Whisky Pairing

Search Our Site

pairings spicetree

Compass Box Spice Tree with Chuao's Coffee & Anise or Chinita Nibs Chocolate Bars and La Aurora 1495 Cigar

It is certainly no secret that July 4th for Americans is a day to reflect on our independence.  In keeping with the character of this holiday, we chose Spice Tree, a whisky that was created from a rather pioneering master blender, Minnesota born John Glaser of Compass Box.  We have chosen to pair Spice Tree with two wonderful dark chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier and the La Aurora 1495 cigar.

john portrait brownJohn Glaser humbly describes himself as an artisan whiskymaker while others label him an inspired revolutionary in a tradition bound industry.  His experience having worked as the U.S. marketing director for Johnnie Walker in London, helped him not only gain insights to the consumer's perspective on scotch, but helped him to secure invaluable access to distilleries across Scotland.  Along the way, this former wine zealot developed an extensive knowledge and personal passion for malt whisky.  In 2000, he decided to pursue a dream to create his own brand by starting a company called Compass Box. Compass Box chooses from select distilleries then "blends and vats" to produce a range of small batch single malts, single grain, vatted and blended products.  Their offices are located in West London and Edinburgh.

The Compass Box Spice Tree expression is a testament to personal grit and determination.  Originally released in 2005, its explosive, original taste debuted to critical acclaim and public adoration.  John was lauded as an innovator for his attempt to achieve a whisky "like none before" using a unique maturation process.  For Spice Tree's secondary maturation, the ex-Bourbon casks were fitted with new but seasoned inner staves of heavily toasted French oak.  The result was a richly spiced and award winning dram.  Creativity however was soon to collide head on with tradition as the Scotch Whisky Association deemed this method "not appropriate for the making of Scotch whisky".  Threatened legal action forced Compass Box to stop production of Spice Tree a year later.

 spicetreepngRefusing to accept defeat, John Glaser was determined to achieve the same superb malt but needed to find a process more acceptable to the SWA.  His three years of experimentation was finally rewarded with the reincarnation of Spice Tree in 2009 using heavily toasted cask heads of French oak to impart those same full and spicy flavors.  Information on the Compass Tree website indicates that they use 100% malt whisky primarily from Clynelish distilleries.  The malt is in the neighborhood of ten years old, having matured in first fill casks, then re-racked in custom barrels of oak with three different levels of toasting on the heads to create the characteristics and complexity.  It takes two years for whisky contact with oak to achieve the desired flavors. 

The aromas of ginger bread spices are immediate, followed by scents of vanilla and bourbon soaked baked apples.  True to its name, these spices burst on your palate with notes of cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and orange zest.  Full bodied and multilayered, Spice Tree mellows out to substantial vanilla, a soft oak woodiness and faint background of raisiny fruits.  The finish is long, rich and drying with ginger and pronounced nutmeg notes at the end.

coffeeaniseWe opted to pair two Chuao chocolate bars to showcase the Spice Tree expression.  Our first offering is a rich dark chocolate bar infused with espresso and a hint of star anise.  The subtle toastiness of the Coffee & Anise bar, along with delicate licorice notes makes for a great taste complement that does not compete with the many spice notes in the scotch.

chinitapngThe Chinita Nibs bar delivers an absolute explosion of nutmeg when combined with this dram.  Far from being understated, this pairing pulled nutmeg to the foreground of both the scotch and confection in a most delightful way.  Your taste buds are then left to linger on the luxurious taste of caramelized cacao nibs while you enjoyed the silkiness and long finish of the Spice Tree whisky.    

1495 series logoFrom the oldest cigar factory in the Dominican Republic comes our July selection - the La Aurora 1495 robusto.  Founded in 1903 by Don Eduardo León Jimenes, La Aurora had humble beginnings in the town of Santiago de los Caballeros. In 1912, the flourishing company moved to the city of Santiago and has continued expanding ever since. Interestingly, their first factory in Santiago was located on Independence Street. La Aurora is owned by Grupo León Jimenes, C. por A., the largest company in the Dominican Republic, better known for Bohemia and Presidente beers, and Marlboro cigarettes than for cigars. Nevertheless, five generations of Jimenes family have overseen the La Aurora brand, always respecting their father's vision - to offer a world class cigar.

The 1495 line of cigars was created to celebrate the founding of the city of La Aurora's birth, Santiago de los Caballeros. Combining five types of leaf from four different countries achieves a complexity that few other cigars achieve. The 1495 utilizes an Ecuadorian Sumatra sun-grown wrapper, and Dominican corojo binder. A blend of Dominican piloto cubano and Nicaraguan and Peruvian ligero leaves makes up the filler. Each leaf brings its own set of flavors to this table, and these are masterfully blended in this cigar.

La Aurora 1495 Rob hzAlone, the La Aurora 1495 exudes spice. The Sumatran wrapper smells and tastes like spice even before the flame meets the tobacco. Initial flavors are pepper and spice, but quickly develop into distinct flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon and cedar over an earthy base. The flavors appear in waves of notable variation, making this cigar always interesting. With an excellent draw and amazing smoke production, this is a very satisfying and enjoying cigar.

But wait until you pair it with the Spice Tree! This is an incredible matchup with balance and complexity. The way the La Aurora 1495 delivers its flavors makes every sip and puff a new experience as it pulls out the flavor notes from the malt almost independently. The Spice Tree keeps the combination sweet and light with vanilla and fruit flavors, while the La Aurora deepens the tone with its earthy base. Then when the spices start rolling out of the cigar, it punctuates that background flavor with individual flavor notes that are very distinct. Quite unusual and very entertaining. And while medium to full bodied, the La Aurora 1495 never really overpowers the malt.

While not new, the cigars have been in production for several years, the La Aurora 1495 should be in everyone's rotation. It is moderately priced and of very good quality. Take some time to enjoy this combination, you won't want to miss anything.

separator 620