Rosemary's Blog

Asyla from Compass Box

This is a whisky which has filled me with joy and affirmed my campaign to explore whisky as a holistic experience and so much more than just a drink.

Is Asyla a whisky made for women? Well, it might taste that way but whiskymaker John Glaser created this as part of the Compass Box Signature Range some 10 years ago: five blends to showcase the traditional characteristics of the main whisky producing areas of Scotland. Asyla (a’-sat-la) illustrates the most accessible style, which I would say is traditionally associated with Speyside, and is generally the easiest style of whisky to drink. But that does’t even begin to describe Asyla which, if it is to be likened to a Speyside (my thought, not theirs) it is like finding a boy has suddenly grown up into a sophisticated young man. For that, read Gorgeous with outside interests and an intellectual depth!

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My tasting of Asyla revealed vanilla, creaminess and a hint of greater depths and peat on the palette after light, fresh but stimulating and enticing aromas of freedom on the nose. (The Compass Box video says apples on the nose: so fresh fruit eaten out of doors? Well maybe, but fresh air yes! Breathe deeply! Try drinking it outside or by an open window.) It is slightly sweet, easy to drink but full-flavoured and with a mildly toasted drier, grainy cereal finish. I can sip this straight but, opened up with just a little water, a more creamy, warmer and friendly aroma is released with a slightly oily mouthfeel (making it a perfect grazing whisky to accompany a fridge or deli supper) leaving the sweet vanilla to come through at the end of each sip, rather than at the beginning. It makes a delicious aperitif, but it is not too dry: think amontillado or palo cortado sherry rather than fino and you’re getting the placement in styles of this finely crafted blend.

A whisky for relaxing with, indoors and out. It is at the smart cas end of the wardrobe; romantic, stylish but creative. As easy to drink as your favourite tailored and fitted weekend outfits are to wear. A reflective, engaging whisky. Sip it whilst listening to Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto; think the undercurrents and emotions of Brief Encounter.  A wardrobe essential modern classic.

More information than you actually need:

The malt whiskies in Asyla come from Alness on the northern shores of the Moray Firth (a small town north of Inverness which I know well for its salmon industry), and from Longhorn, a distillery near Elgin on the northern edges of Speyside, way across the Firth to the south.

The vanilla characteristics are there because the whiskies to be blended are all aged in first-fill American oak, so there is plenty of flavour to be drawn into the whisky as it matures in the new-to- Scotch whisky wood. All American oak used in Scotland has been used for bourbon once and is ingrained with vanilla-iness.

The depth of flavour comes from the blend being 50% malt whisky and 50% grain. Hence such an accessible balance of depth of flavour (malts) and light elegance (grain).

John Glaser was inspired to create Asyla by listening to the music of the same name by young contemporary British composer Thomas Adès, much championed by Sir Simon Rattle. Adés is perceived as challenging the conventional notions of composition, taking music in new directions. That would tie in completely with where John Glaser leads us to in the world of whisky  blending: new flavour experiences and interpretations within, or perhaps pushing, the boundaries of, whisky conventions. Adès Asyla and Glaser’s did not marry for me, but there is no right or wrong in the world of likes and dislikes, tastes and interpretations. Thanks, however, are definitely due to the former for inspiring the latter to create a dram which I find far more romantic and easy than its challenging muse. As someone who loves to enjoy a dram whilst listening to music, to find a whisky inspired by music makes a MoonShine journey a virtuous circle from the start!


Make it a long drink if you will with crushed ice or water, carbonated or still. Anything goes.