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Ailsa bay

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Ailsa bay

Girvan in Ayrshire is één van de zeven graan distilleerderijen (2008) in Schotland.

De capaciteit is 60 miljoen liter alcohol per jaar. Er is een vatenmakerij, er wordt Gin gestookt, Hendrick's Gin en er zijn lagerpakhuizen waarin 1,3 miljoen vaten met whisky rijpen (2008).

Tussen 1968 en 1975 was hier ook een malt whisky distilleerderij: Ladyburn.

Er staan acht ketels met een capaciteit van 5 miljoen alcohol per jaar.

Een uniek kenmerk is de Octangular Spirit Safe die tussen de twee rijen ketels zit, alsmede een voorverhitter, ook in gebruik in de Cognac, voor de Wash still om energie te besparen .



Ailsa Bay is in the Lowlands, on the Clyde coast looking out towards Ailsa Craig, Kintyre, and Arran. Its eight stills however produce a wide variety of styles of makes. This flexibility is deliberate as the distillery was built to both replace ‘Balvenie-style’ malt for Grant’s blends and offer other flavour possibilities. Given this, not surprisingly, the stills are shaped the same as Balvenie’s.

Four different characters are made: estery, nutty, fruity and heavily peated.

There is a long history of malt distilleries being built within grain plants: Inverleven at Dumbarton (1959-1991), Ben Wyvis at Invergordon (1965-1977), Glen Flager and Killyloch at Garnheath (1965-1985), and Ladyburn at Girvan (1966-1976). All of them were built by blending firms and came into being at a time when an increase in production was deemed necessary. All then closed when a downturn in demand occurred.

It was a slightly different dynamic which prompted William Grant & Sons in 2007 to build Ailsa Bay on the sameGirvan site where Ladyburn had once stood. This time not only were the Grant’s blends (the Family Reserve range and Clan MacGregor), both growing, but so was demand for its two flagship malts Glenfiddich and Balvenie. Pressure on the latter was the main reason for the construction of this eight still, 5m litres per annum capacity site.

After eight years of production, Ailsa Bay's first official bottling as a single malt was a no-age-statement heavily peated whisky released in February 2016. The expression unleashed the full flexibiility of Ailsa Bay's production set up, combining innovative techniques in the way of spirit cut points, vatting, maturation and even 'sweetness measurement'.

Shell and tube (four stainless steel)
60 hours
Onion with boil ball
Racked, palletised
Onion with boil ball
Stainless steel
Penwhapple Reservoir

William Grant & Sons
2007 - present


The first single malt release from Ailsa Bay distillery, a no-age-statement peated whisky that undergoes a unique ‘micro maturation’, is being launched in the UK next week.

Ailsa Bay whisky
Ailsa Bay's long-awaited single malt whisky is being released this month.
The Lowlands distillery, which is set up to produce a number of different Speyside malt styles within the Girvan grain distillery complex in Ayrshire, was built in 2007 and has not released a single malt until now.

While the majority of Ailsa Bay’s whisky styles will be used for a variety of blends within owner William Grant & Sons’ portfolio, its peated run – that lasts for just one week per year – is reserved for the Ailsa Bay single malt.

Ailsa Bay is being positioned as the group’s ‘peated malt’, and has a stated phenol content of 21 PPM (parts per million) – a reading taken from the finished liquid rather than the dried malted barley, as is the industry standard.

Taking a reading of the liquid prior to bottling, however, is thought to give a truer reflection of the whisky’s actual phenol content. Ailsa Bay is only the second single malt brand to disclose its PPM as a reflection of the liquid.

In 2014, AnCnoc launched its Peaty range of single malts from Knockdhu distillery, all of which state a PPM reading of the liquid.

As well as offering a PPM statement, Ailsa Bay will also have an SPPM reading – sweet parts per million, a revolutionary measurement of a whisky’s sweetness designed by master blender Brian Kinsman.

Alwynne Gwilt, newly-appointed whisky specialist at William Grant & Sons, said: ‘It’s new territory for everyone. Brian is trying to break new ground in how we help the consumer understand what it is they are buying, so this will probably take a while for everyone to personally catch up.’

Ailsa Bay has an SPPM of 11, which Gwilt describes as ‘the perfect balance between peat and sweet’.

‘You can get a peated whisky like Bowmore that’s sweeter and fruitier than Talisker and while you can understand the peating levels on those it doesn’t give an indication of how sweet it’s going to be,’ she explained.

‘Brian has analysed the elements that we would taste as being sweet and created a new way of measuring how sweet whisky is.’


Rather than simply blending casks together after maturation, Kinsman has also adopted a Japanese-style of whisky production and vatted two different distillates produced at Ailsa Bay together before the new make is filled into cask.

Gwilt remarked: ‘Brian has the opportunity, much like the Japanese do, to create really interesting liquid right from the start – he’s not just relying on casks and the maturation that happens afterward.’


As well as being the company’s first peated whisky brand, Ailsa Bay is also the only Scotch whisky to undergo a process called ‘micro maturation’.

The distillery’s new make spirit is first filled into Hudson Baby Bourbon casks that are between 25-100 litres in size, for six to nine months.

The relatively small casks – traditional American oak barrels can contain up to 200 litres of spirit – enables intense rapid maturation. The liquid is then transferred into virgin, first-fill and refill American oak casks for several years.

The process is the first of its kind within the Scotch whisky industry, although some Cognac producers also practise micro maturation.

The three cask types are then blended together and bottled without chill filtration at 48.9% abv.

Following its soft launch in the Nordics at the end of 2015, the expression will be made available in the UK from next week.

Just 350 nine-litre cases of Ailsa Bay are available between the UK and Nordics this year at £55 per 700ml bottle. Additional markets and greater allocation will be considered toward the end of 2016.


Whisky: Single grain, single malt
Gin: Hendrick’s

William Grant & Sons’ newest distillery was built on the Ayrshire coast in 1963, tasked with producing grain whisky for the family’s Grant’s Standfast blend. It wasn’t until 1999 that a Carter-Head and pot still were installed to produce the firm’s first gin, Hendrick’s (41.4% abv; £28).

Made using a distillate of traditional gin botanicals with the addition of rose and cucumber essence, Hendrick’s – with its readily recognisable black opaque bottle – has become one of the best-selling gins worldwide.

Girvan, meanwhile, continues to be used as a filing for blends, and was launched as a single grain whisky in 2014. The multifunctional site is also home to the Ailsa Bay single malt distillery.

August 2018
Lowland distillery Ailsa Bay is replacing its only single malt expression with a peatier, sweeter whisky called Release 1.2 Sweet Smoke.

Ailsa Bay Release 1.2 Sweet Smoke
Fresh look: Ailsa Bay's new-look bottle and liquid are part of a brand refresh
Introduced as part of a ‘brand evolution’, Ailsa Bay Sweet Smoke will replace the distillery’s first single malt expression, released in 2016.

Like its predecessor, the whisky has undergone a ‘micro maturation’ process in small Hudson whiskey casks, but has a sweeter flavour profile than the original.

Sweet Smoke registers at 19 SPPM (sweetness parts per million – a measurement of a whisky’s sweetness), while Ailsa Bay’s first release registered at 11SPPM.

Aiming for a ‘unique balance of smoke and sweet’, the single malt is also slightly peatier, increasing its phenol parts per million up to 22PPM from 21PPM.

Unlike most distilleries that state the PPM of the malted barley prior to processing, Ailsa Bay states the PPM of the liquid itself.

Stuart Watts, Ailsa Bay distillery manager, said: ‘No other whisky is made with this much science.

‘Using data points to adapt the flavour and applying modern engineering alongside our family’s traditional approach is truly innovative.’

Sweet Smoke is said to exude ‘fresh wood smoke with notes of smouldering damp heather’ on the nose, and ‘smoke, fruit and creamy toffee’ on the palate.

The expression is still bottled at 48.9% abv without an age statement.

The new-look packaging ‘takes its inspiration from the creativity of science’ with graph paper and geometric patterns on the bottle’s label.

Ailsa Bay Sweet Smoke will be available from the beginning of September in Australia, Finland, selected UK stores and UK travel retail priced around £55, although limited numbers of the original bottling will still be available for a short time.

Ailsa Bay distillery was built in 2007 within William Grant & Sons’ Girvan grain plant in Ayrshire, although its first single malt wasn’t released until 2016

March 2019
Lowland distillery Ailsa Bay has released a travel retail exclusive whisky featuring blockchain technology to ‘ensure authenticity and allow traceability’.

Ailsa Bay blockchain technology travel retail exclusive whisky
Transparent traceability: Ailsa Bay’s travel retail exclusive uses blockchain data to log its journey
The distillery, which is owned by William Grant & Sons, partnered with specialist blockchain technology company arc-net to allow customers to track the expression from ‘source to store’.

Blockchain technology operates as a list of registers or ‘blocks’, with each block containing specific information in a process and how that information was shared, or ‘transacted’.

For Ailsa Bay the blockchain data, which includes information on the distillation and maturation process such as cask types, and filling and bottling dates, is collected from William Grant & Sons.

This information is then accessed through an open ledger, meaning stored information can be shared but not changed or altered.

Shoppers access this ledger by scanning the expression’s QR code, which presents them with an ‘innovative’ web experience individually tailored to each bottle and details the visual history of their whisky.

Dominic Parfitt, head of e-commerce at William Grant & Sons, said: ‘We’re constantly looking to evolve our offering and learn new things in order to push the boundaries within the drinks industry.

‘We’re doing something now that we hope will set the bar for the future experience of spirits, and we look forward to seeing how other brands follow suit as innovation within the industry continues to develop in the next few years.’

The blockchain technology also enables Ailsa Bay to collect information on potential and existing customers and ‘maintain brand protection’, by using mobile location services to determine where its whisky is being purchased and consumed.

Ailsa Bay’s blockchain whisky is available in global travel retail outlets for around £50 per 70cl bottle.

Other whisky names have also already adopted blockchain technology to improve traceability and guarantee authenticity.

Independent bottler Adelphi utilised blockchain technology for its Ardnamurchan 2017 AD release in October 2017.

Alisa Bay releases ‘world’s first’ blockchain whisky to combat fakes

Mar-2019 -

Counterfeit fight: Alisa Bay has released what it believes to be the world's first Scotch registered on blockchain technology Counterfeit fight: Alisa Bay has released what it believes to be the world's first Scotch registered on blockchain technology
In an effort to tackle counterfeiting in the UK spirits market, drinks giant William Grant & Sons has released what it claims is the world’s first scotch registered on a blockchain.
In partnership with specialist blockchain technology company arc-net, the whisky manufacturer aims to transform the spirit through experimentation, technology, precision distilling and data-driven methods.

Its use of blockchain – which is based on bitcoin technology – captures the full distilling and manufacturing process, giving customers the chance to track their whisky from source to store; ensuring authenticity and traceability.

Consumers can trace the origins of their whisky via an innovative web experience, which is individually tailored to each bottle.

By scanning a QR code, users are presented with a visual history of their whisky, produced using digitally created art generated by blockchain data, which is unique to the drink’s journey.

Dominic Parfitt of William Grant & Sons, explained the decision behind using the technology and added that innovation is a “key part” of the business.

"We’re constantly looking to evolve our offer and learn new things in order to push the boundaries within the drinks industry," explained Parfitt.

"We’re doing something now that we hope will set the bar for the future experience of spirits, and we look forward to seeing how other brands follow suit as innovation within the industry continues to develop in the next few years."

According to a recent report from the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office, it is currently estimated that around £220m is lost from the UK economy each year due to counterfeit wines and spirits entering the market.

By the end of 2016, fake Scotch whisky bottles worth close to a total of £1m were removed from the market in which one broker called “just the tip of the iceberg”.

A number of companies within the drinks industry are now toying with blockchain in an effort to crack down on counterfeiting.

Everledger, a London-based technology company that uses blockchain technology to track the provenance of diamonds and other valuable products, announced a partnership with labelling and adhesive specialist Avery Dennison in January, to create wine labels with digital traceability.

Five different types of spirit are produced: a light and sweet spirit, a heavy sulphury style and three peated spirits, the most peaty of 50 ppm

Capacity: 12.000.000 Ltrs

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