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Compass Box Asyla

Whisky Tango Foxtrot, internet

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@TheConscienceReview by @TheConscience

6th Jul 2012


Compass Box Asyla
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

For some reason the internet does not care for Asyla, and not enough praise is heaped upon this wonderful whisky. Aggregate scores from several sites reveal a competent blend, though reviews of it are often saddled with the derision of 'entry' or 'beginner' dram. More on that later.

Asyla is a blend of 50% malt and 50% grain - the single malts from Glen Elgin, Linkwood, and Teaninich, and the grain from Cameron Bridge. All component whiskies are aged in bourbon casks and then married/blended for one year. There is judicious use of first-fill American oak for wonderful sweet, rich, vanilla notes.

Nose: effete. Honey, green apple, vanilla, sweet grain, and trace citrus.

Palate: very soft and smooth. There is a sweet-tart interaction from the honey and green apple notes, with an underlying sweet oak, grain and mild vanilla profile. Adding a few drops of water enhances the sweetness. I could drink this all day.

Finish: sweet apple fades to dry spice in an otherwise short finish. A very refreshing dram altogether.

Now, back to the topic of denigration. Very often I see this whisky described as 'beginner' or 'entry level'. The subtext in these cases is clear - the whisky in question is great for noobs and novices, but those with experience should move on.

I don't get it. What makes a whisky 'beginner'? That it's smooth? Easy to drink? Soft? Unchallenging? So, Talsiker 10 must be an 'entry' malt, right?. I found it quite smooth and fresh when I first sampled it (still do). My 'entry' malts were Lagavulin 16 and Macallan 18. Many on this site got started in whisky on Laphroaig, of all malts. The entire concept of a 'beginner' whisky seems bizarre to me - I would just as soon recommend Talsiker as I would Asyla to a scotch neophyte. Moreover, such descriptors label the whisky as something unchallenging or fit only for beginners. Let's just call this a fine whisky and leave it at that. And next time I see a reviewer label this as 'beginner' I'm going to cyber-punch them in the mouth.

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Victor commented

'Cyber-punch them in the mouth'? A tad aggressive.

I am completely with you, though, that many outstanding whiskies are looked down upon by the 'big flavours' crowd, BECAUSE they DO NOT 'punch you in the mouth'. Whiskies like Aberlour 10, Dalwhinnie 15, and yes, Johnnie Walker Blue and even Gold, are just not flavourful enough for some people to consider them attractive. I am a "big flavours" guy myself, but I do like all of these whiskies, and I do very much like Compass Box Asyla, Oak Cross, and others.

I met John Glaser about three months ago when he was doing a presentation to a bunch of liquor tradespeople in Baltimore. I was the only person in the room of 25 who was not an industry pro, but an enthusiast, as a guest of one of the store owners. I asked about half of all the questions asked of him, including, "Is Asyla still your own personal favourite among all of the Compass Box products?" His answer was "Yes, Asyla is still my 'desert island' whisky."

11 years ago 0

TheConscience commented

A wonderful anecdote, and a wonderful question on your part. I now recall hearing (from a youtube clip I believe) that the man himself, John Glaser, had remarked that Asyla was his favourite of the range. It had completely slipped my mind until you mentioned it in your post.

Well, there we have it.

I was also not aware of this 'big flavours crowd', but it makes sense given the ways in which whisky preferences trend. I do enjoy big flavours but, like yourself, overall quality (big or subtle) is more important.

11 years ago 0

Megawatt commented

Nice review. It drives me nuts that any whisky with peat is considered "complex" whereas subtle unpeated whiskies are often written off as simple or one-dimensional, when the opposite is often the case. At least this is what I've noticed from reading many consumer reviews and forums. I haven't tried Asyla but I've had the Great King Street blend and was blown away by it.

10 years ago 0

TheConscience commented

Agreed. Many equate 'bold' with 'complex'. It's a false equation as far as I'm concerned. Many bold whiskies are indeed complex, and many are one-dimensional. I've learned over time to try and appreciate the complexity (when it is to be found, and subject to my own limitations) of any whisky.

I recommend Asyla. I definitely prefer it over GKS, which is another CB offering that I enjoy thoroughly.

10 years ago 0

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