If only the whisky was as nice as the bottle.
Ooof, there’s a headline. But it’s fair. Let me explain. The Aisla Bay bottle is bloody lovely. There’s few bottles out there that match it for it’s simplicity and heft. Best nearest match is the exceptionally classy flacon used by edradour for its cask strength vintage juice. That bottle is a beautifully simple and joyously free from the modern expectation of packaging designed to elicit near paroxysmal online circle jerking from the whisky nerds. A simple glass bottle can be a wonderful thing. Scrub off the needlessly waffly label and the Alisa Bay bottle is a thumper. It’d make a great rolling pin such is its demeanour and proportions. Handy in a tight pastry spot. And the stopper is a bruiser too, packaging wise it’s pretty great.
But the whisky. The whisky. Hmmm. It just doesn’t quite work. If the bottle is cohesive and considered, the whisky is a mish mash of things. There so many things happening and none of them feel at peace with one another.
Off the bay the nose it weird. It’s smoky like wood that well burnt and charred to blackened lumps but cold from last nights fire mixed with a coolness and a tar note. There’s a peppery tang, some ginger, a sour note of some sort, some sort of mustard seed or savoury curry leaf, and then there a candy sweetness too. Some match box striker, boiled sweets of indeterminate fruity origins. A little raspberry wine gum. Tate and Lyle golden syrup and a pinch or cardamom. This is all over the shop. It’s nice there’s a lot to take in but it feels like it’s having a frightful time being in its own company. It is not unpleasant, though.
In the mouth and it’s a boisterous arrival of smoke and sweetness and oakiness and salty peat. A dry, herbal note, burnt sage in the background. Lots of wood and pepper. Ginger and syrup mixed with a good pile of burnt wood and ash. There’s lemon zest in the middle of it all but that gets utterly swamped with wood and ash. It’s not great to the point it wanders towards unpleasant but has the good grace to stop before it actually gets there.
This is a weird one. It actually tastes like it was designed to taste like this and I don’t mean in a good way. It feels far too concocted, like they gone though a checklist of what can make a good scotch and just chosen the bits they think matter the most.
This reminds me of the best piano gag in the world where Eric Morcombe played all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. Look it up, you’ll get the picture.
So, I want to be kind but it’s pretty uninspiring stuff. A great idea, no doubt, executed in such a way that makes everything feel unbalanced and wrapped up in a bottle you’ll probably enjoy more, long after the whisky is gone.