When one thinks of Lowland malts, one often thinks about light whisky, malty, leafy and certainly not a peated spirit, right? Well, think again, as the new Ailsa Bay distillery is going to change all that. Ailsa Bay is owned by William Grant & Sons, and this is the first ever release from this relatively new distillery.
Ailsa Bay is a state-of-the-art distillery created in 2007 from Peter Gordon’s vision and initially built to combine the purpose of increasing capacity and supply of malt whisky for blending and growing demand, plus the capacity to develop a new style of peated whisky. The distillery is based at William Grant & Sons’ Girvan site in South Ayrshire. The distillery has a capacity of 12 million liters of alcohol / year. Note that Whisky can be made in three different styles at Ailsa Bay – light/fresh, rich/sweet and peaty. I guess the choice to release the first whisky in the peaty style is quite correct as young peated whiskies are usually more interesting and palatable than young non-peated whiskies, since the peat adds a nice layer of flavor, which young whiskies often lack. This particular release is a vatting of a few different wood casks : refill American oak, first fill bourbon, new oak and Baby Bourbon casks previously used by William Grant’s Hudson distillery in New York. Not your everyday vatting, right?
So, a peated lowland, right? let’s give this a try.
Nose: Starts fruity with pear drops and apple peel, cereals and yeast with ashy notes. It does feel young but well put together. With time notes of bacon chips appear. As well as pepper and earth and hints of peppermint gum.
Palate : Lots of sweet smoke. Some cough syrup, cereals and more peppermint gum with the pear drops in the background
Finish : Dry smoke. Vanilla and cereal. Leather.
This is a very young whisky indeed, but It does feel well rounded and well made, with a nice balance of peat, and young fruity notes. I have very high hopes for this distillery, especially for the peated profile of whisky that might prove very good if given a few more years to mature, and develop in the casks. A very enjoyable dram indeed, if not over complex just yet, but I’m quite sure the next releases will get even better.