...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Compass Box Oak Cross

I'm going to do a trio of Compass Box reports this week.  I think I'm the last blogger in the whisky world to try some of these.  But that's what makes me such a hepcat: arriving after the party is over......amirite?

There are (at least) two great sources of online information on Compass Box.  Firstly, the company's website has data sheets on most of their products and some tasting videos led by the owner, blender grand alchemist John Glaser, wherein some extra details are divulged about the specific whiskies within.  Secondly, I recommend the K&L Spirits Podcast that co-starred Mr. Glaser in a conversation with David Driscoll.  Glaser shares so much info that I've had to do a second and third pass at it.

Aside from their Canto series, Compass Box makes blends.  They have blended grains, blended malts, and high-quality blended whiskys.  Oak Cross is their lowest priced blended malt (usually $10-15 less than Spice Tree).  As it's a blended malt, all three of its ingredients are single malt whiskys.  In fact, if my googling is accurate, they're all Diageo malts -- Clynelish (Highland), Dailuane (Speyside), and Teaninch (Highland).  Glaser's previous job with Diageo must have earned him some fantastic supply connections because I doubt Diageo parts with casks easily......though he does mention in the podcast that by keeping the distillery names off the product he has an better time at securing malts.

For Oak Cross, all of the malts spend the first part of their lives in American oak, then they are married together -- 60% in first-fill Bourbon barrels, 40% in American oak casks with new French oak heads (thus an oak cross) for up to 2 years.

Company: Compass Box
Type: Blended Malt (formerly known as Vatted Malt)
Distilleries: approximately 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuane, and 20% Teaninch
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: see paragraph above
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
Official product fact sheet PDF

Color -- Amber
Nose -- Peppery orange candies, tropical fruit Skittles, fresh ginger (does ginger smell like it tastes?), and toffee pudding.
Palate -- Big vanilla and apple juice at the start.  Then a little burnt toast and cocoa, followed by apricots and cereal grains.
Finish -- Cherry juice, more of those soft grains, a slight (but very palatable) bitterness.  Mid-length, a little drying.

Nose -- Ooh, this did it.  Swims like a champ.  Loads of butter and butterscotch.  Orange Tang, limes, Smarties, and caramel sauce.  Yum.
Palate -- Sticky sweet butterscotch pudding.
Finish -- As often happens when water is applied to whisky, the stamina gets knocked down here.  It's still malty with the tannic drying, but there are also some stone fruits floating around.

As much fun as Oak Cross is when served neatly, I actually enjoyed it more with a few drops of water.  After applying the drips, I gave it 10 minutes to mingle, then it blossomed.  This isn't a dense sophisticated whisky.  That's not the purpose it serves.  Instead, it's a bright soft springtime whisky.

I didn't catch as many spice notes as others have, but I found a whole basket of fruits and candies.  Though I'm still working on the whisky-food-matching thing, Glaser (who knows better than I) recommends it matched with cheeses.  Sounds good to me.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $45-$55
Rating - 85  (water gave it an extra couple of points)