Well Whiskey fan we thought it was time for something a little different. So we invited Ryan Yip of Gentleman Pursuits to write a guest review for The Whiskey Trail. This is the first time we have had a guest writer contribute to our site and the first time to stray away from Irish Whiskey.
‘Extravaganza’– Noun. A literary or musical work marked by extreme freedom of style and structure. Ten years ago, we were compelled to discontinue production of one of our most innovative Scotch whiskies – The Spice Tree – due to a certain avante-garde approach to cask maturation that was deemed ‘untraditional’.
Spice Tree Extravaganza
Guest Review by Ryan Yip
Today I want to do a review on something special, a whisky that is both rich in taste and in story. Introducing, the Spice Tree Extravaganza. However, before jumping into the actual review, it would be rude of me if I did not mention the controversies and legal hurdles Compass Box had to overcome before releasing the Spice Tree. In 2006, The SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) forced Compass Box founder John Glaser to pull his original Spice Tree Vatted Malt off the market. The Association believed that the use of French oak staves inside the barrels (to bring a richer flavour) was a violation of ‘traditional practices.’ Moreover, in 2015 the SWA accused Compass Box of being ‘too transparent’ with his latest blend “This is Not a luxury Whisky”. On the bottle, Compass Box provided the full cask makeup of the constituent malts used to make the blend – including their ages.
The SWA legal affairs chief Magnus Cormack claimed that such an act was in violation of both the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 and European Parliament Regulations, and was considered to be ‘third party advertising’. Even though the SWA has no power to enforce the law on its own, they had threatened producers with possible legal action in the past.
In an interview with Scotchwhisky.com, it was clear that Compass Box was unhappy and very frustrated with the situation. They mentioned that companies’ failure to provide consumers with a clear answer to “what is in the blend?”, only “make consumers skeptical” and hurts the industry over time.
Compass Box’s aim is clear and simple, to provide the best level of transparency for their customers, including fulfilling their rights to understand what they are consuming. Perhaps to the SWA, traditional value trumps everything? Despite all the controversies, if customers are curious about what is in their blended whisky, they can contact Compass Box directly. The company will be more than happy to answer, sparing few details.
Findings in Spice Tree Extravaganza
First of all, really amazing artwork on the bottle, kudos to the illustrator because the design is one of the reasons I discovered this whisky.
Bottle name: Spice Tree Extravaganza
Producer: Compass Box
Sweet berries and a rich fruit note, I am getting raspberry, to be precise. You can smell the presence of sherry, however, it is not overpowering. Smells creamy, like roasted brown sugar but slightly burnt.
Oh it’s spicy. The taste is of rich dark roasted brown sugar as the nose initially suggested. Also, the oakiness is really prominent, to a point where it tastes somewhat bitter. A strong but not overly dark fruit note. There’s an oily mouthfeel, with a saturated taste and contains a heavier barrel note which is more intense when compared to the classic Spice Tree.
Nice finish, the aforementioned oily mouthfeel is long-lasting. The dram doesn’t burn at all, it spreads evenly in the mouth as it does not concentrate on any part, in particular. The fruitiness and the oaky-bitterness are well balanced, nothing is overpowering, every note is expressed in harmony.
I feel like the Spice Tree Extravaganza is more oaky than spicy, despite its name. Nevertheless, I really like it, it’s a holiday dram! It is welcoming and makes you feel warm and happy. Another win for Compass Box
Guest Review by Gentleman Pursuits
A place for gentlemen to have a quick read and learn more about whiskeys and watches, a true gentleman’s pursuits. If you are interested in pursuing the finer things in life, why not learn more about your hobbies, one article at a time?
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Extravaganza puts us in mind of a piece of art marked by extreme freedom of style.
This Limited Edition is a reinterpretation of our beloved The Spice Tree, using older components and a significant portion of sherry-cask aged malt whisky.
The Spice Tree’s trademark spice character is retained but set within a richer, more elegant frame with a new depth of flavour and complexity.
A Blended Malt Scotch whisky composed of 60% aged malt whisky from the Clynelish distillery, 20% aged malt whisky from the Dailuaine distillery and 20% aged malt whisky from the Teaninich distillery. After vatting, we recask this ‘Highland Malt’ blend and mature it for another four and half years in our highly active hybrid casks.John Glaser