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Compass Box creates coral-inspired whisky

Scotch producer Compass Box has released a limited edition blended whisky that brings together flavours inspired by the colour coral, as part of its global bartender programme.

Compass Box The Circle No. 2 whisky
The Circle No. 2 is limited to 3,113 bottles worldwide

Mannie Monaghan, owner of the Below Stairs bar in Leeds, UK, won Compass Box’s The Circle competition in 2019. It was the last time the bartender programme was able to run.

Launched in 2018, The Circle programme aims to ‘connect the creative processes’ found in the blending room with the bar industry.

A select group of bartenders from around the world are tasked with a series of creative challenges, with heats taking place globally before a three-day final in London. The winner is then rewarded with the chance to make their own limited edition Compass Box whisky.

The first Circle whisky was created by Rosey Mitchell from London bar Three Sheets in 2019.

Lead whisky maker James Saxon said: “This is the beauty of collaboration – we have only had the opportunity to run two editions of The Circle programme, but hopefully we can have many more surprising meetings of minds in the years to come.”

‘Coral-like qualities’

To create The Circle No. 2 whisky, Monaghan tapped into his neurological condition, synaesthesia, which causes the blending of senses. His vision was to make a whisky that evokes the colour coral.

Monaghan said: “What does the colour coral taste like? It’s unmistakably warm, familiar, and powerful. Translating that sensation into whisky has led us to create wonderful warm whisky that expresses the positivity and vibrancy of living coral, Pantone’s colour of the year in 2019.”

Monaghan joined Saxon in the blending rooms, with the bartender initially identifying samples of whisky with ‘coral-like qualities’.

More than half of the resulting liquid is a ‘tropical, pineapple-accented’ whisky from Speyside distillery Glen Elgin, which has been combined with whisky aged in Sherry casks, dashes of a peated whisky and a small amount of malt whisky matured in shaved, toasted and recharred (STR) wine casks.

Additional flavours found in the whisky include stewed peach, vanilla, honey and sultanas soaked in Cognac.

“Creating The Circle, No. 2 with Mannie has shown us that the senses can be blended together, and that they can inform one another,” said Saxon.

“Not being synaesthetic, working with Mannie in the blending rooms was a bit like trying to learn a new language. Gradually, I was able to suggest parcels of whisky that met Mannie’s vision more precisely.

“By the end, I did feel as though I was seeing colours too. We are so pleased to finally be able to release this whisky, and that we can start to look forward to bringing bartenders together again.”

The 46% ABV expression was created as an outdoor whisky to be enjoyed with friends on a lazy afternoon as the sun sets.

The Circle No. 2 is limited to 3,113 bottles worldwide. It is available in the UK from 1 June with an RRP of £130 (US$162).

Last month, Compass Box appointed former Bacardi executive Maurice Doyle as its new CEO and named London-based Caelum Capital as its majority shareholder.

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