A whisky innovator
Compass Box is a boutique independent whisky producer that was founded in 2000 by John Glaser. The company has offices in west London and Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them into their own unique whiskies. The range includes single grain whiskies, vatted malts, blended whiskies and occasional other releases, such as the recently re-released Orangerie, a whisky infused with orange zest. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two single malts to create a unique product with a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than other traditional independent bottlers and as a result, is a former winner of the prestigious Whisky Magazine's Innovator of the Year.
Three malts, two casks, one whisky
This Oak Cross forms part of Compass Box's core range and is produced in small batches. Three single malts are included in the whisky - Teaninich from the town of Alness, Clynelish from Brora (both towns are on the north eastern coast of the Highlands to the north of Inverness) and a mystery Speysider (the only thing they reveal is that it is from the village of Carron, so get your detective hats on...). These whiskies are all aged between 10 and 12 years and they have been matured in a combination of American oak and French oak casks. Oak Cross is bottled at 43% ABV and should cost around £30 from specialist whisky and spirit retailers or Compass Box's own website. We thank Chris Maybin from Compass Box for supplying us with this sample.
Our tasting notes
The colour of Oak Cross is golden yellow and the nose is fresh and vibrant. There is plenty going on and the balance makes the nose very tempting. First comes obvious vanilla, honey, cereal grains and oak (think of fresh sawdust) and these notes are joined by more subtle ones - dried fruits (think of sultanas and apricots), some zingy citrus (imagine lemon zest) and woody spices (especially cinnamon). On the palate, this is sweet and creamy, with lots happening again. There is a lovely and balanced combination of flavour elements present - vanilla, coconut, honey, nuts (think of almonds), some dried grass, cereal grains, zesty lemon, rich spices (imagine a mix of ginger, nutmeg and cloves) and some dried fruits in the background (those sultanas and apricots again). The finish begins sweetly with plenty of vanilla and cereals, before turning drier, woodier and spicier (that oaky sawdust and nutmeg are particularly prominent).
What's the verdict?
Compass Box has come up trumps with Oak Cross - it is a wonderful and lovely whisky. It is soft and smooth on the palate, very easy drinking and well balanced, yet is remarkably complex and remains fresh and vibrant. There have clearly been some excellent casks used for the maturation of each of the whiskies included in Oak Cross and the result is this award winning whisky. It also offers an excellent quality to price ratio. Oak Cross is the sort of whisky that you could give to a beginner or something who thinks that they don't like whisky and they will thank you for doing it and for introducing them to the good stuff!