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.

Glenmorangie- The Original

Maker: Glenmorangie, Tain, Scotland, UK (LVMH)Glenmorangie%2010y%20original%20l

Region:  Highlands- Northern.

Age: 10 y/o

ABV: 43%

Appearance: Pale gold

Nose: Malt, alcohol, wildflower honey, dried flowers, hint of oak.

On the palate: full bodied, sweet and a little hot. Sugar cookies, orange blossom honey (yes, I can taste the difference), alomond extract, vanilla.

Finish: Strong malt notes followed by an assertive sweetness. Even with water, the finish is still pretty hot.

Parting words: At ten years of age, most bourbons are hitting their peak or at least are close to it. At ten most single malt Scotches, especially those made on the mainland, are barely out of diapers. The Original is a good example of that. Not to say it’s not tasty, it definitely is, it just  lacks depth. It’s all sweetness and malt and not much else. The Original is priced reasonably for a single malt at $40 Michigan State Minimum and I would take it over some of its 12 y/o competition like Glennfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan and Dalmore. Glenmorangie The Original is recommended.

The Arran Malt, 14 y/o

Maker: Isle of Arran, Lochranza, Arran, Ayrshire, Scotland, UK

Region: Highlands- Island

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 46%

Notes: Non chill-filtered

Appearance: Bright new gold.

Nose: Wildflower honey, vanilla pudding, butterscotch pudding, heather.

On the palate: Full-bodied and buttery. Hard toffees, sweet cream butter, blondies, wild thyme.

Finish: Hot and buttery. Like freshly made caramel corn, not entirely cooled yet.

Parting words: Founded in 1995, Isle of Arran Distillers is one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland producing whisky. This 14 year old expression, released in 2010, is their oldest expression to date. It’s a good, solid single malt. It is firmly in the tradition of the Highlands with plenty of sherry and bourbon notes, but with the maritime tang of the costal malts. Isle of Arran is on the right track, and this is a good whisky for a distillery of any age. Isle of Arran 14 y/o is recommended.

Clynelish Single Malt

Maker: Clynelish, Brora, Scotland (Diageo)

Region: Highlands- Northern (coastal)

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 46%

Appearance: light amber with long clingy legs.

Nose: Malt, toffee, brown butter, honey, brine, papaya, a slight peaty tang, but no noticeable smoke.

On the palate: Soft and full-bodied. Even with a splash of water it has a big bite. Wildflower honey, butterscotch, kiwi, some maritime notes but not fishy or murky.

Finish: Malty but powerful. Caramel, nougat, honey, caramel corn, still a hint of brine.

Parting words: I’m still a Scotch novice so bear with me. My first thought when tasting it was that it tastes like Highland Park’s rambunctious younger (or older) sibling. The Scottish Wildcat on the label seems apt. Even with a goodly amount of water, it is still a powerful malt far beyond its ABV %.  It’s a great combination of soft voluptuous candy and powerful seaside characteristics. Recommended.

Now Drinking

Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Age: 12 yrs.

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Maker: Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland (Edrington Group)

It’s Whiskey Friday.  For those of you who are whiskey fans and on twitter, check out Whiskey Friday.  Or just type #Whiskey Friday and then something else.

A note on spelling.  In spite of popular opinion, there is no difference between whiskey and whisky.  Whisky is how the word is spelled in the U.K. and Canada.  Whiskey is how the word is spelled in the U.S. and Ireland.  Both spellings indicate a spirit made from grain and aged (with the exception of corn whiskey, which may be unaged).  To confuse matters more, some brands of American whiskey, like Old Forester, Maker’s Mark and George Dickel, use the e-less spelling.  So, in short, it’s not worth getting too worked up about spelling.

It’s no secret that bourbon is my spirit of choice.  But when I first started exploring the world of spirits, I drank quite a bit of Scotch.  I moved away from it, but from time to time I do find myself feeling the urge for Scotch.

Highland Park is my kinda Scotch.  It has a little bit of all the things that make Scotch Whisky special.  It has all these things, but instead of being busy, all the elements hang in beautiful balance.

The color is light, like honey that has siezed up in the bottle.  I like that a lot.  I like it beacause it shows that it is free from the pencious caramel coloring that many Scotch distilleries add to their product.  One of the differeces in American whiskeys and Scotch whiskeys is that Scottish makers are allowed to add coloring and flavoring to their product, other than that which comes from the barrel.  In the U.S., no bourbon or rye is allowed to add anything artificial to the whiskey and still call it bourbon or rye(unless they label it bourbon + X flavoring, for example).  Also, any whiskey called a “straight” whiskey in the U.S. must be aged in new charred oak barrels, while almost all Scotches are aged in used oak barrels, many of them old bourbon barrels!  This makes straight American whiskeys naturally darker than their European cousins.  So a light color indicates a young bourbon, while the same indicates an additive-free Scotch.

At any rate, the nose on this whisky is a typical Scotch nose (much like my own) but not obnoxiously so.  The smoke hits my hooter first, then a bit of peat, then a lucious flowery sweetness, like wildflower honey.  On the palate it is quite sweet at first, then peat rushes to the fore.  It then does something very interesting.  The sweetness fades to a long, quite dry finish.  The wood begins to come through in the finish, but the smoke and peat maintain their forward position.

This is one of Scotland’s best, beloved by connoisseurs and dillatantes alike.  I have a feeling that my cupboard will not be without it for very long after this bottle is gone.