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Monday, February 15, 2016

Notes from a Tasting: Original US editions of Compass Box Asyla, Eleuthera, and Peat Monster

There will be a lot of Compass Box reviews belching forth from this site over the next few days.  One disclaimer: there will NOT be a review of either Not a Luxury Whisky nor Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary included amongst these posts.  I'm focusing on the regular range, stuff that's more affordable.  I haven't tried the Luxury thing, but I did have a couple sips of the new Flaming Heart.  It's good but I have a difficult time reconciling its $130 price tag.  If I can source good samples of any of their special releases I will certainly review them.

Let's start off with a little warmup.  Back in October I unearthed my samples (purchased from Southern California Whiskey Club) of the original US editions of Asyla, Eleuthera, and Peat Monster.  I tried them side by side in the order I list them below, comparing and contrasting.  They were small samples (about 15mL) so I'm going to give them letter grade range below, rather than an exact number grade.

COMPASS BOX ASYLA blended whisky, 40%abv
Nose - First there are the fruits lemons, limes, and peaches.  Then some toffee and salty air.  Lots of dried herbs too.  Some shortbread cookies show up after some air.

Palate - Very soft and mellow.  Mild sweetness, vanilla, a little bit of flower blossoms.  Lots of first-fill-ex-bourbon oak.  Some sharper young stuff underneath.

Finish - Sweet.  Think brown sugar, vanilla, and orange oil.

Comments: Very nice nose, somewhat forgettable palate.  Probably could have used the 46%abv at which they bottle their vatted malts.  I have doubts that the components reached their 10th birthday.  In any case, it's not bad stuff, it's fine.  There's just not much motivation to pay $45-$50 for it.  Grade range: C+/B-

COMPASS BOX ELEUTHERA blended malt, 46%abv
Nose - Starts off with a big ol' Band-Aid note, followed by peat moss and a little bit of seaweed.  Some moderate notes of vanilla and orange zest too.

Palate - Gentle warm peating.  Limes and oranges and marzipan and "hint of horse shit".  Don't ask me, I just work here.  It starts out lightly peppery but gets progressively more peppery with time.

Finish - Peppery again here.  Some toasty oak and light citrus.  Much longer than the Asyla's finish.

Comments: I reviewed this blend of 15yo Clynelish and 12yo Caol Ila almost three years ago when it was still kinda available.  Though my notes are a little different I generally agree about the quality and the blending skill.  This really seems like a single malt.  Grade range: B

COMPASS BOX PEAT MONSTER blended malt, 46%abv
Nose - Very leafy.  Fresh herbs.  A bit of American oak, but not much.  Cinnamon, molasses, and vanilla bean.  Tart apples, sort of like cider vinegar without the stank.

Palate - A peating level that won't offend.  Mellow smoke, a little bit of tar and concrete.  Lots of  sugars, along with cocoa and mint.

Finish - Brown sugar, vanilla, and a little bit of moss.  A good long salty finale.

Comments: I think I've tried every version of The Peat Monster, but it's never shown to be a monster.  They're all cuddly peat cows.  These early batches were more herbal than smoky or mossy.  The most recent batches, like the one I reviewed 16 months ago, are getting better, louder, and fuller.  Perhaps there will be another review this week.  Grade Range: B-/B

Okay, a good start.  Tomorrow, a blind Taste Off......


  1. I do like the Peat Monster, though it's too refined to be a monster, as you said.
    I picked up the Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary and am glad I did, but mostly because it's selling well at the bar; it is a bit overpriced. I'm a big fan of Compass Box, but '...not a Luxury Whisky' is where Compass Box loses me.
    I think that in terms of quality and value for money, Spice Tree is the most impressive of the CB whiskies I've tried so far.

    1. The Peat Cows are starting to get slightly more boisterous, but I think Glazer's refined approach to blending will always keep it from being monstrous. I think the defense behind Flaming Heart 15th Anniv's price is that there's a lot of old whisky in the mix, which would be the cynic's explanation behind why CB publicly leaked its ingredients. In any case, that price is tough. And, yeah, Spice Tree's always been my favorite of theirs, one of the best blended malts period.