Review: Compass Box, The Spice Tree

Only 10 more days of blended whisky month and I’m still loving it!

Today I’m not, strictly speaking, reviewing a blended whisky. Compass Box’s The Spice Tree is actually a blended malt. This expression is famous for having been banned (in another incarnation) by the Scotch Whisky Association. The reason? Toasted Oak Staves were placed inside the barrels used to marry the blend in order to add spicy notes. This did not go down well.

Nevertheless John Glazer and the Compass Box team reinvented the Spice Tree, finding alternative “legal” means of getting a similar flavour profile. Here are the dramstats:

compass-box-spice-tree

 

  • Price £38
  • ABV 46%
  • Blended Malt

Nose: Orange, ginger, cinnamon, ice cream cones, pepper and a hint of ozone with red dessert apple.

Palate: Vanilla ice cream, black and white pepper, oak, ground ginger and cinnamon, with some hints of raisin. Extremely spicy.

Finish: The spices continue to tingle and grow. Pepper, ginger and oak amongst a background of sweet Mr Whippy Ice cream.

Verdict: It’s excellent. A wonderfully spicy and controlled delivery on the palate. If you like a spice whisky, or you want one to add to your collection, this is a pretty good price!

 

 

 

Whisky Advent Day 17

The day was Monday, the last week at work before the christmas break. I opened the advent calendar, intending to see what the dram was, then make breakfast. But breakfast would have to wait 10 minutes, as inside the calendar was a whisky I’d never heard of: Poit Dhubh 12 year old?!

I didn’t even know what country this was from, let alone what type of whisky this was, so it was time to do some research.

Poit Dhubh, pronounced “Potch Ghoo”, is Gaelic and it is a whisky from the Gaelic whisky collection produced by Praban na Linne Limited, a whisky company based on the Isle of Skye. The name means illicit still in Gaelic, and the rumour is that there is some elicit malt whisky in the blend, though I suspect this is largely tongue in cheek.

Poit Dhubh 12 year old is actually a blended malt. There is no indication of what whiskies it contains, so this is a bit of a fun mystery dram. Good old advent calendar!

Here are the dramstats:

poitdhub

 

  • ABV 43%
  • Blended malt
  • 12 year old
  • Price £29
  • Non chill filtered

Nose: Quite malty, ovaltine + vanilla. There is a note of tropical sweets, thinking opal fruits (starburst for drammers under 25), just a hint though.Time in the glass leads to red apples and bubble gum “bottles” (Those blue and pink bubble gum flavour bottle shaped sweets at the pick ‘n’ mix.

Palate: Sweet vanilla and lots of malt. Really really malty!

Finish: Malty malt gets maltier! Dooley’s toffee cream liqueur and a touch of drying oak.

Verdict: I loved it! A real session dram at a decent price. Alternatively, have it instead of ovaltine as a malty bedtime treat for grown ups!

 

Big Peat Xmas 2012

My last dram of the new year had to be a 2012 dram, and what better way to end the year than with the special small batch 2012 xmas edition of big peat?

I was lucky enough to win this bottle from Single Malts Direct, so it’s not something I would have thought about buying. Big peat is a blend of Islay whiskies containing Port Ellen (a whisky I’ve not had the opportunity to try). It is presented at cask strength and is not chill filtered.

Here are the dramstats:

bigpeatxmas12

 

  • Price £43 from single malts direct
  • ABV 53.6%

Nose: All encompassing peat with a slight medicinal note saturated in smoke. Light fruit on top of the smoke with apples and pears. Then citrus, specifically lemon peel. Time in the glass leads to a slight winey note.

Palate: Smokey and medicinal. However, this is not like Laphroaig. That plasters/iodine note is there but the smoke is much richer and lighter citrus notes give it a zing.

Finish: Spicy pepper kick followed by rich smoke giving way to sticking plasters and lemon peel and a creamy after taste.

Verdict: It’s definitely a peat monster but I much prefer it to Laphroaig, though I was hoping for a little more complexity from a blend. For £43 for a cask strength peat monster though, you can’t go wrong. I may look into the standard big peat and I’ll be very tempted by xmas 2013…

 

Wemyss Twitter Tasting

Tonight I was picked to take part in one of The Whiskywire’s series of twitter tastings. A format where a group of chosen people gather on twitter and taste a series of whiskies. This time we were tasting a range of Wemyss products under the hashtag #WEMYSSTT.

Wemyss, or “weems”, as it’s pronounced, is named after the Wemyss family who’s estate was home to the first distillery built by John Haig (founder of Haig’s). They produce their own blended malts and blends, and also have a range of excellent single cask bottlings. Tonight, we were tasting their ultra popular 12 year old blended malt, ‘The Hive’; the 15 year old blend, Lord Elcho; A 24 year old single cask Tormore called “White chocolate torte”; and a 14 year old single cask Laphroaig called “Beach Bonfires”.

Here my set up for the twasting.

 

I’ll give tasting notes on each dram first, then add my thoughts on the range as a whole. The price indicated is the cheapest found via quick google search and my verdict takes that price into account. Here are the dramstats:

First up the popular and multi-award winning “The Hive 12 year old” Blended malt scotch whisky (Vatted malt to me).

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £35

Nose: Almost cliche to go with a first note of “honey” given the name and the little picture of a bee on the bottle, but this is the most honeyed dram I’ve ever nosed! There is also a touch of smoke, crunchie bars, toffee, pear drops, cream and a white wine note, possible sauvignon blanc.

Palate: Sickly sweet, clotted cream and honey. Smoke comes through with the lighter notes from the nose left behind.  The smoke is sweet like Ardmore and the mouthfeel is very oily as if Craigellachie is in there.

Finish: Slightly drying oak, followed by sweet honey and a kiss of smoke. Short.

Verdict: An excellent introductory dram for beginners. In fact it’s so sweet and rich it’s almost a liqueur! For the more experienced palate it’s a great session dram or a dessert whisky. One to start with before breaking out the peat monsters. I would certainly buy it at this price and would probably get through it quite quickly! Good one!

Next up we have Lord Elcho 15, Blended Scotch

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £50

Nose: Quite closed at first, glass needs warming to coax out the aromas. Once you do, wow! Raspberry ripple ice cream, campino, vanilla, raspberry sauce, marzipan, Pledge furniture polish. Some really nice grain in this

Palate: Sweet delivery, creamy vanilla, raspberry sauce, Szechuan pepper, black cherry, chocolate.

Finish: Sweet lingering honey and vanilla with cherry, oaky dryness, mocha, and a twist of pepper.

Verdict: Excellent blend. Lovely grain and an enjoyable polish note. Sweet, spicyish and a great finish. A blend to recommend. I shall be picking up a bottle of this, but perhaps I’ll wait to see if the price stays so high. I only found this available at one retailer and I suspect, when it becomes more widely available, the price may drop. We’ll see!

Onto “White chocolate torte” a single cask Tormore distilled in 1988.

  • ABV 46%
  • Age 24
  • Price £83.95

Nose:  Yogurt topped flapjack, vanilla, white chocolate, spirit (angels share) and oak like being in a bonded warehouse.

Palate: Bam! White chocolate mini eggs. They’ve named this very well. Ice cream, (a white chocolate magnum). Water brings out coconut cream and guava. Someone said “white chocolate bounty” and I think they were bang on!

Finish: Pepper, oak then creamy white chocolate coconut with a bitter aftertaste of artificial sweetener.

Verdict: The nose on this one is worth the £80. I’ve saved some for later and I’m really looking forward to it!

Lastly to the Laphroaig “Beach Bonfires” distilled in 1998.

  • Age 14 years
  • ABV 46%
  • Price £74.50

Nose: I’m sensitive to the medicinal TCP note and it’s the first thing that appears for me. The malt is very coastal. Salty, lobster traps, crabs, sweet BBQ sauce (mild) fennel, seaweed covered rocks.

Palate: Very sweet. The expected coastal peat takes an age to arrive. Firstly it’s sugared almonds and icing sugar, then the peat arrives like the American armed forces at the end of a James bond film.

Finish: Burst of salty peat and a rush of icing sugar into a bitter aftertaste.

Verdict: It’s not a bad whisky but the “Islayness” doesn’t shine enough and too often is dominated by icing sugar and sweetness. Not one for my palate.

Overall verdict on the tasting: We tasted some excellent whiskies today. The Tormore certainly stood out, for the nose alone. However, I think the blends are the ones that tempt me to part with my money. The Lord Elcho was excellent and will hit my shelf at some point (though I’ll wait to see how much Master of malt, single malts direct or the whisky exchange sell it for). I loved The Hive, but worry that if I bought a bottle it wouldn’t last a week!

In short Wemyss make some cracking blends and bottle some excellent casks. If I’ve gained anything from the experience it’s that I want to sample the other blends in their range. In particular “The spice king” and “Peat chimney”. Now, where can I source a sample from…?