Compass Box Asyla: 40% abv
Background: Since we went into a lot of detail about Compass Box as a company in the review of their limited edition 4th batch Flaming Heart (Review 152; 3/31/13), it is probably more appropriate to focus on this particular whisky for the review. This came as part of a 5-sample tasting set for Compass Box. This sampling set is very nice, because it goes into a lot of detail about each whisky. Asyla is a blended scotch, bottled at 40%. It is made up of 50% Lowland single grain, 40% Highland single malt, and 10% Speyside single malt, and is aged in 100% first fill American oak cases. This information provides a lot of context towards what to expect in the whisky, and exactly what you’re paying for. That being said, it does not mention the aging time of the whisky, but we believe we can take a guess anyway. Please enjoy our Compass Box series of reviews.
Nose: On the nose, there is not a question of a doubt that this is a young whisky. Despite having a high proportion of Single Malt whisky in it, it still has the distinctiveness of a blended Scotch. The nose has a lot of initial burn to it, but some light grape-like acidity that starts to appear as the aroma opens up. Along with this is a gentle medley of fruit flavors, including pear and apple. There is a subtle sign that malt exists in this dram, but it is overtaken by the dominant floral notes that are developing. As the whisky opens up, more and more pear and even some peach-like flavors are taking precedence. It is strikingly reminiscent of Glenfiddich 12 Year. Coupled with the fruit cocktail is some soft buttery vanilla smell. Although harsh at first, with some time, the smell really loses some of its edginess. The assertiveness of the oak is also noticeable in the nose.
Arrival: The arrival starts off very crisp and somewhat malty, but struggles to present a large array of flavors immediately. There is a little bit of a bready, wheat flavor that develops in the arrival, followed by a slight apple fruitiness. There is also a hint of Pinot Grigio popping out at the end of the arrival into the body.
Body: The body is slightly shallow, with a bready, acidic presence. The flavor is light and refined, but not terribly complex. In the body, there is a slightly unappealing alcohol burn that comes through, along with a slight amount of hop-like bitterness. This is also the most malty part of the whisky. This whisky is very much in the style of Glen Grant or Glengoyne in that respect, with a slightly more dominant acidity.
Finish: In the finish, blasts of malt and vanilla take over the taste buds, with a subtle residual of peach and grape. There is also a slight orange-like citrus tang that lingers through the finish., as well as a little bit of pear. There is a slightly dry, unnatural feeling coating the tongue which leads to an almost cardboard-like flavor. The malt and vanilla out last all other flavors, with a bit of rough alcohol also playing in. Finally, a subtle hint of agave creeps into the finish.
Final Comments: Overall, a Scotch like this competes with the likes of Isle of Sky, Pig’s Nose, and Black Bull, being a more malt-forward offering than most low-end blends. We didn’t really put any time into what the whisky is like with water, due to the fact that it doesn’t have enough flavor and presence to warrant further investigation at 40%. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to pay a little more for a nice, clean blended Scotch, then I would say this isn’t a bad option. The spirit doesn’t taste perfect, but it makes for a solid sipper. It does seem like, however, for just a little bit more, anCnoc or Glengoyne will give better value per dollar within a similar style.
Why you’d buy it: You want a simple blend with good flavor.
Why you wouldn’t: For a similar price, you could get an amazing Single Malt out of anCnoc 12 Year.