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Compass Box The Spice Tree

A Nose Of Generous Proportions

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@dbkReview by @dbk

5th Feb 2011


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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In the whisky anorak’s world, The Spice Tree is perhaps Compass Box’s best known offering—not just for the glowing reviews by Jim Murray and the like, but also for the Scotch Whisky Association’s controversial move against Compass Box for their first two releases of this expression, in which toasted new French oak staves were inserted into casks during secondary maturation. The latest edition is a blended (formerly known as ‘vatted’) malt of four whiskies from Dailuaine, Teaninich, Clynelish, and—to my nose, at least—Longmorn. To get ‘round the SWA’s objection, Compass Box now employs toasted new French oak barrel heads (apparently a more ‘traditional’ approach) rather than staves during the secondary maturation.

The nose is absolutely delightful, transforming constantly yet subtly. At times, I detect tangy vanilla yogurt, luxurious vanilla custard, oak resin, vanilla biscuits, oranges, orange creamsicles, and orange soda. There are also whiffs of sea air, honey, clove, strawberries, cracked white pepper, crystallised ginger, and poached pears.

Unsurprisingly, the palate is spicy, especially with cinnamon and preserved pears. There are dominant notes of rich and creamy vanilla, orange liqueur, and malt. The finish is richly vanillaed, and of good length.

I have spent far more time nosing this wonderful whisky than tasting it, but still it has broken the house record for fastest finished whisky bottle yet, and with good reason. The Spice Tree is a genuinely superb malt.

Related Compass Box reviews


AboutChoice commented

Hi @dbk, a delightfully spicy review, after which I feel I now have to try this. I only wish I could find a set of sample sizes of the Compass Box collection :-)

12 years ago 0

Victor commented

@dbk, it is lovely enthusiasm that you have and a lovely review that you have given! Fastest finished bottle? Wow! That says something. I have heard about Spice Box for a long time and have seen Compass Box products for sale occasionally, but never the Spice Box. I am looking forward to it, as are I would think most spice hounds like me. And one comment about the use of "blended" where "vatted" was formerly sanctioned: this change is just stupid and confusing. 'Vatted' worked just fine, and gave a clear picture of what is offered. I will continue to use 'vatted' in this context in all of my references.

12 years ago 0

dbk commented

@AboutChoice, I'm sure the Spice Tree will be worth a full bottle for you, though I know what you mean about getting samplers instead. You did know that Compass Box now has such a collection, right?

@Victor, I couldn't agree more about 'vatted' versus 'blended'. It was a terribly stupid decision to change terminology.

12 years ago 0

jwise commented

I quite enjoyed my taste. I shared my meager 3cl sample with a fellow malt-lover, and we were impressed. I have a review up as well.

12 years ago 0

dbk commented

A brief update, from the horse's mouth: the whisky in The Spice Tree that was sourced from the village of Longmorn was not actually from the Longmorn distillery, but from Glen Elgin. Having nosed my bottle of Dailuaine 16, I now believe that it was this whisky that was the cause of my Longmorn misattribution. My sincerest apologies for any confusion! ; )

12 years ago 0

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