Ailsa Bay is – how to say – a conceptual distillery: Grant’s group, which owns Glenfiddich and Balvenie, decided in 2007 to upgrade the Girvan grain distillery, implementing Ailsa Bay. The aim is to save the precious Balvenie malt, replacing it in blended whiskies. Moreover, it’s now possible to produce whiskies with different styles (peaty, nutty, fruity…). This operation has been hailed as a case-study, because it’s the opposite of terroir’s idea: the whisky production becomes extremely flexible and the distillery manager is now allowed to produce every kind of spirit he deserves. These days the whisky industry is struggling between two philosophies: industry or craft, big numbers or small productions. This dichotomy reminds to us the one between the raw material worship and the focus on final result. It’s a matter of approach to Scotch whisky and both visions are of course legitimate. Someone follows history, tradition, terroir and slow drinking; some others are focused on production targets. We can’t figure it out, but we believe that quality must be the only North Star, so we taste this Ailsa Bay bottling looking for it. It’s a heavy peated whisky from the Lowlands: what a post-modern mess!
N: at the beginning peat is the king. Powerfull whiffs of tar, burnt plastic and tires. The sweetness is initially inorganic too, with notes of dental paste. There’s a simple vanilla sensation and some liquid sugar. Later, pleasant and vibrant notes of cut grass and wet lawn. A simple but charming profile.
P: it shows the same bizzarre oddities of the nose, with an intense and strong peatiness, focused on burnt plastic and tar. It’s artificial and medicinal (did you remember Paracetamol?)… The herbaceous notes are here slightly bitter and they introduce us to the last part of the palate: a well balanced sweetness of vanilla and pear.
F: does it really need to be said? Smoke, smoke, smoke. Plastic, tar and burnt tires…
Not bad, even if it’s rather unique. Not only from a “conceptual” point of view, being a peaty malt from Lowlands a terroir blasphemy. The bitter and inorganic note unleashes a huge range of sensations. Whether you’re traditionalists or avant-garde whisky fans, drink it without too many prejudices. We did it and our vote is 84/100.
Recommended soundtrack: CCCP – Io sto bene.