The Oak Cross is Compass Box whisky #2 from that five whisky sampler set that I purchased just after Christmas. Whisky #1 was the Asyla (click here to read my review).
We call this malt whisky Oak Cross because it offers the best characteristics of both American and French oak aging. A rich, medium-bodied malt whisky, Oak Cross combines vanilla characters from American oak and spicy, clove-like characters from French oak.
We work with a small mill in France that produces some of the highest quality cooperage oak in the world. It was our work with this mill that led us to experimenting with secondary maturation of malt whiskies in casks fitted with new French oak heads. This is something no one else in Scotland does. The result is malt whisky with more character and complexity. We use this technique on about 50% of the malt whisky in Oak Cross and it results in a superior finished product.
Let’s get on with the review…
- Appearance: Golden yellow.
- Aroma: Very fresh smelling with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. Also picked up some toffee or butterscotch creaminess.
- Taste: There was a heavy hit of alcohol when I first tasted it that took me by surprise. Much more cinnamon spiciness than the nose would suggest (reminds me of a cinnamon Altoid). There is a somewhat smokey and spicy finish that lingers for about a minute. Adding some water cuts back on that initial alcohol bite, but does very little to tone down the cinnamon heat.
- ABV: 43%
I first had the Compass Box Oak Cross about two years ago during a whisky tasting at The ROK’s house (I believe Miracle Max brought this whisky to the tasting). During this tasting, I also had their Asyla and the Peat Monster (I will be revisiting this whisky for a future review). At the time, I remember preferring the Oak Cross over the Asyla. For whatever reason, my current feelings for these two whiskies have completely reversed, i.e. I now prefer the Asyla to the Oak Cross.
During this tasting, I found that first sip of the Oak Cross to be quite harsh. I am no stranger to high test spirits, and I rarely add water to my whisk(e)y (regardless of the ABV), but for whatever reason, I was a bit overwhelmed by the alcohol this time around and actually coughed after swallowing. Once I stepped back and slowed down my drinking, I adjusted to the intensity and started to enjoy this whisk(e)y a bit. But I didn’t love it. So what went wrong? Why are my feelings for this whisky so different from my experience two years ago?
Here are my thoughts…
I usually start the review process immediately after the kids go to bed (about 9PM). This time around, I didn’t fill my glass until after 10:30PM. By the time I finished fussing with the photo (cause that’s what I do), it was getting close to 10:45PM. Since my days usually begin at around 6:30AM, I think I started the review process a bit too late in the evening. Experts recommend nosing and tasting whisk(e)y before noon so that your nose and taste buds are in peak condition. Looks like I missed the mark by about 11 hours!
Given all that I did wrong, I think I need to try this whisky again before I can reach a final verdict. As it stands right now, I thought it was just ok.
I will leave you with some nosing and tasting advice from David Stewart, The Balvenie Malt Master…