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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.