Outside of a 1% difference in ABV, Iterations 6 and 7 only differ in hop choice. However, the difference in OG that accounts for that ABV difference is rather significant in how it impacts the taste.
The recipes for each beer are as follows:
Iteration 6 poured with an excellent head with good retention. The color was a reddish amber.
Iteration 7 had minimal head, which seemed to be the unfortunate result of a poorly sealed cap as this result was an outlier for this iteration. The color was deep red.
Iteration 6 had a nose of red plum and red cherry. There were also slight notes of citrus, floral aromas, and a slightly catty aroma.
Iteration 7 smelled of black plum, dark cherry, citrus, and apricot.
The flavor of Iteration 6 was one of cherry and orange. There was also a note of red plum, but it was a note of the darker flesh immediately surrounding the pit, as it had a slightly bitter bite in that flavor. There were also hints of floral flavors and dankness.
Iteration 7 tasted of black plum, black cherry, orange zest, and apricot. The malt flavors, overall, were much richer in this iteration.
The difference in depth and richness of the malt flavors is the most striking distinction between these beers. As I mentioned before, the intensity of the malt flavors in Iteration 7 seems to detract from the hop profile, while it should contrast it in order to complement it. However, there is something appealing about it compared to the malt flavor in Iteration 6. It is leaving me wondering if I should attempt a compromise between the two while keeping the ABV at the 7.3% of version 6. I would try to accomplish this by increasing both the OG, but also increasing my mash temperature to end at a higher FG and thus maintain the same ABV. On the other hand, I really enjoy the drinkability of this beer despite its high ABV, and I think some of that is resting on it finishing in the range of 1.008-1.010. I think I will wait to see how Iteration 8 turns out before making this decision.