Blended Malt

Review: Spice Tree Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

The first release of The Spice Tree in 2005 utilized French oak staves in American oak barrels to marry characteristics of both types of oak in a single maturation, which the Scotch Whisky Association took legal issue with and forced the discontinuation of the product. Three years after, Compass Box re-released the whisky, this time using toasted French oak barrel heads – however, the aging regimen is quite complicated with three different toasting levels used on the barrel heads for different components before they are all blended together. Primary maturation takes place in first-fill American oak, the secondary maturation takes place in the special custom barrels with the toasted French oak barrel heads. A typical vatting of the malts: 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich. It is interesting to note that this is the exact same base, in the same barrels, as for Oak Cross, which tastes completely different. The secondary maturation certainly changes both of these whiskies.

Initially all the malts are aged in first fill American oak before being blended in different oak casks for a secondary maturation: 25% in a “vanilla toast” hybrid barrel, 22% in a high infrared toast hybrid barrel, 32% in a hybrid “mocha toast” barrel, and 21% in a first fill American oak barrel. The result is phenomenal.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 20 03 12 3 10:57 88

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Complex, interesting, and oaky - with all sorts of things going on. Fascinatingly oily. Fruit – apple, pears, prunes, raisins; caramel, chillis, green cardamom (a bit more reminiscent of the presentation of cardamom in a dessert vs. a curry, if you understand the distinction - i.e. the floral and lighter side of cardamom comes out), dried ginger, malt- both cereal and lightly earthy barley. The oak tells a beautiful story – it is just big enough but doesn’t overpower and is very well integrated. On the palate, particularly, it is so well integrated with the dried fruit. Subtle, and immensely drinkable. Very pleasing finish as well with the raisins, malt, spice, and oak all present in good quantity and balance. Terrific!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. An incredible whisky for the price.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L27 07 18 3 08:42 BB

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Tasting notes above apply, but I did want to revisit and write a few more observations about this dram. It’s a terrifically oaky whisky, but not over-oaked, nor oaked in the way that bourbons are – rather it is a heavy, yet elegant oakiness added to what is distinctly malt whisky. It brings in terrific oaky spice, creaminess, and vanilla to a maltiness which is still present with grain character, earth, and orchard fruit. I do love this stuff.

Interestingly, it’s a bit more in the thread of the new wave of American single malts coming out, in terms of the integration of oak. I’d say it sits between Scottish single malts and some of the more oak-focused American single malts (at least, the best of them). That’s what struck my attention this time around. This whisky is terrific – oaky, malty, complex, balanced, and delicious.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value:  Very High. For $80, it’s very hard to do better than this, particularly in Scotch but also in whisky in general!


Review: Spice Tree Extravaganza Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

CB+Spice+Tree+Extravaganza+1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky was a special release of 12,214 bottles to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Spice Tree, a whisky which was originally outlawed by the Scotch Whisky Association after its first release. This is a blend similar to the baseline Spice Tree, but it is much older. Based on the colour, it is certainly darker than the standard spice tree -there’s also more sherry in it. But, indeed, there’s some old whisky in here - compass box invites emails through their website if you want exact details.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 38 01 16 3 10:08 88

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is extremely rich and inviting – apples, raisins, gooseberries, rich oak, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, almonds, blueberries, and mandarins. It gets spicier with time, with more and more peach and apricot.  The palate is just decadent – it is so full of dried fruit and oaky richness, with a flourish of dried fruit, spice, and tannin on the end. Remarkable! The finish develops, with lost of tannin and spice, which break down to citrus, nuts, cinnamon, and bean sprouts with time. And, eventually, rich cacao-laden chocolate cake.

I was surprised at how richly the palate jumped through. This really is jam-packed full of flavour – I imagine it would be too intense at cask strength to be properly enjoyed…

I quite like this, as I do the standard spice tree – this is a bit of a different whisky. But, with all things compass box, this is most excellent and a very complex and enjoyable whisky. I might like the standard spice tree more, not to say it is better.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. This is a really nice whisky, but not quite enough to be worth the price for me.


Review: Compass Box No Name Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

CB+No+Name+1.jpg
ABV
48.9%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

A limited release of 15,000 bottles - the peatiest blend ever released by Compass Box, centred around an Islay whisky from a Pier Road distillery (hmm…Ardbeg?). It is a bit pricy, but this had quite the buzz about it - Ardbeg from Compass Box!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 27 11 17 1 12:19 88

  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a nice, rich, nose! Lots of rich tarry notes, ash, smoke – but it’s very clean and well-put together.  Bacon, seashore, turf fires, smoke, clean dry oak, iodine, beeswax – quite nice stuff! It’s quite earthy – more earthy than I would associate with Ardbeg. The palate is full of rich smoke, but it’s tempered by a quite nice minerality, candle wax, and spice towards the finish, which is sweet, spicy, and smoky with some rich cacao notes too. Terrific stuff.

How does it compare to peat monster? Much deeper and more mature, with a much richer, clean cut taste profile. It really does outshine it in elegance, focus, and depth – but not in breadth.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. This is a very nice whisky, enough to propel it into a decent value category if you like peat, despite the high price (~160$).


Review: Great King Street Artist's Blend MomofUku Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

Great King Street Momofoku.jpg
ABV
49%
Aging
~7-12 yrs; American and French oak
Recipe
Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This great king street has been selected by Momofuku, an LA based restaurant (with a chain in Toronto) based on a single marrying sherry casks which was used to marry the whisky after an initial blending. It was married for some time – about 2.5 years. This secondary maturation used to be commonplace, according to Compass Box. It is also bottled at 49%, higher than the standard…this is probably going to be good!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Sherried Marrying Cask, Selected by Momofuku. Married 18 Feb 2016, Bottled 16 July 2018. Cask 3.

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Quite what you might expect – the white grape and clean grain character of Great King Street, but overlayed with dried fruit – orange, mango, raisin – and more baking spice and a touch of rancio. I actually really like it – the brightness of the original blend, in terms of its grain and its fruit – has been retained, yet more has been added on top. A bit of white wine, too.

The palate starts with bright grain, orange, and light earthiness – but then the raisins and clove kick in, finishing with a flourish of sherry and light tannin. The palate has great feel too – both feel, but also the movement of textures – from thick and fat to dry and tannic. The finish has green pear, a touch of earthy barley, and a bit more clove. Excellent! The 49% carries itself well, too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. This is a great whisky, a bit more expensive than the ordinary Artist’s blend, but has added richness and umph which keeps the value high.


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Caol Ila & Bunnahabhain Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila (so...this is gotta be decent at the least!) - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. This was based on Graeme's optimal combination of two casks from the Scottish highlands, among the ones he has to work with. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting – there is a bit of a house style in all of these twa casks. All quite leafy, and influenced by that re-toasted red-wine barrique. Quite floral and smoky, with a nice smoky edge. Cinnamon, peat bogs, pear, clove, cinnamon, anise, and good oak influence. The palate has a very nice rising smoke to it, culminating together with Islay medicinal smoke and some red licorice. Nice deep finish, full of minerality, smoke, and dried fruit. My favorite of the Twa Casks – but the red-wine finished Twa casks are all quite good.

Also, I quite like most of what comes from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila...

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: N/A


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Blair Athol & Macduff Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Blair Athol and MacDuff - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. This was based on Graeme's optimal combination of two casks from the Scottish highlands, among the ones he has to work with. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is dry and lightly smoky, with a good measure of dried fruit alongside red pepper jelly. Leafy on the nose, too, which I like and find unique. I find it does well with a bit of water in it – it brings things into balance nicely. The palate is full of leafy smoke, oak, spice, and more dried fruit – currants, prunes, and raisins.  A slight minerality, too, which is quite enjoyable - nice earthiness! A nice jammy, spicy finish. I do like the effect of the re-toasted wine cask – the tannins, fruit, and spice all work out very nicely.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: N/A


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Benrinnes & Glenlossie Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Benrinnes and Glenlossie - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. It is the product of Graeme Macaloney, who has a PhD in brewing/distilling and worked for 12 years in contract fermentation before working on his latest venture - Victoria Caledonian Distillery. While in Victoria, he tasked Mike Nicholson, Diageo master distiller, to help him out, and blended together two casks from three regions of Scotland - Speyside, the Highlands, and Islay. He worked back from about 30 cask samples to find 2 from each region that worked together. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Like a meadow on the nose - floral and earthy - with heather, honey, wintergreen, blueberry bushes, ferrero rocher, and newly trimmed hedges. It reminds me very much of my childhood vacations to my Granny’s cottage in northern England. The palate is slightly sharp, with a nice ashy smoke to it, with burnt chickpeas, honey, pear, clove, and lots of dried fruit from the wine cask. Some leather, too – not something I find that often with younger whiskies. The spicy, fruity wine cask comes in at the end quite brilliantly – good movement within the whisky. The finish is spicy, oaky,  and lightly rumbling and smoky, with lots more of those meadow aromas and tannins from the oak. It has an interesting, old-scotch style to it which I find quite appealing – the mix of dried fruit and dry smoke, with light sweetness and oxidation.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: N/A.


Review: Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Johnnie Walker Green Label 1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
15 Years
Recipe
Blend of Single Malts
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky is probably my favorite Johnnie Walker, and it's only recently back after being off the shelf for a number of years. Unlike the rest of the lineup, it is a blended malt, meaning that it is composed of a blend of single malts with no grain whisky. Moreover, it carries a 15 year old age statement, is bottled at 43%, and lists many of the core malts used – talisker (wood smoke, pepper, oak, and rich fruits), linkwood (fruit, flower, and cedar), cragganmore (malty taste, slight smoke, and sandalwood), and caol ila (rich fruit, drying sea salt, and peat smoke). Moreover, an attractive bottle and a cork.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L7234DN001 00038026

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose presents a broad mix of fruits – apples, poached pears, mandarins, and peaches -  with toffee, honey, light smoky charcoal, maple, and touches of floral notes. Broad, lightly elegant, and easy – with soft edges. The fruits just grow, and grow – and the lightest touch of peat is brilliant. If you ever doubt this just add water – you can smell just about every non-tropical fruit you find in scotch whisky here. The palate starts sharp and lightly smoky, with drying pepper and loads of toffee and fruits to back everything up. The peat is nice – lightly smoky and vegetal – but it is so nicely integrated into the whole toffee-laden and fruity palate. Light finish with light spices and loads of fruit and toffee, fading relatively fast to a sweet, spicy, and slightly dry finish with a few nuts. Overall, it’s still a fairly light whisky so there must be some lightly flavored base here.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $80.


Review: The Hive 12 Years Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky, like some other Wemyss Blended Malts (The Spice King and Peat Chimney), is composed of 16 malt whiskies, with a focus on the Speyside region of Scotland. The whisky is made from refill and first-fill sherry casks.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: More waxy than actually with honey notes – I probably wouldn’t even name them as a major player, amidst everything else going on. The nose is lightly floral and candied, with a touch of smoke, earthy peaty notes, lemon, orange juice, caramel, dried apricot, light cucumber, and even a bit of saffron with some time. It develops nicely into a light, and rich nose – well integrated and balanced.

Taste: Somewhat sweet with a fresh apricot and peach fruit character with the oak pulling a bit of weight. There’s more honey on the palate than the nose, and there are a few honeydew notes drifting around. At the end, the smoke emerges and leads right to the finish. At times, it feels a touch too watered down and I think at 43% this would do better.

Finish: Starts slightly spicy and woody, with a very light nuttiness and ash as well. Candied orange peel and some malt come through pretty well also, with dried apricot and a bit of cacao emerging as well over time.

Complex and well balanced – the parts all have purpose and play very well together. A very nice lightly honeyed and fruity malt, with a nice thread of oak and smoke keeping everything interesting. Recommended.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $94.


Review: The Peat Chimney 12 Years Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Wemyss) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky is a blended malt, based on 16 different malts, with a focus on Islay (and peat!) from Wemyss - a company focusing on blended malts.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: A bit buttery and lightly floral, with light ashy and medicinal smoke sitting atop everything else. Vanilla is in the mix, but the nose is a bit light overall. Lightly nutty, orange. Slightly sour as well, and continues to develop as it sits.

Taste: More smoke here, of an ashy and slightly vegetal character. There is a good butterscotch sweetness which balances out the smoke, and its mainly these two characters at play on the palate. Lightly dries out to spices and smoke.

Finish: Smoke, primarily, with a bit of vanilla, malt character, and some earthiness from the peat. There is a bit of sweetness in the finish as well, though sometimes it takes on a bit of a sweetener feel to it. It has a bit of an oily feel in the mouth, too.

Not a peat or smoke bomb, but there is smoke in this. The blending work to balance out all the elements - good but it’s a bit simple at times.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $78.