Tasting Compass Box – The Spice Tree


The third (and not last) Compass Box whisky I am going to review it the Spice Tree. Many of you have heard about it since it caused quite a stir in the whisky puddle a while ago, when the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) forced Compass Box to discontinue the production of this product.

The Entire story and explanation about why, how and when can be found HERE . But for the ones that do not have a lot of time, the essence is this  : In order to enrich the flavours of the whisky in the aging process , CB used inner wooden oak staves that were inserted into the barrels in which the whisky was aged, this affected the spirit, adding spice and charred wood to the profile of the whisky. This method is often used in the wine industry to boost the oak flavours in red wine, and as it appears, the SWA thought it is not allowed when dealing with Scotch whisky.

The Lads from CB, did not despair, and after about 3 years of experimentation, they found a different way to achieve the same results, this time by a method that is allowed by the SWA: Rather than using Oak staves, they pour the whisky into barrels installed with heavily toasted new French oak heads. This method of getting super heavy toast on those oak heads imparts a flavour profile very similar to the staves used in the original Spice Tree. By using different amounts of oak tasting per barrel head, and then blending the whisky from them, an additional level of complexity of flavours is reached.

If you read my previous post about the Oak Cross, your are probably asking yourself , what is different here than the ‘similar’ method used there with the oak barrel heads. The answer is that the Spice tree barrels use more heavily toasted oak and also, spend more time in the barrels (as long as two years) than the Oak Cross whisky does.

The whisky that goes into the barrels is Highland Single Malt Aged 10-12 years mostly from the Clynelish distillery. The barrels themselves are first-fill and refill American oak, and the secondary maturation is done in the custom made barrels (installed with the heavily toasted French oak heads , which are sourced from 195 year-old Vosges forest).

Now that we got everything down about the essence of the Spice Tree, let’s get on with our tasting notes, Shall we?

Compass Box Spice Tree , 46% , $55 / £35


Nose: Vanilla and lots of spice going on, just fitting for its name :  Cinnamon,Ginger,a sweet tasted oak nose, with a punch.

Palate: Spicy mama heaven. Cinnamon and ginger deliver the spicy blast, assisted by butter and wee milk chocolate notes as well to complete the very enjoyable package.

Finish : Long, spices and cocoa, wood and cinnamon.

bottom line:

This little dram delivers big time. Immensely drinkable, lovable and spicy, with the sweetness and the cocoa finish. toasted oak done right. i don’t know about the first generation, but this one is definitely a winner.  A great dram for a good price  (~$55). John Glaser, you did again. Magic.

You can also read Jason’s excellent review of this one at the guid scotch drink blog. It seems we’re in accordance when it comes to this one.


One thought on “Tasting Compass Box – The Spice Tree

Leave a Reply