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Issue 103 - French Delights

Whisky Magazine Issue 103
April 2012


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French Delights

Gavin D. Smith chats with John Glaser about the influence of French oak

When it comes to winning awards for ‘innovation' in the world of Scotch whisky, Compass Box Delicious Whisky Ltd founder John Glaser must have a groaning mantelpiece, so often has he been the recipient of such accolades.

Glaser's enquiring mind has led him to question accepted wisdom on wood choices and maturation practices, and he incurred the disapproval of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) back in 2005 when he launched a ‘vatted malt' by the name of The Spice Tree .

For The Spice Tree Glaser took a number of malt whiskies that had been conventionally matured for around 10 years in a mix of first-fill and refill American oak casks and subjected them to a unique secondary maturation process in casks fitted with flat staves of heavily-toasted new French oak.

However, the SWA deemed this practice, routinely used by winemakers, not to be ‘traditional' in terms of Scotch whisky, leading Glaser to withdraw his product in 2006, while remaining convinced of its quality and integrity.

John Glaser is not a man to give up easily on an idea he believes in, and in 2009 a second generation of The Spice Tree appeared, using the same component malts and cask mix, but this time transferred for secondary maturation into ‘custom' casks, described by Glaser as “American oak barrels with French oak heads.” This practice did not contravene the SWA's interpretation of ‘traditional,' to the relief of the many fans of the original The Spice Tree, and Compass Box also now utilise...

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