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Issue 51 - Spicing up the industry

Whisky Magazine Issue 51
October 2005


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Spicing up the industry

Compass Box's new product is a cracker. But will it upset the traditionalists?

A few weeks back, John Glaser took me on an oak hunt round the more obscure parts of Kew Gardens. It rained. Hard. Like a good Boy Scout he was prepared and put on an emergency poncho.

The walk in the woods was to talk about his latest baby, The Spice Tree, a vatted malt, part of which has been given secondary maturation in ‘inner stave' barrels. I've tasted it.

Personally I think it works. Well balanced, not too oaky, with an exceptionally long finish and a new intensity and brightness of aroma.

In techie speak he has given the spirit a short period of contact with some very active wood. The key for him lies in using high quality (“wine quality”) oak to bring a new range of flavours into whisky. According to Glaser, wine quality oak costs $800 a barrel, whisky quality is $100. The better the oak, the better the end result. (Morangie's Artisan Cask has gone down a similar quality route).

Good news? Yes. Innovative?

It certainly explores new frontiers. Is it new? Not in the wine trade where inner stave has been used for many years. Not really in the whisky industry either. Plenty of major firms have been looking at this for a long time, but this is the first time one has appeared on the market.

At this point, I get an e-mail from Tenacious C. He knows his whisky and has ‘views' about certain issues. It's always good to hear from him.

Today though, he wasn't happy and Spice Tree was the cause of his less than temperate mood.

“This is nothing new,” he wrote i...

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