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The raging storm continues in Toronto and so I partake of my usual snowed-in activity - tasting whisky. Ok fine, it's my usual activity all the time, yeah whatevs. But tonight we have something quite unique and special, with a long colourful history.
Compass Box is like no other bottler - they produce ranges of blends and blended malts that push the boundaries of what whisky can be. Founded by ex-Diageo marketing executive John Glaser in 2000, they are an artisanal whisky maker - not a distiller.
In 2005 they launched The Spice Tree, a blended malt which, for its secondary maturation, used the unusual method of placing new French oak staves into used bourbon barrels to impart more spice. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) deemed this illegal, for the pathetic reason that it had simply never been done before. Compass Box was forced to withdraw it from the market after only being available for about a year.
In 2009 they re-launched it - primary maturation remained the same (first-fill and refill American oak), but for secondary maturation, the casks had heads of virgin French oak, toasted at various levels. I don't know how long the primary maturation period is, but the secondary maturation can be as long as two years. The SWA could take no issue with this; therefore, the whisky still stands. The spirit comes solely from Highland distilleries, with the base malt from Clynelish, and is very similar in production method as their Oak Cross expression (though it matures longer and the wood is more heavily toasted). It is non-coloured and non-chillfiltered.
The colour is a shimmering medium-depth gold. Quite oaky on the nose but in a good way - in perfect harmony with the malt. Vanilla, coconut, mint, eucalyptus, cinnamon and ginger. A slight hint of lemon meringue. With water, more eucalyptus and some chocolate orange.
Such a beautiful palate. More vanilla and a hint of caramel, from the virgin oak. Very herbal. Silky smooth mouthfeel. A little water brings out more nutmeg and pepper. It certainly lives up to its name! Absolutely delicious.
The finish is very spicy, with lots of vanilla. This may be the most perfect blended malt I have tasted, up there with the Taketsuru 17 (though it is very different). Perfect harmony and balance, rich, smooth, very complex. Grab one if you can, it is a very unique whisky, with a lot of history and worth the appreciation.