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

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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