Compass Box “Oak Cross” (43%, OB, Circa 2006)

From the same period as “Asyla” (a blended Whisky), I reviewed back in 2015, comes this Blended Malt called “Oak Cross”. Blended Malt is the new expression for what we once called Vatted Malts. Two or more Single Malts, from different distilleries, blended together (so, without any Grain Whisky). Oak Cross is made from three Highland Single Malt Whiskies, yes, blended together to make this Blended Malt. I’ll let Compass Box themselves explain how they did it, since there is no way I could have put it better myself:

All [three] are aged [10 to 12 years] in [first fill] American oak casks before we place a portion [said to be 40%] into innovative hybrid casks [for up to 2 years] featuring heavily toasted new French oak heads [hence the name Oak Cross]. These give the whisky an added richness and spice-like complexity. By carefully blending back the French oak-aged whisky with its American oak-aged forebear, we are able to create a refined, rich, but well-mannered Malt Whisky, with fruity aspects that will remind you of baked apple or pears, complemented by a rich, toasty oak character.

By the way, the three Malts used for this “Blend” are 60% Clynelish (fruity), 20% Teaninich (for the smell of it) and 20% Dailuaine (the “meat” of it all).

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Young and rather perfumy (Teaninich). Friendly and light. Appetizing. Something works very well here. Fruity (Clynelish). Yellow fruits that is, more of the apples and pears kind of fruit. Very European so to speak as opposed to the exotic Indian spices we get from, well…Indian Whiskies. Cardboard, and paper, dusty notes from oak, almost like an old house. Warm apple compote. More sweet than acidic to be frank. This has a warming quality to it. Notes of vanilla pudding. and soft oak, almost boiled soft oak. Tiniest hint of burned wood (and hay), warm motor oil (Dailuaine) and finally some grassy green hints. Although I am quite familiar with Whiskies from American oak, this does have another twist to it, is it the French oak maybe, or is it the soft fruitiness this shows. Nice, whatever it is.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry and again very friendly but also a bit thin, apart from the sugary feel that is. Nice and very approachable. No off-notes (hint of plastic, and ever so slightly soapy, but these don’t hurt the end-result a bit), and the sweetness never gets to that, annoying, cloying-level. Fruity yes, but harder to analyze than it was from the nose. Not so apply and peary as the nose. Maybe the sweetness is masking it? Fruity appetizing body, with a nice warming finish and enough staying power.

The sweetness makes this approachable and likeable, and is probably marketed towards people who are new to (Single Malt) Whisky. This may have it all, it seems young, but acceptable, therefore also quite inexpensive, well made, soft and friendly.

Points: 80


Compass Box “Asyla” (40%, OB, Circa 2006)

After the Chivas Regal 12yo, a Blended Whisky from a big company, let’s see what the little, more independent, guy can do. A guy with a passion for blending. Obviously I’m talking about John Glaser, and his Compass Box Whisky Company. A company that all Single Malt aficionado’s seem to love. We’ll have a look at an early “Asyla” here. Asyla is part of Compass Box’s signature range, or core range for us normal folks. A quick look at the website of Compass Box learns us that Asyla is the lightest of the signature range, calling it delicate and sweet.

Only Whiskies from first fill used American oak casks were used, for vanilla purposes obviously. The Malt’s used are Linkwood (30%), Glen Elgin (10%) and Teaninich (10%) and the Grain comes from Cameronbridge (50%). Sometimes Longmorn is also named as an “ingredient” for this blend, because the Compass Box website mentions that the Malts for this blend hail from the towns of Longmorn and Alness. Looking at the map you can say that Linkwood and Glen Elgin come form the town of Longmorn, so I’m not sure that there is any Longmorn in this blend. Since Asyla is around for quite some time, maybe the Malts that go into this blend differ from time to time. For now I’ll stick to Linkwood, Glen Elgin and Teaninich though. Before I forget, the other four offerings from the signature range are: “Oak Cross”, “The Spice Tree”, “The Peat Monster” and “Hedonism”. Of course outside of the signature range, a plethora of other bottlings exist.

Compass Box AsylaColor: Light gold.

Nose: Grainy, light, yet perfumed. Floral at first but also fruity, with a tiny hint of pineapple and green sour apple skin. Sometimes I even get a trace of lavas. Heaps of vanilla shoveled on top, and given some time even some spicy wood. More than a hint of Calvados, an Apple Cider distillate from Normandy or Brittany. Dry and powdery. Sweetness is mentioned by Compass Box themselves, but for me the nose doesn’t carry a promise of sweetness, in any way or form. Elegant and light, but alas also a bit thin and anonymous.

Taste: Paper and grain come first, after that a blend of sweetness and (virgin) oak, although no virgin oak was used for this one. The vanilla presents itself after the paper and grain, and a slight bitter note, fade out. Not a lot of development going on, and you’re probably not surprised this doesn’t have a long finish as well. The finish itself seems to be a bit unbalanced, due to some acidity from the oak. The oak seems a bit fresh, as in not used for a long time when it contained Bourbon (or Tennessee Whiskey).

To be honest other bottlings of Compass Box made me expect more from this. Something in the order of a variant of Delilah’s. It should have been more creamy and even more towards the vanilla note so vehemently advertised.

Sure. Whisky is the product of spirit and wood (amongst others), but the bitterness it could do without, and as I said, it should have been more creamy. If you can find it, get a Delilah’s by the same bottler, and you’ll know what I mean.

I do like a lot of Compass Box Whiskies, but this one is not entirely for me, and that’s a surprise, because I expected this would be better than the Chivas Regal 12yo. Maybe age does matter?

Score: 72

Compass Box “20th Anniversary of Delilah’s” (40%, OB, 6324 bottles)

Well here is a novelty from the Compass Box Whisky Co. This Blend was made for the 20th anniversary of Delilah’s, a Chicago based punk rock whisky bar Delilah’s in 2013. It was meant to go well with Beer and was intended to let it “think” it’s a Bourbon.

Compass Box Delilah'sThis Blend was made by John Glaser with the help of Mike Miller, the owner of Delilah’s. On The website of Compass Box they mention that the Whisky used has aged in a mix of experimental new American oak barrels and rejuvenated American oak hogsheads.

Color: Almost gold.

Nose: Grainy and fruity. Candy and waxy too. Very light. The nose is dominated by American oak, as I suppose John was aiming at. The (paper like) grain smells nice, and the fruitiness is nice too. Obvious vanilla from the American oak. Quite a simple offering and for me it is exactly what you would get blending Grain and Malt Whiskies, matured in American Oak. Pudding, custard. Yes all vanilla.

Taste: Sweet vanilla Ice cream, with a backbone of oak. Very tasty. Light, sweet and simple, but very, very pleasant and highly drinkable. Clotted cream. Towards the finish the oak plays a greater role, and dries the whole out a bit. The wood actually moves into the realm of pencil shavings. The finish itself is quite short, no surprise there, and leaves a light and pleasant aftertaste. It’s almost too drinkable. Well made stuff and pretty good for a modern blend.

As I mentioned above, the Blend should be close to Bourbon, and in a way it is. It is pretty sweet, yes, but Bourbon-y, no, not really. For me it is a typical mixture of a lot of grain Whisky and (fruity) Malt Whisky. It’s all about grain, malts and wood. Giving notes of wood, vanilla and cream. Sure it is sweeter than most other Whiskies, but not too much. It’s not overpowering.

Points: 83

Compass Box “Orangerie” (40%, OB, 2008)

Oranges and Whisky, where have I heard that before? Ah yes the new Amrut. This Orangerie isn’t Whisky, but it isn’t a liqueur either, as it doesn’t have the required additional sugar. Orangerie is made with soft and sweet Malt and Grain Whiskies, infused with (a lot of) Navalino orange peel and Indonesian Cassia bark, a kind of cinnamon and Cloves from Sri Lanka. It almost sounds like the desert from the menu of a very posh restaurant. The Navalino oranges are hand zested at the Compass Box HQ. So when coming in to the office they never know what John has in store for the people at Compass Box.

Compass Box OrangerieColor: Vibrant gold, thick and syrupy.

Nose: Oranges and dark chocolate. Orange skins yes, but not a lot of orange juice. Still there is some juice in here to be found, it has some hints of orange pulp. Hints of vanilla and lots of cloves. The bark used seems to be the glue that holds it together. Smelling it more vigorously, yes there is some Whisky underneath. It smells like something you’d combine with dark chocolate. Give some time, this has also a floral part, but also another dimension of the fruit emerges. Very strange but in the distance it has some characteristics of Gewürztraminer. Not a lot, but some if it is in here.

Taste: Not sweet at all. It’s Whisky all right, orange skin and spices. That’s it. No sweetness. Tiny hint og bitterness, enough to give it character, but too little to overpower. Try it again and forget the statement that this is a liqueur, because it isn’t. Not enough sweetness. It’s all aroma. Take another sip. Just like the nose, it has a lot to do with dark chocolate. On the palate it’s in the spirit already, but this has to be combined with dark chocolate.

Special stuff, and a niche by itself. It claims to be a Whisky, it’s not. It has additions, so it’s not a Whisky anymore. It claims to be a liqueur, but it’s not. Not enough sugar. No bad thing, this will save your teeth. Nope, it’s something else. It’s a quality mixture. Not something for every moment though. You won’t empty it quickly. Once in a while, you just want to take a sip of this and pair it with nice dark chocolate…

Points: 72