Review: Compass Box The Spice Tree

Maltstock:

This weekend I will be visiting Maltstock for the first time. When I first read about it, I immediately knew I wanted to be there. Maltstock is a laidback style whisky festival where you stay on a campground for the whole weekend and your time spend there is filled with tasting sessions, masterclasses, and good food. At night there are plenty of opportunities to mingle and to make sure there are plenty of whiskies to choose from everybody brings their own bottle. With around 300 guests that means there will be plenty of choice!

Before signing up I met up with the people behind Maltstock at the Whisky in Leiden festival. I was already convinced I would be signing up before going over to the stand, but I felt uncertain about one thing… what kind of bottle should I bring? Does it have to be a single malt, should it be in a certain price range, etc.

The simple answer was that I could bring anything that I wanted. But their advice was to bring something that either held a story for me, or something that I truly loved and wanted to share with others.

And now -a day before I leave for Maltstock 2022 – I decided I would be fun to announce that I chose The Spice Tree by Compass Box!

About the whisky itself:

When I first started out my whisky journey I (too) quickly decided that good whisky had to be a single malt. Ofcourse, I know better now. But the whisky that truly showed me my mistake was this Compass Box. It was the first blended malt I ever tasted, and I loved every sip of it.

Aside from that personal backstory I also love the backstory of the whisky itself. Compass Box originally made the Spice Tree with staves from 195-year-old French oak trees, that were inserted in the cask. But as inserting staves is not a traditional technique, the Scotch Whisky Association declared this method of aging illegal and the original The Spice Tree bottlings had to be taken of the market. Undeterred Compass Box set to recreating the flavour, but this time within the rules of the Scotch Whisky Association. The current Spice Tree releases are the result of those efforts.

All backstories aside, I already kind of gave away that I love this whisky. But let’s find out in the tasting notes exactly why!

Tasting Notes: Compass Box “The Spice Tree”

Stats:

ABV: 46% (92 proof)

Age: NAS

Bottled by: Compass Box

Owned by: Compass Box

Category: Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Awards: WWA Gold (2020), Jim Murray Gold (2014), International Spirits Challenge Trophy (2016), International Spirits Challenge Gold (2019, 2020), San Francisco World Spirits Challenge Winner (2015), The Scotch Whisky Masters Gold (2018), IWSC Silver Outstanding (2017)

Chill-filtered: No

Natural colour: Yes

Setting:

I feel excited and very much in a whisky mood as I’m really looking forward to my first ever Maltstock, that I will be leaving for tomorrow afternoon. I’m enjoying this dram neat in a glencairn, while listening to some Jimi Hendrix. It’s a cold night so I’m tucked in underneath a blanket, whisky in hand.

Nose:

There’s some spice here for sure, I can pick up cinnamon and a little bit of baking spices. But even though the name might suggest otherwise, I get much more fruitiness on the nose than spice. There are apples, raisins, a little bit of mango and even some pineapple. And it’s all coated with a thick layer of honey.

Palate:

This is where the spice really comes into play. There’s nutmeg, jalapeno peppers, hot red peppers and a hint of cloves. Aside from that there’s a little bit of lime, balancing it all out nicely. It is way less sweet than the nose would suggest. It truly does its name honour though. It’s like stepping into the kitchen, opening the spice cupboard and breathing in the lingering smells making them almost palpable on the tongue.

Finish:

The finish has a medium length. There’s a little wooden bitterness left on te tongue, reminiscent of when you used to suck on an empty ice popsickle for too long as a child. The lime lingers as well and it almost reminds me of “knippa” a fruit my relatives grow on Curaçao. It’s quite a nice contrast to the palate. I just find myself wishing it would last a bit longer.

Verdict:

This remains an excellent dram and it holds a permanent place in my collection. It’s a great conversation starter, it’s good value for around 45 euro, and it never becomes boring. I think that last part has to do with the fact that the nose, palate, and finish are all so vastly different. You could almost call it disjointed, but I like to think it’s a whisky that takes you on a journey. Finally, if you know some people who believe all Scotch should be Single Malt then this is a great example of how good a blend can be. Do keep in mind though that it’s a blended malt. Which means that no grain whisky went into this blend.

Rating:

87/100

Value:

B

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes and how I determine rating and value.

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