Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review - Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza

The Extravaganza celebrates the 10 year anniversary of the legendary Spice Tree release. This was famously banned by the Scotch Whisky Association due to un-traditional maturation methods when it was first released. The new expression is a blend of three single malts - Allt-a-Bhainne, Benrinnes and Glen Ord - and three pockets of 'Highland Malt Blend' (consisting of whiskies from Clynelish, Dailuaine and Teaninich) that have been matured in 'hybrid' casks.  This is a limited edition release and there are just 12,240 bottles available, which is presented in special commemorative packaging.

Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and they have premises in both London and Edinburgh. They also have an imaginative ethos to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and craft them together into a unique product. All products are produced and released in small batches and given creative names. They have won numerous awards for both their whiskies and creative packaging and label designs.

"The Extravaganza reinterprets The Spice Tree through the use of older components and a significant portion of sherry-cask aged malt whisky. The trademark spice character is retained but set within a richer, more elegant frame." 
John Glaser.

The Spice Tree Extravaganza is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. The whisky will be available via specialist whisky retailers in Europe, the USA and other selected world markets. The recommended price for this limited edition is £100 ($140 US).

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is full of sweet and fruity aromas - think of caramel, toffee, green apple and a hint of dried tropical fruits (especially mango).  Underneath are further aromas of honey, gingerbread, vanilla, five spice powder and a whiff of soap and old leather.

On the palate this whisky feels more punchy than the nose suggests.  The expected spiciness is much more prominent and has a pleasant warmth and dryness to it - there are notes of cinnamon, five spice, cloves, mace and earthy ginger that combine superbly.  These spicy characteristics are supported by a lovely golden syrup-like sweetness that evolves to become more reminiscent of fudge and toffee with time.

The fruitiness from the nose is also evident and adds further balance and depth.  There are elements of stewed apple and pear, dried mango and a hint of candied lemon towards the end.  A late distant savoury note that is difficult to pinpoint rounds things off.

The warming spiciness really comes to the fore in the finish, which lingers for ages.  The sweet and fruity characteristics gradually disappear to leave the earthy wood and baking spices, especially the drying cinnamon and five spice notes.  Some very late oak and gingerbread prove a pleasant surprise.

What's the verdict?
We are fans of the Compass Box whiskies and this limited edition does not disappoint.  It has a lovely balance of sweet, fruity and spicy notes.  There is clearly some older whisky included and this gives a lovely depth and complexity.

The original Spice Tree was a game-changing whisky and really kicked off Compass Box's fight with the Scotch Whisky Association, which remains ongoing after all this time.  The Extravaganza is a fitting tribute to that original.

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