Last week, our Newcomers Whisky Club had a meeting and we sampled the Compass Box Whisky Co. core range of whiskies, plus a couple other Compass Box offerings. During our meetings, I have too much fun talking with everyone, enjoying the whiskies, and also the pouring responsibilities, to do much more than get some general impressions of the various whiskies … which is fine. The meetings are not really the environment or situation to really dig into a whisky with an intent to critically analyze what makes them good (or not good) and so on.
In the after-meeting summary, I posted that I would come back to the whiskies later and do a more thorough assessment of each one, and here we are! This review of the Asyla, Blended Scotch Whisky is not only my first posted review, but is also the start of a Compass Box series that I will post over the next few days. As these reviews will be my first “formal” whisky review postings, they may suffer from some organizational variability until I settle on a format that works best for me, but while the basic format may be a bit evolutionary, I hope the reviews have all of the inherently necessary content that should be in a whisky review and that anyone reading it should find at least moderately informational and/or useful.
My series of Compass Box reviews will start by working through the “core range” and then move on to look at a couple of the Limited Release offerings. It should be fun!
So, with all that being said, here goes ….. !
Asyla, Blended Scotch Whisky
Let me start my review with a short disclaimer by saying that I am a fan of Compass Box. I think that what they do delivers on their objectives to offer quality, innovative whiskies with a range of intriguing styles and flavor profiles. Although I’d had only a few of their offerings prior to our recent NWC meeting, each one of their whiskies I tried was a good-to-very good whisky, and in one case, extraordinary whisky, but that doesn’t mean that I will turn a blind-eye to any faults or weaknesses that I might discover …after all, if I am unwilling to be honest in my assessment, there is no value to the exercise.
Note: One of the real positives about Compass Box is that they provide a lot of upfront disclosure of information about their source whiskies and their maturation methods. While sometimes the source whisky disclosure is veiled behind a simple location name, in most cases just a minimal amount of Google-digging will provide the true identity of the distillery. So, one check in the plus column!
Just a very short background on Compass Box Whisky Co. and John Glaser, its founder. Born in the US, John began working in the wine industry before finding himself working as a Marketing Manager for Johnnie Walker, the blended scotch whisky behemoth. A few years later, in 1998, John relocated to the UK where he served as Global Marketing Director for JW. Discovering his passion for scotch whisky, John left JW in 2000 to start Compass Box Whisky Co. as a small, boutique whisky blending house. Sourcing whiskies from various distilleries, John worked to create a portfolio of blends with a wide spectrum of styles and flavor profiles. The initial releases, which hit the market in November 2001, were Hedonism, Asyla, and Eleuthera (now retired). Since then, Compass Box has expanded their range to include five “core” whiskies, as well as offering a number of Limited Releases such as the Last Vatted Malt, Delilah’s Blend, The General, and others. In the process, Compass Box has developed a reputation for innovation and quality that is reflected in the numerous awards they have received.
So, finally …. the review ….
Asyla is the premium blended scotch whisky in the Compass Box core range. A blend with a high ratio of malt to grain (50%-50%), this whisky delivers an enjoyable experience and serves as a great introduction to the Compass Box line.
Color: The color of Asyla is that of a Sauvignon Blanc, light gold with a soft yellowish tinge.
Nose: (Neat): Taking an initial sniff, there is a delicacy to the nose….don’t get me wrong, there is quite a bit going on, but all of it is sort of ….delicate, subtle. The nose is softly appealing. First impression is that there is quite a bit of sweet malt and cereal notes, but soon a rich, soft vanilla adds more sweetness. There is a good dose of oak spice – some cinnamon, a light touch of white pepper. While the grains, vanilla and spice notes are dominant, I also get a touch of coconut, some lime zest, a hint of banana, and a delicate red apple note that adds nicely to the depth of aromas. (With Water): The addition of water seems to turn up the dial on the fruity-side, toning down the sweetness of the vanilla. The malty side still remains solidly at the core of the nose.
Palate: (Neat): a creamy, buttery arrival – loads of vanilla, which remains through the mid-palate, when the spices start to make their presence known. Like the nose, this remains a “delicate” whisky, although delicate, it has a nice, rich body that coats the inside of your mouth. The flavors hold the line with the nose. Vanilla, sweet malt and cereal notes, although the cereals are now more along the line of toasted bread, less sweet. And the fruits continue to just kind of soften the corners. (With Water): The arrival is thinner, now – not really an improvement, in my eyes. Again, the flavors remain true and consistent. Vanilla, sweet malt, toast, oak spices, and softly fruity.
Finish: A touch of oak, sweet malt, the ripe apple and banana notes pull through more on the finish, softly peppery. The finish is surprisingly long given how delicate this is on the palate.
Overall: In reading the information on the Compass Box information sheet, Asyla is described as a whisky suitable as an aperitif and that is a very apt description; this whisky is wholly approachable, light and delicate, not quite simple, but certainly easy to drink……maybe too easy to drink! I think this would also serve as an excellent introductory whisky for a white wine drinker. This is a very good blend, surpassing a majority of other available current blends. The high malt content is evident and it has a beautiful mouthfeel. It is not overly complex and likely won’t deliver a challenging experience for the avowed single malt fan, but it is highly enjoyable and worth the occasional pour.
Even though the Compass Box notes say that this can be drunk with ice or a splash of water, personally, I think it neither benefits nor needs water to fully appreciate the flavors.
I should also add that my first taste of Asyla was from a freshly opened bottle and now, a few days later, I think a bit of oxidization has benefited the whisky, bringing out a bit more body on the palate than I remember.
Distillery(ies): Single Malt from Alness (most likely Teaninich) and Longmorn (Longmorn), and Grain from Fife (Cameronbridge)
Type: Blended Scotch (50% Malt, 50% Grain), not chill-filtered, natural color.
Age: Not Stated
Maturation: 100% First-Fill American Oak, ex-Bourbon
Price: $46 (Specs)
Availability: Readily available