The Ailsa Bay distillery (at the Girvan complex) was officially founded in 2007.
However, production didn’t actually start until 2008 - construction of the distillery
buildings and equipment took nine months. That’s remarkably quick, because
production of Lowland malt whisky doubled as soon as Ailsa Bay went online.
As you can see from the picture above, they didn’t waste any time or energy
on picturesque details. Ailsa Bay is mostly a functional distillery and releasing
bottlings of Ailsa Bay single malt whisky was never a priority. Owners William
Grant & Sons wanted to use most of the malt whisky for their various blends.
Nevertheless, they gave in to popular demand a few years later and released
an official bottling of Ailsa Bay (without an age statement). The quantities
involved are relatively small though - the vast majority of the Ailsa Bay malt
whisky still disappears into the Grant’s blended whisky.
Not at the moment, as far as I’m concerned...
Almost all Aisla Bay whisky is matured in bourbon casks for
now. Those generally need more time to sufficiently age the
average spirit than ex-sherry casks. William Grant & Sons
may change their cask management in the future, but I must
admit that I’m not overly curious at the moment.
That being said, Ailsa Bay produces four types of spirit.
Not unlike the Loch Lomond distillery, Ailsa Bay is set up in
a way that enables the crew to vary several aspects of the
production process. They can vary the peating level of the
barley, the fermentation time (usually between 60-72 hours)
and the use of (slightly) different stills.
Is that a problem?
Two of the wash stills and two of the spirit stills have stainless
steel condensers instead of the usual copper condensers.
This allows the crew to produce a more ‘sulphury’ spirit.
Ailsa Bay actually started out with four sets of stills in 2008,
but that was already expanded to sixteen stills in 2013.
All of the stills are housed in the same enormous still room;
the picture below shows all of them in a single shot.
The still room of Ailsa Bay is very impressive,
but the distillery buildings are part of the fairly
‘industrial’ Girvan grain whisky complex. That
means that the setting is not very romantic.
So, Ailsa Bay wouldn’t be my first suggestion
for a distillery visit. Granted, it’s fairly easy to
reach from Glasgow, but so are Auchentoshan
and Glengoyne. Those distilleries offer a far
better idea of the ‘traditional’ production of
Scotch malt whisky on a more traditional scale.
As far as its location goes, Ailsa Bay qualifies
as a Lowland dilstillery. However, the set-up
and scale are so different from any of the other
Lowland distilleries that a regional classification
has little relevance in this case. After all, in the
past all Lowland whiskies were triple-distilled.
1) Since 2013, Ailsa Bay has two 12,5 tonne mash tuns and 24 stainless steel washbacks.
2) The Ace.
2005 - The tabel.
2009 - Apart fr
2012 - I haven't person
2015 - Rather than add
2006 - I've trngs.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Aberfeldy malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Aberfeldy I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Aberfeldy.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
I’m currently hard at work with the reconstruction of the Distillery Data section.
This distillery profile is not finished yet, but I hope to wrap it up soon.