William Grant and Sons is a family-owned business best known for its two well-regarded and popular Speyside whiskey distilleries, The Balvenie and Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich is one of the best-selling single malt brands in the world, although the company prefers to label it “most awarded.” The Balvenie is its smaller sister distillery located right next door that produces a lineup of whiskies that are finished in a variety of cask types. But WGS has a few smaller brands in its portfolio as well, like Ailsa Bay which is distilled at the company’s sprawling Girvan distillery about 55 miles south of Glasgow. Hendrick’s Gin is also distilled here, along with a large amount of grain whisky used in various WGS blends. And now a new brand called Aerstone, consisting of two 10-year-old single malt expressions — Land Cask and Sea Cask — has been introduced.
These are two easy-sipping whiskies meant more for those who are new to the whisky category than for seasoned drinkers. This is not to say that they are bad whiskies, but they are subtle and soft with flavors and alcohol (40%) that are not meant to challenge your palate. Sea Cask is described as “smooth and easy” on the packaging, and this Speyside-style whisky is indeed light, slightly sweet, and a little spicy, a satisfying if unremarkable introduction to the single malt category. Sea Cask would work well in a highball or other scotch whisky cocktail. Land Cask, on the other hand, is described as “rich and smoky,” and it has a noticeable and assertive peatiness, although nothing like what you might expect from an Islay whisky like Ardbeg or Laphroaig.
According to William Grant & Sons reps, the whisky was distilled at the Ailsa Bay distillery at Girvan. So how does Aerstone differ from Ailsa Bay? Five different styles of whisky are distilled for use in Ailsa Bay and Aerstone uses just two of those styles for its whiskies, so the two brands differ based on their “component makeup and aging process.”
The point of the new Aerstone brand is to be an accessible and affordable introduction into what can appear to some to be a pretentious and intimidating whisky category, and this comes across. With so many options available, it remains to be seen whether the whisky world at large will embrace or ignore Aerstone. But anyone interested in single malts should taste this whisky and decide for yourself.
Aerstone Land Cask and Sea Cask are available now for an SRP of $29.
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