|The Spice Tree (Vatted Malt)
Despite the success of our first two bottlings of “The Spice
Tree” among devoted whisky drinkers around the world, the Scotch
Whisky Association (known as the SWA in the Scotch whisky trade) has
asked us to discontinue production of this product.
The issue revolves around the SWA’s interpretation of the law
regarding traditional practice in the production of spirits in European
Union countries. While we disagree with their interpretation of the
law, we have, nonetheless, decided to stop production of “The
Spice Tree” while we continue to negotiate.
What the SWA does not like is our technique of using barrel inserts
(made of the highest quality cooperage oak you can buy) in the casks
we use to do a secondary maturation on the whiskies for “The
A few years ago, I travelled to the Vosges forest to visit a mill
that makes oak for cooperage. I was in search of the highest quality
cooperage oak in the world, as we plan to begin buying our own casks
to fill new spirit. And this is what I found:
* A mill that makes oak for cooperage from slow growth, 195 year-old
(average age) French Sessile oak.
* They air-dry the oak outdoors for at least two years to season
and evolve the flavours in the wood (instead of kiln drying like
most whisky wood goes through).
* They use this oak for making some of the most expensive wine barrels
in the world.
* But they ALSO use the same oak to make flat oak barrel inserts
(also known as staves) for some of the best wineries in the world.
Working with friends like the famous Dr. Jim Swan, I borrowed a
technique commonly used by winemakers and I began experimenting
with secondary maturation of whisky in casks with new oak barrel
inserts inside them. I was effectively using a quality of oak that
is never used in Scotch whisky.
The results were extraordinary! Why, I began wondering, are the
winemakers getting all the good wood? Why don’t we use this
kind of oak to mature Scotch whisky?
Well, we did. And this is where “The Spice Tree” came
from. Our inaugural batch of just over 4,000 bottles was sold out
in five weeks (we thought it would last five months!) And our second
batch, released in April 2006 was entirely pre-sold to our importers
before we bottled it!
However, the SWA did not like it. I tried to explain to them that
we had studied the law and believed that what we were doing was
well within it, not to mention a positive quality step forward for
the industry. “Quality,” I was told by the SWA, “is
completely irrelevant.” They had their interpretation of the
law, which held that what we were doing was not “traditional”,
so that was the end of the story, as far as they were concerned.
Not much we could do at that point, with a gun, (figuratively speaking)
pointed at our head.
So we will continue to negotiate and hopefully one day we will
bring back “The Spice Tree.” (Join our email newsletter
list to keep updated.)
But don’t worry! The good news is we’ve got lots of
other whiskies in development. We have no shortage of ideas. And
no diminished passion for creating extraordinary and delicious whiskies.
For information, here are the specs of the first two batches of
“The Spice Tree”:
Type: Vatted Malt. A blend of single malts from different distilleries.
Tasting Notes: A natural, deep, gold-brown colour and a rich nose
with spices such as clove and nutmeg, and sweet stewed fruits. Palate
is soft, sweet, deep and rich with a malt whisky fruitiness embellished
by rich spice. Very long.
Lead Distilleries: Dailuaine, Teaninich and two other malt whiskies
distilled in the villages of Brora and Longmorn.
Wood: 100% first-fill Bourbon barrels and first-fill, recharred
American oak hogsheads for the primary maturation. A portion of
the whisky went through a secondary maturation on new (virgin) French
Sessile oak, heavily toasted. Our inaugural batch (labelled as such
on the front and back labels) had one toast level. Our second batch,
released April 2006, had several different toast levels for a slightly
more subtle yet complex flavour profile, but definitely similar
to the inaugural batch.
Bottling Details: 46%, not chill filtered, natural colour.