Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be reviewing some vatted malts I’m tasting as part of the writing of a bigger post on vatted malts in general. Some of these, like the Compass Box expressions, are official samples sent to me by the bottlers, and some tasted from my collection as well as those of friends’.
The Oak Cross is called that because it uses a pioneering technique fitting toasted barrel ends made from Sessile or Cornish Oak (Quercus Petraea) on ex Bourbon filled barrels for about 40% of the whisky in this vatted malt. The Sessile oak (as opposed to regular French oak, Quercus robur) is finer grained and imparts very spicy aromas and flavors, giving the whisky fascinating layers of gentle spice over the notes typical to Bourbon barrel matured whisky (for more of the sessile oak effect, you can try the Spice Tree malt, reviewed on OQD).
The malts used in this vatted malts come, to the best of my deduction, from Clynelish, Dailuaine and Teaninich distilleries. The reason I had to guess is that the only information given is village names of the malts’ origin. This whisky is everything a vatted malt should be, and perhaps it’s time for an importer to make them available here in Israel.
Compass Box Oak Cross (43% ABV, NCF, NC)
Color: Straw, legs of medium speed.
Nose: Lemon, vanilla, cloves and allspice, powdered sugar and custard combining into a French cream schnitt placed over a platter of dried fruit. While these are the basic notes on the nose, this whisky develops beautifully in the glass. This is a whisky to fill you Glencairn higher than you usually would, and spend an hour with, letting it open up in the glass. Being 43% ABV, I didn’t add water, but am not sure that a drop added in a few times won’t have a magical effect on it.
Palate: Fresh lemon and spices, very chewy full body. The sweet spices come up the sides of the tongue. This is a tart whisky leaving your palate feeling fresh and clean.
Linger: The linger is medium bringing up allspice and clove mixed with the tartness left by a lemon meringue. You’ll feel the tartness on the insides of the cheeks long after the alcohol linger is gone.
This dram delivers to the palate exactly what the nose promises. I like that in most of my whiskys, although every once in a while enjoyable (and also less than enjoyable…) surprises come up. If there’s one thing I’d change, its prolonging the linger a bit longer, but this really is what vatted malts are all about, taking a few good whiskys and blending them to highlight the best of each.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Chris at The Compass Box Whisky Co. for the official sample.