Age Statements, much ado about nothing!
The average whisky consumer probably assumes that age statements (ie. 10yrs, 12yrs, 18yrs, etc.) on the labels of whisky bottles are indicative of quality. Older the whisky, the better the taste, so goes the notion. Not necessarily so. While Glenlivet 18yrs is superior to the 12 years, there are also a number of younger siblings that outshine their older brothers and sisters. For me, just one example would be Cragganmore 12 years which beats many 15 and 18 year old single malts. Another example is Laphroaig Quarter Cask. It has no age statement. In a head to head tasting with the Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength, the QuarterCask comes out on top.
These observations were triggered by my reading the latest edition of Whisky Magazine (Issue 89 - October 2010) in which the editor, Rob Allanson, makes this point. For him, he prefers the 15 year old bottling of Glenfiddich over the 18yrs, 21yrs and so on.
To hammer this point home, there are blended malts (blends containing a variety of single malts, but no grain whiskies) that have no age statement, but are superior to many single malts and blends that do. "Name them Debly! I want names damn it, you think to yourself." Ok, consider: Spice Tree.
Spice Tree is a blended malt made by the Compass Box Whisky Company. The ingredient single malts making up this blend are all from the Highland region. They acknowledge Clynelish distillery as one of the sources of the Highland malt in it. I taste Oban (a great West Highland malt), but this is pure speculation on my part.
Malty, sea air, harness leather, dulse, against a rich hot chocolate background.
Round and sweet flavors of almonds, vanilla, After Eight mint chocolate and poppy seeds which intensify by mid-palate. Mid-palate the sweetness transitions to drying oak.
Rich, subdued oak and vanilla transitions into ginger, lime, lemon grass and spices (nutmeg). Final tastes echoing on the palate are of toned down pepper steak spices and cigar.
A little water is also very nice in this dram. A teaspoon to 3/4 oz (2cl) brings out creamy oak notes. Makes the whole taste more decadent. You gotta try it with water and then decide. As an acquaintance of mine remarked that Spice Tree "is a cracker!"
Impressive! Reminds me a lot of Oban 14 years, a great highland malt. Although it is high in alcohol strength (46% volume), it is never offensive. A smooth, highly quaffable whisky! A balance is struck between oak, vanilla and rich fruit. Really drinkable and beats the hell out of some single malts. I visited the website of Compass Box Whisky and they advise that all the ingredient malts are between 10 and 12 years. I have no doubt.
Very little peat is present in the flavor profile. Not a problem, just an observation. There is smoke, but very restrained. Sherry flavors are present, but do not dominate. For someone looking for a step up from blended scotch whisky, without breaking the bank, this is an obvious choice. It will definitely become a regular fixture in my liquor cabinet, so long as this blender can maintain the consistency of flavors presented in this current bottling.
Very Reasonable Price
This whisky is priced fairly and is even what I consider to be a bit of a bargain. For example, Oban 14 years is priced nearly twice as much and I can't say it is twice as good. I acquired Spice Tree for a little more than the price point of Glenfiddich 12 yrs and Glenlivet 12 yrs. While they are considerably different flavor profiles, Spice Tree is superior.
I liked it so much, I bought two more bottles.
Until next time . . .
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