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Recently, John Hansell of Whisky Advocate, gave a very favorable rating to the latest bottlings of Oak Cross. I quite enjoyed the bottle that I had open, so I thought I would give a new bottling a try.
So, what is the difference? How can you tell which one you are buying? The bottle pictured here is the older bottling. The newer version comes in a baby blue box with "fancy nancy" gold and black lettering. I confirmed this with Compass Box. Both are bottled at 43%.
I am tasting these side by side. I am down to about a 1/4 bottle of the old, and 3/4 left in the new.
Aroma is the same. Birthday cake...No, pound cake. Ginger ale, specifically, Ale-8. The Ale-8 note is stronger in the older bottle.
Some real woodiness in the taste. Rather like sucking on an old Popsicle stick. Custard. OK, here is where the difference seems most obvious. There is more of a spice kick on the newer bottling. Nutmeg. Seems "sharper" on the tongue than the older. Of course, the older bottle has been open longer, so that may be the cause of it.
Finish. Wood and custard - Long. Spice - Short.
I am going to say that the difference here is really just a matter of how much spice and "zing" you prefer. I find the older bottle a bit more subdued, more about the pound cake, less about the spice. I think that makes it the smoother of the two, and makes it my preference.