In a bit of a departure from my usual “whisky-only” reviews on this blog, I’d like to say a few words about Compass Box’s limited edition Affinity. If you haven’t been following the flurry of Compass Box releases lately (and why should you? Every g-ddamn one of them has been north of $150), you might not know that Affinity is actually a “spirit drink”, which is the only legal way to label a blend of Scottish whisky and French Calvados (apple and/or pear brandy).
Affinity is a blend of 37% Drouin Calvados, 30% John Glaser’s “Highland Malt Blend” – that’s Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuaine – from casks with a variety of toast levels, 13% blended scotch from a refill sherry butt, and 20% sherry finished Speyside single malt. For a more accurate list of ingredients and the more stats on each barrel, check out the excellent fact sheet on CompassBoxWhisky.com. If you’re dying to know what Speyside malt that is (or the ages of any of the components), you’ll need to email them to ask. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Calvados is around 6 years of age (which is typical for mid-level Calvados), the blended scotch is very old, and most of the single malts are barely in their double digits.
The blend is bottled at a robust 46% ABV without added color or chill-filtration.
Affinity was released in the Spring of 2019, but there are still bottles floating around retailers for near the suggested retail price, which is a whopping $150. Yup.
Thanks to Debbie at The Collective PR for the sample.
Nose: Dense, heady, unctuous apple brandy. Imagine maple syrup but made entirely out of juicy, red, sweet apples. Like most good Calvados, there is a thick layer of chewy dried apple as well as a thick coating of caramel. Unlike most Calvados, there is also a dose of bright, sweet, tart fresh apples – that smell in the air when you cut into a fresh green apple. The Drouin totally takes over the aroma – I forgot for a moment that this is under 40% Calvados.
Palate: The Calvados is (once again) in the forefront. A vein of black licorice (anise) is complemented by toasted caraway, rhubarb pie, and more truckloads of fresh and dried apples.
Finish: Medium-long. Anise, again, and the first hint of dryness. Charcoal, oaky tannin, and waxy Red Delicious skins. Fades with a dash of marzipan or bitter almond.
With Water: A few drops of water might make the aroma and palate sweeter, and they might bring out more dried apple, but it’s hard to tell. This doesn’t really need water, so I wouldn’t bother.
Overall: As a lover of Calvados, I’m not too torn up that this “blend” is really a one-Calvados show. “All Calvados, All The Time.” Still, It makes me a little wistful that the general conceit of this spirit didn’t come through. I really wanted to see what good Calvados and good scotch could do together. A cynic might say this is basically taking an $60 Calvados and cutting it with scotch before marking it up to $150. A cynic would say that, but I’m not a cynic. Right? Right.
In all seriousness, this is a very tasty dram. I just can’t get behind a spirit drink that costs $150. Especially when 6 year-old Drouin can be found for less than $60 and the best Calvados I’ve ever tasted – Camut 15 year – was $120 last time I found some. In other words, if you’ve never had excellent Calvados then you will love this. If you have had excellent Calvados… then you know there are better ways to spend $150.
If you’ve got wads of cash to blow on the latest John Glaser art installation, then by all means buy a bottle. If, like me, you scoff at anything over $100, you’d be better off to