Whisky Review – Compass Box Asyla

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

ABV: 40%

Maturation: 100% First-Fill American Oak, ex-Bourbon

Price: $46 (Specs)

Availability: Readily available


February Meeting Summary – Compass Box Whisky Co

Well, our February Newcomers Whisky Club meeting was another fantastic success! We tasted a great selection of Compass Box

NWC Books and Glasses

NWC Books and Glasses

whiskies, had some wonderful food, and a downright enjoyable evening! Our whisky selection included: Asyla, Hedonism, Oak Cross, The Spice Tree, The Lost Blend, and The Peat Monster, plus an extra, “surprise” whisky!

We had a smaller group this month due to the conflict with the Plano Symphony, but we managed to manage despite the absences! The Nells (Herman, Nikki, and son Erich) joined us for the first time and are our first “family tasters”. The Nells even demonstrated that family ties and blood do not mean they like the same types of whisky. Herman was a non-peat person, while Nikki and Erich enjoy “the smoke“. And Nikki proved to have a great nose!

Compass Box Whisky Lineup

Asyla is a blended Scotch with a subtle, light and refreshing body. The palate is somewhat delicate; full of vanilla, soft fruits, cream and delicate herbal spice notes.

Hedonism is a somewhat rare, or at least unique, blended grain whisky using Lowland grain whiskies distilled at Cameronbridge in Fife and at Cambus, which is in Alloa, Clackmannanshire. The nose is full of notes of butter cream, vanilla, and some soft, ripe orchard fruits. The palate is nicely creamy and rich, carrying on the aromas found on the nose.

Oak Cross is a blended malt whisky made entirely of Highland single malt whiskies from the Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine

Ken and son, Chris, enjoying their research!

Ken and son, Chris, enjoying their research!

distilleries. The maturation process used by Compass Box includes the use of casks that have French oak heads on the barrels. The French oak imparts a beautiful spiciness that complements the rich vanilla, sweet malt and subtle fruit notes.

The Spice Tree lived up to its name! Boldly spiced, dense and oily on the palate, full notes of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, some pepper, plus some ripe orchard fruits and sherry-cask maturation influence. This is a beautiful and complex whisky…..and with quite a back-story, to boot. This whisky almost ceased to exist at one point as the Scotch

Deep Conversation in the Kitchen

Deep conversation!

Whisky Association (SWA) denied the production methods that Compass Box used to create this whisky. For the complete story behind The Spice Tree, check out the NWC Book!

As I mentioned, we had a surprise addition to our menu, one that was included to really demonstrate just how creative and innovative Compass Box can be. Along with our core lineup, we snuck in a very interesting  “infused” whisky, The Orangerie. This unique whisky is infused with “the hand-peeled zest of Navalino oranges and subtle

Even Dena and Laurie sampled some!

Even non-whisky drinkers Dena and Laurie sampled some Orangerie!

accents of Indonesian cassia bark and Sri Lankan cloves.” The nose was a basket of oranges, similar to Gran Marnier, while the palate brought along whisky and herbal notes to balance the orange flavor.

Mike Barishman

Mike Barishman

From there we moved on to The  Lost Blend, a blended malt with a mix of unpeated Highland whiskies from Clynelish and Alt-a-Bhainne(80%) and peated Islay whisky from Caol Ila (20%). Despite the ratio, the peaty notes are very evident, but balanced nicely by the rich fruitiness and vanilla sweetness, along with a delicate herbal spiciness that manages to hold its own with the other notes.

Brendan and Rich, having fun!

Brendan and Rich, having fun!

And for our finale, we sampled The Peat Monster! Made with Islay whiskies from Laphroaig and Caol Ila, peated whisky from Ledaig on the Isle of Mull, and from Ardmore, a peated Speysider, smoke and peat are prominent. Yet despite the frightening name, The Peat Monster manages to maintain a civil attitude, allowing some of the underlying fruits and soft vanilla notes to bring a nice balance.

The Nell Family, Herman, Nikki and Erich. Our first whole-family tasters!

The Nell Family, Herman, Nikki and Erich. Our first whole-family tasters!

All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable evening and the Compass Box whiskies delivered! We had some great discussions about the various whiskies, evaluating their pros and cons, but always recognizing the quality. And, with all the variety in flavors and styles, everyone managed to find one or two that hit their palates just right ….. there might just be a rush on Compass Box at Specs in the next week or so!

And, yes, I need to improve my photography skills! 🙂

2015-2-21_NWC-Compass_Box_BookFor anyone who was unable to attend and wants a copy of our book insert, here is the pdf version of the Compass Box Whisky menu and tasting notes. You can download the actual file by clicking on the image or this link Compass Box Menu or you can always go to the Club Book Archive Page in the menu bar (or click here) to pull this one or any of our past books.

Compass Box Whisky – Blended Whisky’s Second Revolution

Johanne McInnes, aka The Whisky Lassie, is a Canadian whisky blogger, whisky aficionado, whisky promoter, and just a basic whisky fan. In her blog, The Whisky Lassie, she covers a wide field of interesting things, all whisky-related.

Whisky Lassie blog header

This past January, Johanne wrote up a neat article discussing what she calls the “Second Revolution” – or how there is a revival of quality blended scotch whisky

as presented by Compass Box Whisky Co. As we are just a week away from our NWC evening with Compass Box, I thought you might like to read from other sources about how great these whiskies are, and what is in store for everyone at our meeting next weekend! Just click here to read her comments about, and love affair with, Compass Box Whisky Co.


Take a minute to read Johanne’s article……her perspective jibes with mine, that these are exceptional whiskies that you will absolutely enjoy!




Compass Box Whisky Co.

As the excitement builds, here is a little teaser about what is in store for our upcoming meeting. This picture shows the core range of Compass Box whiskies that make up most of our scheduled tasting…..but there are surprises that won’t be revealed until the 21st!


Exploring Compass Box Whisky Co.


Here are a couple of videos that you might find interesting in advance of our Compass Box tasting this month. Mark Gillespie, who puts together a weblog called WhiskyCast ®, conducted an on-site interview with John Glaser, founder of Compass Box Whisky Co. The interview is interesting and insightful, offering a unique glimpse into the philosophy and goals for this innovative company. Compass Box is a whisky blender, they do not distill any of their whiskies, and they have succeeded in expanding boundaries, introducing whiskies of exceptional quality and innovation. John Glaser is down-to-earth, knowledgeable, and informative…..these are really worth the 20 minutes or so of viewing time!

Interview Part 1

Interview Part 2

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