There is a bit of a story behind how I came across this whisky and it all comes down to twitter. Just before Christmas I saw an announcement that William Grant had a pop up shop in London for its Ancient Reserves brands. The concept intrigued me and as the shop was not too far from work near Angel a visit felt pretty much mandatory. Under the Ancient Reserves name, William Grant brings together four of their whisky brands (Ailsa Bay, The Girvan Patent Still, Rare Cask Reserves and Kininvie). Before my visit I had only tried whisky from the Girvan Patent Still before and I wasn’t that familiar with the other brands. I popped in after work and was pleasantly surprised to be offered the opportunity to try the Kininvie and Ailsa bay, both of which I liked. The team made me feel very welcome, the venue was great and the whole visit was a fantastic experience. I left with a bottle of Ailsa Bay and a Ghosted Reserve 21 (waiting for a good excuse to open this one).
Ailsa bay was launched into the UK in early 2016 with a distribution of 1,800 bottles, having launched in Scandinavia the previous year. The Lowland distillery located within the Girvan Grain Distillery, spends most of the year producing whisky for William Grant’s blended whiskies, but for two weeks a year it switches production to Single Malt. They are trying for a sweet peated whisky and the process involves four different barrels, including Hudson baby bourbon casks. The whisky spends less than a year in these mini casks and this “micro maturation” is a rapid process that kick starts the spirit before it is spends several years in American Oak casks. This is a first of its kind process for the Scotch Whisky industry.
I really like the presentation of this whisky, the bottle is sleek and sexy with an oversize stopper that has a piece of granite in it. The Granite is from Ailsa Craig, a rock in the nearby ocean after which the distillery is named. This is the same granite that is used for curling stones. The whisky is bottled at 48.9% volume and retails for around £54. It doesn’t have an age statement, but it must be quite young as the distillery only launched in 2007.
The whisky is a golden yellow and at first its nose is sweet and smoky, which is exactly what they claim to be looking for. Having tried a number of Ardbeg’s recently this is a far more mellow smoke. I can smell cereal and oats, with something fruity there. My mind goes to breakfast, there is a crispness to this whisky and there is something of smoky bacon covered in syrup.
At first taste I find this whisky course and peaty, soon giving way to sweetness. I taste muesli and vanilla, but the smokiness is there too and keeps coming back. There is something nutty in this whisky and I find it quite crisp. But still something reminding me of crisp bacon with maple syrup when I drink this Whisky. This is much lighter than a lot of peated whiskies and not as heavy going.
The finish of this whisky is both sweet and peaty, quite dry and reasonably long. This is a very pleasant whisky and one that I like to offer to guests looking for something different. Overall I like this whisky and can’t wait to see what they have up next.