Compass Box Phenomenology

"As we have come to expect from Compass Box, this is very, very well made, displaying a concert of various fruity, earthy and floral tones into my mouth"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

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I think it is best to start with what Compass Box describes about this curiously named whisky, that is “a blend of single malts that combines seemingly dissonant flavour profiles, but together creates something compelling“. Apparently, when various persons tasted the whisky, they found out that it elicited, and I quote again, “a surprising range of reactions and descriptions, each person taking away something different from the whisky“.

Phenomenology, or the study of that which appears (Greek phainómenon), refers to a philosophical movement that was founded in the early 20th century by Edmund Husserl. Basically, it does not see the world as a series of objects, but as a bundle of conscious experiences by different people. It is believed that by studying people’s experiences, one can make objective conclusions about subjective findings, like for instance the taste of a whisky. To make it more complicated, it means that a person’s opinion is not right or wrong, but just part of the total experience. Certainly an interesting way of thinking.

For this reason, Compass Box did also not include any tasting notes for this whisky, neither is there any of their usual transparency about recipe. The idea was that every person should figure out his/her own tasting experience, and only after a few months they would release the recipe and tasting notes from their site. To quote one last time, “describe the ‘phenomena’ of this whisky yourself, in your own words and ideas. Your experience is your own, personal, subjective experience. Relish it.” Well, you can leave that to the people at Whisky Wobbles! At the time that I write this review, Compass Box has already revealed the recipe, but I won’t take a peek, no really I promise…

Nose

The first impression is that of fresh yellow fruits, lots of them, including oranges, mirabelle plums, juicy pears and green apples. Very fragrant with a slight spicy edge containing vanilla and white pepper. Some range flavoured candy, and many white grapes, which reminds me of some of the recent single cask cognacs from the SMWS that I have tasted. From the beginning on there is a lovely earthy, nutty and floral undercurrent that comes more and more to the surface over time. A comparison to the Kilkerran 12 years jumps into my mind. I also find earthy white wines, or champagne, buttercups, magnolias, walnut oil, and more freshly pressed white grapes. It remains astonishingly fresh with a large depth to it, displaying a concert of various fruity, earthy and floral tones into my mouth.

Taste

Bitter oranges, citrus sweets, glazed nuts and honey covered pears form the foreplay, before the earthy side comes up. The palate offers more of a kick with pepper, paprika, and vegetal notes of celery and cabbage. This is pretty feisty, but it remains in check by a fruity undercurrent of citrus sweets, pears and white grapes. It has also something from spring-like with rubbed leaves and freshly cut grass. There is a long and steady aftertaste with persistent oranges, oils and even a hint of peat in the distance.

Overall

As we have come to expect from Compass Box, this is very, very well made. An excellent start of a tasteful 2018! The different components fall perfectly into place, painting a beautiful picture with all kinds of small details that you only notice when you spent some time with this whisky. I can understand why some other reviewers thought this contained a large portion of Clynelish, but John Glaser got them fooled. This Compass Box blend is not based on Clynelish, but on some other excellent distilleries including Glenlossie, Tamdhu and a few drops of Highland Park, Talisker and Caol Ila. Not that you can particularly recognise the latter ones, but I think they have added some of those lovely details. It has a respectable price tag on it (±€175), and you could wonder if you cannot find cheaper single malts of comparable quality, but on the other hand with this you are sure that you have purchased a phenomenal blend (sorry, I had to make that wordplay).on

What others say

Whiskybase: 87.68 (140 votes) * Serge Valentin @Whiskyfun: 85/100 * @Whiskynotes: 88/100 * @WhiskyIsrael: 88/100 * Dave Broom @ScotchWhisky: 91/100
Read for yourself

A big thanks to for sharing the sample!

Scores

these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
60%
Peat/smoke
10%
Nose 88.5%
Taste 87.5%
Balance 88.5%
Depth 88%
Finish 88%
Score