Spice Tree

spicetree_bottle-sm
from http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/images/trade_press/bottle_shots/spicetree_bottle-sm.jpg

Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Style: Blended malt in American oak with toasted French oak barrel heads (see here for more information: http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/pdf/TheSpiceTree.pdf)

Region: Northern Highlands

Note: Not colored or chill-filtered.

ABV: 46%

Michigan state minimum: $62

Appearance: Medium gold with long thin legs

Nose: Sweet malt, vanilla, nutmeg, pinch of ginger.

Palate: Soft with a hint of spice. Custard, cassia, allspice, mace, ginger, clove.

Finish: Spice followed by a hit of vanilla fading into alcohol heat.

Parting words: The original edition of Spice Tree was aged with French oak barrel inserts. The Scotch Whisky Association threatened legal action against Compass Box because of this process. Compass Box decided not to fight the SWA and changed their process to one utilizing French oak barrel heads instead of the inserts.

I never got a chance to taste the old controversial version but this one is very good. I enjoy the Northern Highland whiskies very much on their own and the French oak process has nicely enhanced the spicy flavors of these malts. One would also be hard pressed to get a malt from any of those distilleries at this price that tastes this good. Spice Tree is recommended.

Hedonism

Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UKwpid-hedonism_bottle.jpg

Distillers vary by batch but often includes whisky from : Cameron Bridge (Fife), Carsebridge, Cambus , Port Dundas or Dumbarton.

Style: Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $110

Appearance: Light gold with long moderately thick legs.

Nose: Vanilla, woodruff, white pepper, persimmon.

Palate: Medium sweet and full bodied. Vanilla pudding, alcohol, toffee, caramel, pecan.

Finish: Medium hot, creamy and herbaceous. Lasts a long time and gets sweeter as it goes.

Parting words: Grain whisky is Scotch whisky made from a grain other than malted barley. That grain can be anything, but wheat and corn are most common. It is distilled in a column still to a higher ABV than malt whisky, which is distilled in pot stills. Grain whisky is most commonly used to blend with single malt whisky to create blended Scotch. The malt component is used to give flavor to blends, while the grain is used to fill it out and round it off to create a very drinkable spirit.

Scotch grain whiskies are rarely bottled on their own, but Compass Box has decided to make this one a part of its core range. It’s round and rich with lots of character, giving the lie to the assertion that column distillation only produces bland, thin whisky (of course, bourbon gives the lie to this assertion as well). Aged mostly in ex-bourbon casks, it is a rich and complex as most single malts, if not richer. This is a wonderful whisky that is delicious all the way around. It’s expensive, though, and that keeps it out of the highly recommended category. Compass Box Hedonism is recommended.

Great King Street

Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Appearance: Golden straw, with long elegant legs.

Nose: Classic Scotch blend nose. Toffee, butterscotch candy, lemongrass.

On the palate: Full-bodied and creamy.  A little heat, then rich taffy, toffee and assorted hard candies with a soft kiss of peat and a hint of ginger.

Finish: Luxurious finish. The ginger races to the front in the finish, complemented by the peat and the heat. Wonderful.

Parting Words: After my disappointment with White Horse, I wasn’t expecting any more than a pleasant, refreshing dram from this. But now, unfortunately, my expectations of blended Scotch have been raised again. Great King Street is refreshing and easy drinking, as a blend should be, but also complex and interesting. Great King street is put out by American-born John Glaser’s Compass Box Co., creator of a series of great blended malts including the Peat Monster, Eleuthera, Flaming Heart and many, many more. Great King Street is highly recommended.