Compass Box Week, Days 3 & 4: Oak Cross & Spice Tree

In continuing the blitz through the Compass Box range, today our attention is turned to two of their blended malts: Oak Cross and Spice Tree. Both of these use special wood treatments to achieve a unique profile – Oak Cross has secondary maturation in casks with new French oak heads; Spice Tree has French Oak heads on their casks as well, but the heads are heavily toasted.

Being blended malts, without a grain component, the basic expectation is to have a slightly more robust whisky. Let’s see if that holds up.

Compass Box Oak Cross 43% ABV
Nose: 
Malt and a trace of white wine, some vanilla, light fruit cocktail notes.
Palate:  Slightly woody upfront, a little light black pepper and spice, a touch of green wood, light tobacco, a little orange liqueur, some faint fruitcake notes (sitting on a table in a different room).
Finish:  Spicy with a little more tobacco upfront, a little warmth, and that orange liqueur note follows through.
Comment:  I don’t think the nose really indicates what lies within. The tobacco notes on this one are really nice. The bitterness on the early palate keeps this from being a clean B though.
Rating: B-

There’s a little more to Oak Cross than the nose suggests. While the nose seems like a million forgettable inactive cask whiskies, there’s a really nice tobacco presence. Unfortunately, there’s some bitter wood that runs this one off track for me. What about Spice Tree?

Compass Box Spice Tree 46% ABV
Nose: 
Floral and fruity with pears, but also a notable light waxiness. Light vanilla and a touch of orange.
Palate:  Waxy, lightly spiced – a light mix of white pepper and Sichuan peppercorn, a very faintly smoky wisp. Moderate fruit, more dried than young and aromatic.
Finish:  Wood initially, nice bold oakiness and some pepper, with light apple skins.
Comment:  This just screams Clynelish, but with more dimension. A really nice one. Great body.
Rating: B+

Spice Tree is really great. I’m a sucker for Clynelish; the waxiness I get off of it is a really nice, rich note that conveys age (and also helps promote a weightier mouthfeel) without being over-oaked or tired. This takes the tried and true Clynelish profile and adds a little more spicy zip to it with some nice heat on the mouth and tongue. Honestly, this is one of the first blends in a while where my reaction was “I need to buy a couple bottles of this!”

Spice Tree is a heck of a great blend and one that will definitely have a spot on my bar in the future.

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