Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review - Aerstone 'Sea Cask' & 'Land Cask'

These two new whiskies have been developed by William Grant & Sons, the famous family-owned distiller who own and produce the Grant's, Balvenie and Glenfiddich brands amongst other things. Named Aerstone, the two single malts aim to 'simplify the category for consumers' and 'focus on the impact of malting and maturation on flavour'. The range features two bottlings - Sea Cask and Land Cask. Both appear with a 10 years old age statement and have been crafted by Brian Kinsman, the Master Blender for William Grant.

The Sea Cask is a classic Speyside style single malt that has benefitted from maturation in the company's coastal warehouses in Ayrshire. The Land Cask is a peated single malt, produced using Highland peat, and has been matured further inland. Both are bottled at 40% ABV and will cost £30 each. They will be initially launched in the UK, exclusively in supermarket giant Tesco to begin with, and will be backed by a marketing campaign entitled 'Single Malt. Two Choices'.

“We have developed two very different and evocative flavour profiles under the one brand, both inspired by the Scottish environment and raw elements where we age our whisky. With a 10 year age statement, they will intrigue not only new drinkers but also more experienced single malt enthusiasts.”
Brian Kinsman.

Our tasting notes

Aerstone 'Sea Cask'
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has a lovely aroma of honey and vanilla to begin with. This is joined by some stewed apple, along with toffee and a hint of baking spices (especially cinnamon).

On the palate this whisky has a robustness to it, which is driven by notes of earthy malted cereals and the baking spices from the nose. These are much more prominent now and reveal elements of cinnamon, all-spice and gingerbread. There is also a background hint of cocoa powder and apricot jam. The earthy and spicy characteristics are balanced by sweet notes - think of honey, vanilla, toffee and a hint of golden syrup, along with some cooked green fruit (especially pears and apples). The finish is relatively short, especially once the sweetness goes. This leaves the malty and warming spices, which create a pleasant dryness.

Aerstone 'Land Cask'
The colour is deep golden yellow with a hint of amber and the nose is dominated by a distinct, almost aggressive smoky aroma - this is reminiscent of coal tar soap with a hint of fresh bitumen. Underneath are further aromas of golden syrup and sultanas.

On the palate this smoke is equally as powerful and has a bitter, almost acrid edge. It has a warm feel, which again feels like coal tar soap and bitumen with a hint of rubber tyres, but more of an earthiness now - think of damp moss and wet peat. Little else comes through until this dominant smoke begins to fade and this includes some golden syrup, caramel, fudge and dried fruits (think of sultanas and candied orange peel in particular). The smoke seems to linger for an age and outlives the sweet, fruity elements. This gives a distinct acrid and dry, almost flinty feel.

What's the verdict?
This new concept by William Grant & Sons - to create a single malt brand solely for sale in supermarkets - is clever. It means that they can tap in to that lucrative market without needing to release younger or cheaper versions of their premium single malts such as Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

With Aerstone they have created two distinct whiskies. The Sea Cask is a very good and well-rounded whisky for the money and offers plenty. The Land Cask is a little more difficult on the senses and dominated by the peat smoke. Naturally this style will appeal to a smaller crowd.

It will be very interesting to see how Aerstone performs and whether it will 'simplify the category' for consumers as the marketing boldly states. We are not sure that shoppers will understand what the differences are from the names and labelling, but only time will tell.

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