch, Brown Sugar, Nougat, Sugared Strawberries, Vanilla, Treacle, Dusty Road, Apple, Pear, Orange Liqueur, Cocoa Powder, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Varnish and some hints of Leather, Tobacco and Espresso.

Finish: Light, a little Sharp and on the Short side. Sweet at first but with quite a few Bitter Wood notes towards the Dry end. I find Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Vanilla, Dried Fruit and Toasted Nuts, Orange Liqueur, Grapefruit Juice, Menthol, Ginger, Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove and hints of Tobacco, Polished Leather, Bitter Chocolate and Espresso.

Drinking Advice:
I added a few drops of Water and some of the Fruity notes on the Nose open up.  Tinned Peach and Pineapple come to my mind. The added Water reduces the impact of the Alcohol in the Finish. On the Palate it becomes a little Thin though despite the high ABV. You can certainly experiment with a few drops at a time.

Rating: 83

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 21

General Remarks:

The Circus was launched in March 2016. It is named after the 1928 Charlie Chaplin silent movie. Like a Circus, this Blend seeks to offer a moment of magic! It's a very limited Edition and only 2490 bottles went to the market. Compass Box is known for its battle with the Whisky authorities as it favours the total disclosure of Blended Whisky components. This is not the case here however. Like The General, launched in 2013, The Circus was blended at a young age and subsequently married in Sherry Butts for 1/3 (Grain) and 2/3 (Blends) of the total maturation time. There are 4 main components in this Blend. Blended Scotch Whisky represents 57.2% and was married in Refill Sherry casks for a long time. Blended Scotch Grain Whisky represents 26% and was married in Refill Sherry casks for a long time. A Benrinnes Single Malt Whisky represents 15.4% and matured most likely for around 10 years in a First Fill Sherry butt. The last component representing 1.4% is a second batch of Blended Scotch Whisky and was married in Refill Sherry butts for a long time. I would roughly guess that the Grain content totals 60-65% and the Malt content 35-40%. Not much is known about the contents of the Blended part, not even to Compass Box themselves. It is possible that Single Malt from Glen Ord is part of the recipe. The Circus will be difficult to find these days.

Drinking Experience Neat: Interesting but lacking balance.

Conclusion: The Circus might be a perfect name for this Blend but perhaps not quite the way Compass had in mind. Because while this Blend is certainly quite interesting to nose and taste, it also seems to miss balance and direction. It's a bit like the horses and other animals running around in circles in the ring. It's nice to watch but they aren't going anywhere. This is the general feeling I have after having nosed and tasted The Circus. There are some nice notes there but also Varnish, Sharp Alcohol and Bitter Wood. It's a bit of a mixed bag I must say. And much lighter than I expected. Certainly not a Sherry Bomb. So while I enjoyed the tasting experience it's hard to recommend buying a full bottle as it's quite expensive. I was never much of a Circus guy anyway and this Blend hasn't changed my mind.

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 18, 2017

Benrinnes Distillery - Visit May 2014

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