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Drink Review: Compass Box Oak Cross

A vatting of top-quality Highland malts that undergo a unique secondary maturation in American casks capped with new French Oak heads, adding an extra layer of spicy flavour and complexity. The result is fruity and rich with clove and vanilla notes.

Compass Box Oak Cross Review:

Nose: Soft and sweet. There’s a good deal of vanilla, butter, dill, and a thin citrus juice. There’s also subtle peat and heather notes.

Taste: The sweetness improves, delivering a creamy, buttery mouthfeel with some lingering spice. Smoke and peat hit first followed by lemon zest and stewed fruits. There’s also a light creaminess but not as the sweetness soars, turning an excellent sweet-and-sour affair that’s un-put-downable.

Finish: Medium-long, with more layers of sweet and spicy. The creaminess never stops moving down your throat.

Overall: This is one of those whiskies that is hard to categorize. I refuse to count it as an Islay whisky. It certainly has an Islay profile but the nose and palate are far sweeter than expected. It could be a sherry bomb but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a really neat experiment – it just may not be for everyone.

Compass Box Oak Cross Review:

Compass Box Oak Cross is a vatting of several top-quality Highland malts – islay and Washington barleys, to be precise. The liquid from the maturing barrels is then combined with some more mature malt and a little bit of spirit. Simply to make this whisky unique.

If you like your whisky in big and bold, yet oddly sweet, present form then you will be more than delighted with oak cross. Weighing in at 12 years, this whisky is a refreshing intro to highland whisky for sherry/rye drinkers. This is a more than decent adaptation of a british made whiskey and it’s a standard all in itself. 

Compass Box Oak Cross Review:

Compass Box Oak Cross is definitely one of the more interesting whisky, whiskies I’ve tasted in a while. This is a whisky that will literally take you on a journey if you’re willing it to do so. This is another of the Compass Box blends that are designed to be mixtures that you’d never put on a shelf by themselves. A better way to think of it is how they blend and then bottle the mixture.

The main flavour to be found in this whisky is smoke. There’s a lot of peat, yet it’s not quite a whisky that you’d expect to find burned for the sole purpose of smoking. This is a smoke that has both an earthy quality to it, where it’s an oily, tarry smoke. This is a characteristic that carries through into the finish, as the smoke continues until the final sip. It’s a whisky that has a nice medium length finish to it, as it remains nice and rich and smokey throughout.

The sweetness is a bit odd at first. Those first few sips are quite earthy and tarry. I’m not used to tasting smoke and peat flavours in a whisky that is this sweet. The transition from the first few sips to the middle of the sip is a liquid that has an almost syrup-like sweetness to it. Then finally the lips turn to more bitter coffee notes. There’s a distinct floral note that mixes with the rest of the sweetness, but it’s not a distinct aroma – it’s just the natural taste of the whisky.

There is a lot of peat to be found in the first part of the sip. It’s a lively roast smoke flavour that is quite enjoyable. The middle of the sip is when the peatiness begins to dissipate. It becomes a bit like a big vanilla and dill flavour, as if you’re tasting it side by side with a bottle of dill pickle. It’s a nice light flavour that is actually quite fun to taste. The smokey flavor comes back in the finish and settles back onto the tongue.

The nose is quite unique compared to your usual whisky nose. This is a thick powerful smell. It’s a bit of an old school method of whisky odour testing – you smell it in the glass, then you drink it. That’s just what I did with this whisky. Being 7.2% ABV, it was a bit tiring to hold under the nose, so I just drank it with a swig of coke to get the nic started. The whole process took me about 5 minutes, and after I finished, I felt like I drank a glass or two of whisky, but this seemed like a whisky that would taste great. It seemed like it was going to be a lot creamier and syrupy.

I was a bit surprised to see that the malty/smokey flavour was good, but not overpowering. I was expecting the whisky to be like the smell, overpowering and thick, but it ends up tasting like a good blended whisky, just with a good amount of smoke and peat. The stranger taste also comes from the smoke, and to be honest, it may be easier to adjust to than the taste. The smoke doesn’t taste all that prevalent in the breath, nose, or the actual taste, to be honest. It’s just a little flavour that goes along with the wood and the vanilla that could be considered the tongue.

The finish is quite a funny one. It’s quite dry and earthy. Although there aren’t many actual flavours in the molars, the mouth is filled with the flavour and the fire of the whisky. It’s a strange bitter spice flavour that almost shoots out of the molars. At the end of the sip the flavour is quite thick and earthy, to the point where you’d be able to smell the wood smoke through the whisky. It’s more like the opening of a balsamic vinegar more than anything else, tasting of smoke.

The thing that I find really odd is the sensation that I get when I drink this whisky. It’s almost like I’m taking a snake out of the glass. It’s as if the liquid is going through my gut and getting everywhere. As I take my first sip, it’s like a wave rushes up from my stomach and floods through my throat and into my mouth. It’s a strange feeling that reminds me of the taste of vomit. I’ve never been able to identify exactly what it is that gives this whisky this odd, taste.

Written by Mark Adams

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