Can you manipulate the science required to produce a perfectly balanced whisky? Makers of Ailsa Bay Sweet Smoke single malt scotch Whisky want to prove that you can.
Now before you ask why GadgetGuy (well, Gadgeteer Jim Matthews) is reviewing Single Malt Scotch Whisky and ask is there an app for that, lets set a few things straight. The science behind Ailsa Bay Sweet Smoke Single Malt Scotch Whisky is considerable. No, really it is, and this was not just a chance to drink on the job.
It has all the lineage you would expect of the Scottish Lowlands. Ailsa Bay Sweet Smoke scotch whisky (website here) is part of William Grant and Sons that also make Balvenie, Glenfiddich (Scotland’s largest distillery), Kininvie (Monkey Shoulder blend) and Girvan.
However, the location is probably where the convention ends
regarding this spirit first released in February 2016.
The eight-still distillery makes four different characters: estery, nutty, fruity and heavily peated.
Ailsa Bay claims it is the first in the world to use ‘precision science and engineering’ to measure and control the Sweetness Parts Per Million (SPPM – or how sweet the whisky is) in addition to the commonly measured Phenol Parts Per Million (PPPM – or how smoky the scotch is) – it is even listed on the bottle.
The whisky then undergoes a micro maturation process (again,
the first of its kind), where the spirit goes into small bourbon casks for six
to nine months to create a rapid maturation.
While the science and approach are impressive, what does this mean for the tasting experience? Well, Ailsa Bay claims its method allows it to strike the perfect balance between peat and sweetness. But does it pull off this balancing act?
Full disclosure here, I have by no means a professionally trained palate. Whisky is my spirit of choice, and I enjoy this whisky on the rocks.
Ailsa Bay touts this whisky as possessing an intriguing
balance of oaky sweetness and peaty dryness.
Upon pouring, the nose detects the immediate smack of bonfire,
with a slight hint of antiseptic. It is such a distinct, incredibly aromatic smell
and a delight to take in.
Upon tasting, an immediate smack of smoke is present, but
this subtly dissipates into a sweeter, vanilla, oaky flavour, before coming
back to leave you with a smooth and smoky finish. It is one of the more complex
tasting whiskies I’ve tried in a while, and if you enjoy smoke, you’ll find it
here in spades.
Packaging and presentation
This is the second iteration of this whisky. Ailsa Bay has refined the formula ahead of this release with a jump in the sweetness, and a mild tweak to the smokiness.
The bottle retains the same shape as Release 1.1. It is a
tall, unassuming cylindrical bottle.
The science behind this whisky is a key feature of the label
design elements made of graph paper with a geometric pattern.
It certainly looks like a premium bottle of whisky (one
would hope so at this price point). I wouldn’t hesitate to gift this to someone
or bring it to a special occasion. The narrative around the unique process and
taste is an added talking point if that’s something you’re in to.
Would we drink this again? Absolutely, it is a terrific whisky. It also proves that you don’t need to age it for a very long time to get a complex, satisfying oak flavour. Rapid maturation really works.
It would be great paired with smoked meats if you really wanted to get into the taste. But, it is equally appropriate for a casual evening scotch as well. If you’re not a fan of very peaty, smoky, full flavoured whiskies, however, this probably won’t be for you.
More importantly, if you enjoy this category and are a uisgeophile,
you should try this for the experience alone. There’s definitely an element of
the unique and novel here that fans shouldn’t miss.