A few years ago, John Glaser travelled to the Vosges forest to visit a mill that makes oak for cooperage. He was in search of the highest quality cooperage oak in the world, as he planned to begin buying his own casks to fill with new spirit. He found a mill that makes oak for cooperage from slow growth, 195-year-old French Sessile oak, where they air-dry the oak outdoors for at least two years to season and evolve the flavors in the wood. 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, he borrowed a technique commonly used by winemakers and began experimenting with secondary maturation of whisky in casks with new oak barrel inserts inside them; effectively using a quality of oak that is never used in Scotch whisky. The results were extraordinary! Why, he began wondering, are the winemakers getting all the good wood? Why don’t people use this kind of oak to mature Scotch whisky? Well, he did. And this is where the Spice Tree came from. His inaugural batch of just over 4,000 bottles was sold out in five weeks. (He thought it would last five months!) And his second batch, released in April 2006, was entirely pre-sold to importers before it was bottled! Then the SWA called and tried to shut Compass Box down for using untraditional practices! But they kept going!
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