My curiosity got the better of me. Despite resisting for about three weeks, I finally folded and picked up a bottle of Compass Box’s The Spice Tree. What drew me to this whisky is its history as well as its unique production process. Compass Box was founded in 2000 and calls itself an artisan Scotch producer. They are involved in looking for new ways of creating flavours in their blends which sometimes gets them into trouble with the Scotch Whisky Association. For instance, The Spice Tree was first introduced in 2005 but was pulled after the Scotch Whisky Association deemed the practice of inserting French oak staves (flat oak barrel inserts) into bourbon casks for the second maturation was unacceptable.
In fall of 2009, Compass Box released a new version of the product. Having changed their approach, they were able to legally market the Spice Tree. Compass Box uses the highest quality wood from old growth French Sessile oak with an average age of 195 years. The wood is then air dried for two years, letting it develop its flavours and character. Most whisky wood is kiln dried. Instead of using French oak staves, Compass Box now incorporates the new French oak at the end of the barrel in the second maturation cycle. The oak is heavily toasted and apparently provides a similar flavour profile as the previous version.
The bottle states that the primary maturation is in a mix first fill and refill American oak and then the French oak from the Vosges forests for 2 years.
The whisky is sold at 46% alcohol by volume as a blended malt from the Highland area, specifically the village of Brora.
The colour is a rich amber and the bottle quite elegant.
The spices abound on the nose. Ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, some sugary sweetness, toasted apple, and hints of wood.
On the palate, much of the same. There is a sweet greeting to the taste, followed by the spices and soft fruit. Apple juice and cinnamon combine with soft wood, nut, and honey tones. Vanilla and almond round it out.
The finish is long and pleasant. The spice, apple, nut, wood, honey, and smoke slowly fade to a sweet fruity note before turning to vanilla that gently goes the distance in providing one of the most pleasant finishes I have yet to experience.
Adding a few drops of water, the nose opens some more honey and the body shows some more of the previous characteristics. It feels warmer on the tongue, but continues to satisfy on all levels.
This is an exceptional find and a great all around whisky. Perfect for a cool, rainy night, Compass Box recommends hard goat cheese and strong cheddar. Around these parts it appears to be quite rare. As of this writing, there were 16 bottles in all of the province of Quebec, 8 in Montreal’s downtown signature store and 8 in Ste-Foy’s signature store. Ontario only has a total of 11 available, 8 at the store in Etobicoke and 3 in London. I’ll note that Ontario sells the product for $9 less than Quebec. I am unsure of availability in the US, but none are to be found in New Hampshire.