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.


Anonymous said...

Sitting here with a wee dram of the land cask, after seeing it in Tesco for £20, reduced from £30. Worth a punt I thought.

Nosing the whiskey, it just smelt not natural. I cannot put my finger on it, until I read the review above about smelling of coal tar soap. Yes it does!! a smell that gets the taste buds shrinking into your tongue. The taste again is similar to the smell, this is indeed a very unusual whiskey, but sorry the coal tar smell and taste does not work for me...

Oh well one to give to visitors, to keep them away from the good stuff.

Anonymous said...

A nice plated malt that you wouldn’t know wasn’t from Islay. Darker in colour than something like Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Clean see to Bowmore I think. At the knocked down price, a bargain.

Anonymous said...

A nice plated malt that you wouldn’t know wasn’t from Islay. Darker in colour than something like Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Closer to Bowmore I think. At the knocked down price, a bargain.

Unknown said...

Sea cask is worth repeated purchase at 20 quid.
Land cask (I'm on my first glass after 2 large Sea casks)
is not so immediately palatable.
It's not exactly unpleasant,
but definitely more medicinal than pleasurable.
Possibly a good treatment for dandruff ?

Unknown said...

If the aim was to produce an everyday single malt, sea cask was surpassed the brief with flying colours. Especially at it's current £20 offer price at Tesco.
It's very easy drinking and the slightly salty finish really compliments the sweetness. It gives the impression of a much more expensive whisky yet maybe not as entirely refined.

Anonymous said...

This whisky is disgusting. It's Bells discised as single malt...pile of crap

Yorky said...

You don't drinck much whiskey then,apart from Bells that is.

Hewy said...

Just bought a bottle of Land Cask and it is very unusual to say the least. The nose is unusual and the taste more so. I thought "what is this taste". At first I thought "diesel" then dismissed that thought, but yes coal tar soap or carbolic soap seems about right.

I drink a lot of single malts but this has to be the most "unusual". I will not be buying it again. Not whisky as I know it. Very strange!

Hewy said...

I might try the Sea Cask next. It has to be better than the Land Cask.

Rarebear said...

Got the Sea Cask for my 79th birthday... I live in the Netherlands (a Cloggie��) ...looked the brand up in my ‘Michael Jackson’ Malt Bible but it was not mentioned. Now I am tasting it and....I like it very much ! favourite is Macallan Gold...but thats twice the price...
Being Dutch and thrifty I love it even more ��

TR said...

Saw "Sea Cask" in Booths of Keswick whilst on holiday at a very reasonable price, so I tried it - I think it's very acceptable and a bargain at the price.

Unknown said...

Theresa good range of single malt here in France and over the last few years I've tried a few. Only noticed this one this weekend so for €23 I thought that I would give the sea cask a go. The initial nose doesn't offer too much,maybe roasted almonds and vanilla. First taste is pretty weak and a little flat but then opens up slightly to more intricate fine tastes of soft spice and salty air. It has the refinement of a decent 10 year vintage but little else really to demand a 2nd purchase.

Mark said...

These two products are scotch 101. I’ve tried both the sea cask and land cask versions. The sea cask version is certainly pleasant, not terribly exciting, but reminiscent of a good highland malt. Can’t beat it for the price. Less money than blends like Chivas and a similar experience. I found the land cask far more interesting. I’ll be the first to admit that peated whiskies are ‘challenging’! My first experience several years ago was with a 12 year Bowmore and I thought it was barely drinkable. By the time I finished a bottle of Talisker’s I finally started to get it with the weird iodine/fuel oil/ briny flavors, and I now admit I appreciate the weirdness.����‍♂️ Islay style scotch whisky is definitely an acquired taste! This brings me to my thoughts on the Aerstone land cask and to me it’s a little reminiscent of Caol Ila. Clearly an Islay style with lots of peat smoke flavors. Not as in your face as Ardbeg 10 year or Laphroig10 but for what it is, an introduction, it’s perfect. Hey, I’m not a professional, or a writer, (not too much jargon I hope), I’m just an explorer. If you are an enthusiast, novice, whatever, give it a try.
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Mark.