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
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. Stay tuned.
For information, here are the specs of the first two batches of “The
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.
46%, not chill filtered, natural colour.