There's a new peated whisky in town as William Grant & Sons launches Ailsa Bay, a product that mixes smoke and sweet notes.
'We've wanted to make a peated whisky for over 55 years,' explained director Peter Gordon. 'We wanted to create a very heavily peated whisky with all the sweetness and smokiness we could muster, but also dial down on some of the medicinal notes that characterise some peated whiskies.'
A no-age-statement whisky, it's a combination of peated whiskies aged in refill oak cask, first-fill bourbon cask, new oak casks and ex-Baby Bourbon Hudson casks, the latter of which range in size from 20 litres to 100 litres. With the standard bourbon cask boasting a 200-litre capacity, these casks from the Hudson distillery allow the whisky to be matured relatively quickly, before this liquid is transferred to refill oak casks 'to let it mellow,' according to master blender Brian Kinsman.
These four different components are then vatted together and left to marry in non-active casks before being bottled.
So what's the final product actually like? It's definitely smoky-sweet on the nose, with a sappy character - it smells like you're walking through a pine forest with a bag of vanilla fudge, approaching a big bonfire. On the palate it's an accessible peaty dram - there's lots of vanilla there, before some charcoal and salt come through.
Ailsa Bay is made at the distillery of the same name, which was opened in 2007 on the site of their Girvan grain distillery in the Scottish lowlands. While the majority of the malt produced here is used in the Grant's blended whiskies, there are two weeks every year (out of the 50 that the distillery runs) when peated whisky is made, meaning production will be rather limited for this new whisky.
With only 150 nine-litre cases allocated to the UK this year, you'll have to move fast to get hold of a bottle.
48.9% abv, £55, William Grant & Sons, 01698 843843