Whisky Review: Compass Box Oak Cross - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review: Compass Box Oak Cross

Compass Box Oak CrossThere are independent bottlers, and then there is Compass Box. So different does the company view themselves that they coined the term “Whiskymakers” in an attempt to further explain their approach to their craft. The brand is built upon innovation and experimentation, seamlessly joining art and science in a bottle. Each bottle coming to market with the Compass Box name is non-chill filtered and consists of natural color.

Compass Box Oak Cross is a blended malt Scotch whisky from Compass Box featuring a striking baby blue and gold label. This type of whisky is often called a malt blend, and older bottles in this category of Scotch are often termed “vatted malts.”

Blended malt Scotch whisky is, as the name would imply, a blend of various individual single malts from different distilleries brought together without any grain whisky. Introducing grain spirits is what differentiates a blended Scotch whisky from a blended malt Scotch whisky.

Being proponents of transparency in whisky production, the folks at Compass Box provide details on their products which rival labels would be keen to keep under wraps. As such, Oak Cross consists of malts from the villages of Alness, Brora, and Carron. (Keen eyes will note Brora as the home of the too-often overlooked Clynelish distillery.)

Compass Box Oak Cross is brought together with 60% of the of the blend consisting of Highland single malts known for their fruity flavors. Twenty percent of the blend is made of Highland single malts that are noted for their perfumed qualities. The remaining 20% of the blend consists of meaty single malts from Speyside. The blend is aged in first-fill American oak and new French oak barrels. These casks are selected to impart vanilla and clove spice notes respectively. Oak Cross is a part of the Signature Range from Compass Box, together with Asyla, Spice Tree, Peat Monster, and Hedonism.

Tasting Notes: Compass Box Oak Cross

Vital Stats: 43% ABV (86 proof), no age statement, 100% malted barley, available between $40-72 per 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Light, yellow gold. Medium legs.

Nose: Salted, whipped butter, warm, crusty bread, hint of modeling clay.

Palate: Sweet and spicy off the bat. Ground black pepper, honey, and then a full load of ginger spice. This ramps up late in the palate and into the finish. Continued spicy ginger that virtually overpowers the burn. Burn is of medium intensity and relatively short. Lingering notes of black licorice candy. Very dry.

Final Thoughts: 

Compass Box is one of those producers that scratches many itches I have regarding whisky. Aside from simply enjoying the many very-to-exceptionally good whiskies they create, I appreciate their approach to their craft in general. I have said again and again that a label cannot provide me with too much information on what it is I have just paid for and what I intend to take into my body.

When it comes to Oak Cross, I have to admit it is the low point for me on the Signature Range spectrum. The label on the bottle is my blue and gold lining to this cloud. Top marks for design. The spice notes to me were out of balance with the more delicate nature of the flavors that accompany them. I can see where this release could be intended as a bridge between Asyla and Spice Tree, but I don’t think it quite holds up. While I appreciate the release for having as strong an individual identity as any from Compass Box, I don’t feel the blend is quite up to par with its label mates.