Compass Box stands in a somewhat unique position as playing the role of both innovator and rebel in the Scotch whisky community. The label strikes me as an innovative punk artist working in the spirit medium, more in line with Sweden’s Refused on The Shape of Punk to Come while the whisky establishment is Green Day. Their name is as associated with very good and sometimes great whisky as often as any label that toes the industry line, yet they seem hellbent on asking “why?” when faced with sometimes seemingly arbitrary rules imposed by the Scotch Whisky Association. In this way, they have forged their own niche within the larger community, challenging many conventional views on blended whiskies in general. And along the way, they have created some very enjoyable drams.
Asyla takes its name from the plural form of “asylum,” and is a member of the Signature Range from Compass Box along with Oak Cross, Spice Tree, Peat Monster, and Hedonism. Within this range, Asyla has the potential to be the most immediately approachable in terms of price and profile. It is a blended Scotch whisky, boasting a 50% mix of malt whisky paired with the remaining 50% consisting of grain whisky. The blend is matured in first-fill American oak casks. Quality cask selection is of particular interest to the folks at Compass Box. The finished product is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume, and, as with all Compass Box releases, is not chill filtered and is always natural in color.
Tasting Notes: Compass Box Asyla
Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), no age statement, blended Scotch Whisky (50% malt whisky, 50% grain whisky), available around $40-60 per 750 ml bottle.
Appearance: Light golden straw. Deceptively strong, thick legs clinging to the sides of the glass like rum icing on a bundt cake.
Nose: Exceptionally clean. Peach syrup, lemon-lime soda, cereal grains.
Palate: Clean as the nose suggests. Soft vanilla, steel cut oats, powdered sugar, lemon. None of the flavors are competing for attention. Well balanced and delightfully subtle. Round and cool mouthfeel. Continued sweetness lingers in the finish, like powdered sugar and maple syrup after a plate of thick-cut French toast. Soft burn that fades slowly; a lapping wave on the shore of an isolated mountain pond.
It seems that no matter what, there will always be those in the whisky-loving world who will see blends as lesser whiskies than single malts regardless of the individual qualities contained within any unique sample of either. I am of the opinion that these people are missing out. Who am I to complain? More for the rest of us, right?
Asyla is a quality Scotch suitable for an evening of easy sipping, or for use as a higher-tier mixer. The flavors are straightforward and unchallenging, which can be helpful for introducing newcomers to the world of Scotch. All of this presented in attractive package with a very reasonable price point. Asyla is not a blend to be overlooked.
Score: 89 [SHOP FOR A BOTTLE OF COMPASS BOX ASYLA]
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Joshua St. John
When not sampling whiskey, Joshua St. John can most likely be found running the trails of the Pacific Northwest surrounding his home in Portland, Oregon. A lifelong world-traveler, Joshua was first introduced to single malts while visiting distilleries in Scotland, and continues to explore the world through the countless interpretations...