A big thank you to Barry from the Whiskyphiles who gave us a sample of this spirit!
As you may already know, this is the first whisky released from the Ailsa Bay distillery. But what is Aisla Bay distillery?
It started in 2007 within the site of the Girvan grain distillery. So it’s kind of confusing because it’s pretty much a part of Girvan. It’s owned by William Grant & Sons who also own Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie, and was created to produce malt whisky for their blends and presumably some whisky for the single malt peoples. Another interesting tidbit, Aisla Bay is the second malt distillery to be on that site. The first was the Ladyburn distillery which had a short life from 1966 to 1976.
While it may seem strange to have one distillery within/on-site of another this has happened before. As Malt-Review points out “Inverleven at Dumbarton between 1959-1991 and Ben Wyvis at Invergordon between 1965-1977.” Ben Nevis also had a grain distillery on site but they didn’t really market the spirit with a different name and in fact they ran some experiments of blending at birth to create their unique single blended whiskies. Miyagikyo Distillery in Japan also have both coffey and pot stills which could be considered separate distilleries by the Ailsa Bay definition. So yeah it happens.
The name Ailsa Bay comes from Ailsa Craig, an island in the Firth of Clyde that can be seen from the distillery. Ailsa Craig is famous for being a major quarry for a special type of granite that is used to make curling stones. And to make things a bit more interesting, Grants has used that granite to make the stoppers for this particular bottling. Fancy huh?
While this particular expression of Ailsa Bay whisky is heavily peated, the distillery was designed to produce 3 styles: unpeated light, unpeated rich, and peated. They decided to release the peated one first which is an interesting move, since peaty whisky is always a divisive topic for new drinkers. However, it does showcase that they now have access to heavily peated whiskies as none of their other malt distilleries produce heavily peated spirit.
All in all it’s exciting times for whisky fans. A whisky debut from a highly reputable whisky company, let’s have a taste!
Distillery: Ailsa Bay Distillery (within Girvan grain distillery)
Cask: From Whisky For Everyone “Refill American oak, first fill bourbon, new oak and Baby Bourbon casks previously used by William Grant’s Hudson distillery in New York.”
PPM Liquid: From Malt-Review 21ppm