In my mind, Ailsa Bay is one of those new big distilleries that mainly exists to supply blenders with components for their blends. In that regard it is similar to Roseisle distillery, which is Diageo’s counterpart to William Grant’s Ailsa Bay.
The fact that single malt is being bottled as such is quite remarkable, and a bit of a rarity.
What also is a thing with these blending-component-suppliers is that their main angle is to distill whisky to very narrow specifications. In the case of this distillery they call it precision distilling, and that does ring rather true.
Ailsa Bay is the whisky that supplied peated single malt for blends, so this is actually a peated Lowlands whisky. This used to be a rarity but is becoming less weird with regional whisky differences blurring more and more over the last decade or two.
This older bottling came from a sample I found when rearranging my home office, and I decided to try it recently. I have no idea how long it sat on the shelf, and I could probably find out but I don’t think it matters that much. Let’s see if it is any good…
There’s nothing but earthy smoke on the nose, initially. It’s all about the peat. For peat’s sake, so to say. It’s rather spirity, but also quite nondescript. The usual suspects are there, a whiff of vanilla, quite some barley and a bit of oak. These notes show up after a minute or so, but it’s still peat first and foremost.
The palate is very light, althoug rather peaty. It’s slightly grassy, with hints of hay, grass, barley. There’s some oak, and an earthy smokiness.
The finish is a continuation of what came before. It’s slightly more papery than before, and therefore a bit more dry.
It’s very, very clean, and I understand the ‘precision distilling’ they talk about. This whisky gives a blended whisky its peated component, but does very little else, and while that definitely has its purpose, and it does it very well, it is ridiculously boring as a single malt whisky.
Keep in mind, this is absolutely not a bad whisky, every box is ticked, except for the fact that apart from ‘generic barley spirit’ and peat, there’s nothing to find here.