Compass Box Spice Tree (43%, Compass Box, 2014)
- 43% ABV, £38 for 70cl
- Score: 84/100
What they say:
Our storied malt whisky The Spice Tree is made from Highland malt whiskies which we age in custom-made casks fitted with new French oak heads. We source this oak from a mill in the Vosges which produces some of the highest quality cooperage oak for winemakers. The result is a big malt whisky of richness and spice-like complexity.
The Second Coming.
First launched in 2005, we were forced to discontinue production under a legal threat by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) for our pioneering use of the highest quality French oak inner staves. This, despite rave reviews from consumers, trade and press. We agreed to disagree with the SWA and halted production (for the full story, see http://www.compassboxwhisky.com).
Over the following three years we developed a new maturation process which yielded similar if not superior results to our previous method, and this new process is something the SWA can’t take any issue with. The Spice Tree was then relaunched in September 2009. The Whisky & The Method. As in the past, The Spice Tree is made from 100% malt whisky sourced from northern Highland distilleries, (notably and primarily malt whisky distilled in the village of Brora). The primary maturation is in a mix of first-fill and refill American oak.
What is different is the secondary maturation. Rather than using inner stave inserts, as we did for the original Spice Tree, we rack the whisky into barrels with heavily toasted new French oak heads. We have created a method for getting a super heavy toast on the cask heads which imparts a flavour profile similar to the flat staves used for the original Spice Tree.1 We use oak with three different levels of toasting on the barrel heads, thus allowing us to blend the resultant whiskies to create additional layers of complexity. This secondary maturation lasts as long as two years.
The Spice Tree is a very rich whisky, suitable for after-dinner sipping, as an accompaniment to certain cheeses and, especially, in cocktails.
Big, sweet aromas of clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate is full, round and sweet, with the spice and vanilla complementing the core distillery characters and leaving a long finish.
Recommendations Its rich, bold flavours make it most suitable for after- dinner sipping, as an accompaniment to certain cheeses, and ideal in cocktails.
Distillery Sourcing Made entirely of Highland single malt whiskies from the villages of Brora (fruitiness), Carron (meatiness) and Alness (perfume).
Wood Primary maturation: first-fill and refill American oak. Secondary maturation: custom barrels with heavily toasted new French oak heads sourced from 195 year-old Vosges forests.
Bottling Details Bottled at 46%. Natural colour. Not chill filtered
What I say:
The Spice Tree all malt blend is essentially the same naked blend as Oak Cross above but this time matured in heavily toasted French oak. The original batches were made using the submerged French Oak staves in Bourbon casks. Gregg pointed out that not only do they source their French Oak directly but they have it air-seasoned (not kiln dried) for around 2 years and it is identical to the wood used by wine producers in the same region. Gregg also stated that typically around 6-15 casks minimum would be used to produce a batch of their all malt blends.
Dark amber gold
Ginger and cinnamon, honey and golden syrup
Sweet toffee and honey, golden syrup, ginger, deeper notes of liquorice and high % cocoa chocolate
Spicy and lingers with a zesty grapefruit pith, slightly drying