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Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser, a former marketing director at Johnnie Walker. Blenders and bottlers of scotch whiskies the company launched with Hedonism, a blend of grain whiskies unlike anything else on the market at the time. Their “Signature Range” has since grown to include The Spice Tree, The Peat Monster, The Story of the Spaniard and Oak Cross. They also produce a pair of blended scotch whiskies under the Great King Street label and bottle Orangerie, a unique liqueur made from whisky infused with orange zest and spices.
In 2015 Compass Box were confronted by the Scotch Whisky Association after an anonymous complaint was made regarding some information they were divulging. UK and EU law states that only the age of the youngest component in a blend can be disclosed but Glaser & co wanted to make clear exactly what was going into their products.
In a whisky scene that hails the single malt as king, it is understandable that a company seeking to bring some credibility to the humble blend would want to advertise the quality and age of their ingredients but sadly, someone took umbrage. Compass Box tackled the issue head on with a campaign to change the law, but despite backing from Bruichladdich and a few others, the movement fell largely on deaf ears. Despite the appearance of a defeat however, one suspects the whole affair was something of a PR win for Compass Box while the rest of the industry, by choosing to say nothing, declared in a rather public manner that they would prefer not to tell their customers what they are buying.
In the years since, Compass Box have remained dedicated to the cause, offering as much information as they possibly can for each bottling they release. Their website declares Oak Cross to be comprised of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine and 20% Teaninich each of which is matured in first fill bourbon barrels before being vatted together and re-casked, with around 40% of the vat placed in special hybrid French oak casks for a period of around six months.
Oak Cross is bottled at 43% and retails around £45.
Smell: Buttered toast. Digestive biscuits. Vanilla. Heather honey. Candle wax. Apple, pear and lemon. Sawdust. Nutmeg and clove.
Taste: Apple pastries and currant buns. Cinnamon. Toasted malt. Toast and marmalade. Lemon. Honey. Woody spice – cloves – on the finish.
Thoughts: Compass Box offer great value for money with their core range bottlings and Oak Cross is a fine example. Wonderful depth of flavour and a mouth-watering finish for just £45.
Oak Cross hasn’t grabbed the headlines in the same way other Compass Box releases have but it remains one of their better offerings in my view. Proof, as if it were needed, that malted barley spirit and the humble oak cask were made for each other. Woody, but not overly so, Glaser and his team have got the balance just about perfect, and the result is a dram of effortless excellence. Great stuff.
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Visit the Compass Box website here.