What happens when you gather two really rather delicious beverages, one from Scotland, and one from France, and mix them together? Compass Box has done just that with Scotch and Calvados. The result? Affinity, an intriguing thing indeed…
Oh, Compass Box. The whisky blender extraordinaire, the maverick drinks maker, the champion of transparency*. What can’t be said about the self-proclaimed whiskymaker? (We visited way back in 2012 and were super-impressed. Time for a return trip.) Not only do the brand’s bottlings look the part (seriously, check out the labels), the blends themselves are seriously innovative. Well, that’s what I thought. Until Affinity came along, and suddenly, the rest of the range feels almost pedestrian in comparison.
Why the hype? Because Compass Box Affinity is one of those category-defying, hybrid spirits we got so excited about at the start of the year. And it’s here!
Affinity is a Scotch whisky-Calvados blend. And it’s a union made in heaven. Quite why it’s not been tried before I’m not sure (do let me know if you spot something similar already out in the wild). It’s appley, of course – thanks to the Calvados, from Christian Drouin, which, at 37.5% of the volume, is by far the largest of the six constituent parts.
As well as Calvados, Affinity is produced using a Highland malt blend (Clynelish, Dailuaine, Teaninich) matured in three different cask types, a blended Scotch parcel from a refill sherry butt, and Craigellachie from a first-fill sherry butt. It’s exciting to be able to dissect something in such a way. Especially a spirit so unusual in terms of its make-up. This is the joy of Compass Box. Not only is the product range genuinely ingenious, the brand is committed to letting us all know, in as much detail as it legally can, exactly what its drinks are made from.
In his notes on the release, Compass Box founder John Glaser says the team has been blending Calvados and Scotch for some time, “enchanted” by the character of the pair. “One of the world’s greatest spirits, sadly Calvados is also one of the most under-appreciated,” he writes. “Affinity showcases the mouth-coating texture and ripe fragrance of Calvados, partnering it with the rich spiciness and malty aromas of Scotch whisky.”
Delicious indeed. But how to drink it? The inspired Compass Box sorts recommend serving Affinity with amaro and vermouth for a thoroughly unexpected Boulevardier twist. Or with a sweet tarte tatin (guaranteed to impress at the next dinner party). I reckon simply sipping over ice is thoroughly pleasing, especially now the mild spring evenings are here. Tchin-tchin!
*In 2016, Compass Box launched a Scotch Whisky Transparency campaign after it got told off by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) for inadvertently breaking the law around age statements on two of its products. Compass Box had detailed the ages of the constituent parts in its blends, but EU law states that only the youngest can be disclosed.