William Grant & Sons are set to release Ailsa Bay, the first single malt whisky from their new lowland distillery this month.
Described as a singular, precision-distilled spirit, with a unique balance of smoke and sweetness, the whisky is the product of many years of hard work and experimentation by Director Peter Gordon and Master Blender Brian Kinsman and his team, who desired to create a spirit as beautiful, balanced and unique as the brand’s timeless muse, Ailsa Craig, which dominates the distillery’s horizon at Girvan.
Peter Gordon, Director of William Grant & Sons and great great grandson of William Grant explains: “With Ailsa Bay, we wanted to create a very heavily peated whisky with all of the sweetness and smokiness we could muster, but also dial down on some of the medicinal notes that characterise some peated whiskies.
“Ailsa Bay is a testament to our whisky-making expertise and the skills of our Master Blender Brian Kinsman. We invest heavily in keeping the innovation conveyor belt going. Hopefully, we can do this in a pioneering way that respects the traditions that our family has passed down through the generations.”
Peter was the main driving force behind the creation of the new state-of-the-art distillery in 2007, which was initially built to combine the purpose of increasing capacity and supply of malt whisky for blending and growing demand with the capacity to develop a new style of peated whisky for the group.
With its unique advanced technologies and precise controls, the distillery allowed Master Blender Brian Kinsman and his team the ability to isolate and control more elements from the initial distillation, to the maturation process, which enabled optimal control over the type and quality of liquid produced.
Brian feels the greater control the team has over the entire process has given him more freedom and encouragement to innovate, he said: “Ailsa Bay Distillery has allowed us to do something extremely special.
"Using our precision distilling methods and a special process for cask maturation, I am able to carefully control the outcome of the whisky. With Ailsa Bay, I took exceptional peated malt and ex Baby Bourbon Hudson casks to create a whisky with a balance of smoke and sweetness, to occupy a new space on the flavour map.”
The new whisky will take up the position as William Grant & Sons' 'peated malt' and will be released with a phenol level of 21 PPM - which, reflecting the company's innovative attitude, will be the measurement taken from the liquid, rather than the peat smoked malted barley - as well as a new measurement of sweetness SPPM (Sweet parts per million), which will be an industry first. Both of these measurements will be clearly stated on the bottle reflecting the level of detail and attention the distillers have given to the whisky.
Fresh wood smoke with notes of smouldering damp heather and extinguished bonfire. Following the smoke is a wave of oaky sweetness and hot, buttered toast with an intriguing hint of caramelised apple.
An immediate punch of peat is quickly balanced by a burst of vanilla oakiness. The flavour meanders between smoke, fruit, creamy toffee and back again. With every sip, the complexity of the whisky deepens as layer upon layer of flavour is revealed.
An intriguing balance of oaky sweetness and peaty dryness.
• Ailsa Bay will be launching in the UK this month and will have an ABV of 48.9% per 70 cl bottle.