Compass Box, Eleuthera

Compass Box EleutheraCompass Box, run by John Glaser, are a well-known and highly regarded independent bottler of blended and vatted Scotch Whiskies. They have released a number of vatted malts (this Eleuthera, Flaming Heart, Spice Tree, the Peat Monster etc.) as well as grain-malt blends (Asyla, Great King Street), a blend of grain whiskies (Hedonism), plus some experiments (Orangerie–an infused whisky). The Eleuthera, which is discontinued, is said to be a blend of 15 year old Clynelish and 12 yo Caol Ila; but the language on the Compass Box website suggests that these may not have been the only whiskies in the various releases before it went away. (“Typically it combined 15 year-old malt whisky from the village of Brora, aged in re-charred hogsheads, with 12 year-old malt from the village of Port Askaig.” [emphasis added])

Compass Box’s blends have a higher profile among whisky geeks than most blends; frankly, while I’ve liked all the ones I’ve tried fine, none have overly impressed me. They do have a very bespoke presentation and Glaser is both engaging and very transparent with his methods, and so I always want to like their whiskies more than I do. Let’s see if this Eleuthera will live up to the hype.

Compass Box Eleuthera (46%; blended/vatted malt; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Sweet, minerally peat makes the first impression–not much smoke as such. This is followed by some musky fruit and then some lime zest and salt. After a little while there’s the wet stones I usually find in both Caol Ila and Clynelish and also some hints of smouldering coal to go with the lime and minerally peat. This is quite reminiscent, actually, of some mildly peated malts from the 1970s. Water really amplifies the old-school notes of peated/smoked citrus (reminds me of this lovely Ardmore from 1977) and there’s more vanilla too now.

Palate: Supple and oily texture. Flavours very much as advertised by the nose but there’s more smoke here: and it’s sharp and acidic and not at all medicinal. More salt here too. With time the fruit expands but is always framed nicely by the minerally peat and a growing peppery bite. Water emphasizes the smoke, making it more bitter.

Finish: Long. Lingering cinnamon/menthol coolness plus that minerally peat and salt. With more time there’s more bitter ash that lingers. Water intensifies the smoke on the finish too but also makes it sweeter.

Comments: Neat, it does seem like the Clynelish is the dominant component of the blend (though for all I know there may be something else in here as well alongside the Caol Ila). In fact, if you handed it to me saying it was a Clynelish I wouldn’t find anything amiss. This is not a bad thing. The Islay notes emerge more strongly with water. This is not a bad thing either. I preferred the nose with water and the palate without. Very nice but not an example, I think, of a blender producing something we couldn’t get in single malt form. Still, I think this is the best of the Compass Box whiskies I’ve had.

Rating: 88 points.

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