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Review: Compass Box “The Spice Tree” (2nd generation)

November 16th, 2009


Compass Box “The Spice Tree”, 46%, $65
The second generation of The Spice Tree. (This new expression sports a much larger tree image on the front label.) While the first bottling used inner French oak staves to impart an additional oak influence, this one uses French oak barrel heads. This new bottling is also bolder, displaying more oak —there’s more dried spice notes and it’s more viscous and clinging on the palate. (It’s also less elegant than the original bottling.) Notes of sticky toffee, vanilla fudge, bramble, and red currant give way to oak resin, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and subtle lemongrass. A tactile, somewhat resinous, polished leather finish wraps it up. A nice whisky, but to be completely honest, I really enjoy the subtler, more elegant nature of the original bottling better.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

12 Responses to “Review: Compass Box “The Spice Tree” (2nd generation)”

  1. Red_Arremer says:

    A Compass Box whisky that’s not elegant is a novelty. I certainly look forward to trying it.

    John, regarding this whisky, would you be able to finish the following sentence by filling in the blank:

    “I would most recommend this whisky to fans of ________.”

    I’m interested because a lot of traditional scotch drinkers didn’t know what to make of the first edition. Serge even admitted to handing out a safe, default rating of 80, because it’s profile was so far away from any style that he was familiar with.

  2. John Hansell says:

    Hi Red, I didn’t say it wasn’t elegant, but rather less elegant (than the original). Hmmm…I think it should appeal to other whiskies with a slighty enhanced oak characteristic: The Glenlivet French Oak 15 y/o, for example.

    More people will identify the French Oak more in this bottling than the original one because it’s more prominent, and some might like it better for this reason. For me though, I liked the more subtle nuances of the original bottling.

  3. DrummerBoy says:

    Tried this at a USBGNY event. There are too many similarities to the Oak Cross. It just seems like John’s cashing in on the controversy of the first Spice Tree release without producing something new.

    Anyone interested there is a retailer in NYC that held on to much of their original release of Spice Tree. Amazing stuff! I also saw a 375ml of the original Orangerie…..mmmmmmm

    Manor House Cellar
    61 West 23rd Street
    New York, NY 10010

  4. DavidG says:

    I’m sorry John, but I was unable to find your rating and tasting notes on the original. Do you have that on the site or can you post it here?

  5. John Hansell says:

    DavidG, It appears that I didn’t review the original Spice Tree formally. (We looked.) Maybe because the SWA forced Compass Box to halt production. When I reviewed the new bottling above, I pulled out a sample from the first bottling which I still have and compared the two.

  6. […] Hansell reviews the new Spice Tree, marking it slightly below the original (illegal) […]

  7. PeteR says:

    I tried it at the StPaul Whiskey Fest last month and found it to be a wonderful release. I for one like it more for its woodsy boldness, like Glenmorangie’s Astar, both of which are very well balanced. I was not able to compare them side by side but look forward to when the Spice Tree becomes available locally.

  8. H.Diaz says:

    Love the new packaging. Sure to stand out on the shelf from much of the other hum drum packaging.

    This one, much like the brand itself, has Pazzaz.

  9. MrTH says:

    Drummerboy, I’d say he’s simply trying to do what he wanted to do with the original ST, in a manner that won’t upset any applecarts. “Cashing in”? Well, he’s in the business of selling whisky, isn’t he?

    And just what did the SWA achieve with its inner-stave ban? Not much, I’d say.

  10. H.Diaz says:

    MrTH, I agree with your comment. The way I see it, despite the SWA’s ruling, Compass Box has soldiered on, marching to the beat of their own drum. Now, under the proper guidelines and scrutinizing eye of the SWA.

    Furthermore, to give up on the Spice Tree would be a diservice to his loyal clientele, like myself who’ve never tasted the original Spice Tree but read much about it.

    And if Compass Box is able to “cash in”, good for them. It is their pioneering spirit that would allow for it.

    Despites John’s modest rating, I will seek this one out.

  11. WOW! I love this stuff! The creamy toffee up front giving way to that spicy cinnamon & clove is great. A couple of friends & I finished the bottle in a night. Stunning!

  12. I think it is great! Bough two more bottles! For some reason, it reminds me of Oban 14.

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