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Compass Box has served me well. I love their packaging. I feel they are a solid independent that produce very innovative and flavorful blends. And I had been looking forward to tasting this particular offering for a while now.
However, what I love more than the malt itself is the wonderful story behind it. When they first introduced this expression in 2005 they did it on the basis of an interesting experiment.
Using 100% malts from the Northern Highlands - mainly Clynelish - all around 10 years old they re-racked the spirit in their own customized casks.
Customized, you ask? Well, this is what they did.
Using 195 year old French Oak (heavily toasted and air dried for two years) they crafted inner staves which they fitted inside used barrels, therefore, extending the life of an otherwise useless barrel.
The result? The first edition of The Spice Tree which ended up winning rave reviews and awards. Unfortunately, the Scotch Whisky Association decided this was illegal and rather than get into a tiff Compass Box decided to suspend production in 2006.
But they had another trick up their sleeve. Instead of using staves second time around they decided to, instead, manufacture heavily toasted cask heads from the same French Oak used in the first edition. Suck on that SWA!
Nose: Hint of peat on a lovely orange marmalade spread. Quite sweet with an almost fortified white wine quality to it. Soft brown raisins. But of course, as the name suggests, the multitude of spices are what sets this one apart. Ginger, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg all feature quite strongly on the nose. The French Oak in play here.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel with a lovely citrusy sweetness to it. Must be all that Clynelish. The spicy cloves and ginger bits are at home amid the limestone sweetness of the warm brown chocolates and butterscotch raisins.
Finish: Lovely and long with an oily wooden spice.
This is quite a spectacular malt by any standards and well worth sinking your teeth into.