Well, I don’t know. I bang on about Islay provenance or the fact that anyone can lay claim to Islayness, and then perhaps the third Islay non-distillery bottlings arrives at Malty Towers in as many months.
Look, it’d be pretty easy for me to go on about the lack of transparency around certain bottles of whisky, but that isn’t what this is about. I suppose the thing of note really is that there has been a huge number of whiskies of late, which have been released on the back that they’re simply an Islay single malt whisky. Brand Islay. Which highlights the risks of a distillery shouting about its own provenance of Islay.
But today, if I had a question with this particular bottle – philosophically speaking – is that the materials that accompany it seem to be a bit confusing to say the least. Here’s what’s on the back of the tin.
Fair enough. And here’s what landed in my inbox:
“The Character of Islay Whisky Company pays homage to the legacy of Islay with a tongue in cheek take on the mythical legends and poetic licence rife in Islay whisky marketing, and instead shifts focus firmly to the whisky itself (which as I may have already mentioned is delicious). The only ‘stories’ that matter are made while sharing a dram with your mates. As the collection grows, other ages and ‘characters’ will be introduced.”
Now, Islay has had a lot of nonsense, made-up-story releases as any Ardbeg fan will tell you. But this whisky is from the same people, Atom Brands, who run an entire range of story-led whiskies! (That Boutique-y Whisky, and their rather fun comic-style labels.) But then the Facebook page has this header:
Stories don’t matter, except when they do? I like to think there’s a great deal of irony in all of this marketing. That perhaps it is highly self-conscious, really poking fun, but just didn’t get the execution quite right. Language is a funny thing like that. Words matter.
So do they shift focus firmly to the whisky, as the PR material claims? There’s no information about what’s in the glass whatsoever, not what barley they used, fermentation times, let alone where the whisky was distilled. (I know that’s not the point either, but I am merely sifting through the information.) The press material points at 70% ex-Bourbon barrels, 25% ex-Sherry Spanish oak quarter casks – and 5% ‘mystery’ casks. I couldn’t tell you if these were first-fill (my tasting notes suggest they are not). I type in the URL you see above on the tin and currently (Friday, 20th September) get only a holding page. At this point, I give a grand French shrug. (Note: the website has been updated from an inactive URL to a holding page and now to an actual website, so feel free to ignore my point there.)
The material suggests they dislike stories, even though this is about “characters”, and the social media content highlights mythical stories. And then this is all about focusing on the whisky, except they can’t tell an ordinary punter, who doesn’t get press releases or reads interviews, about the whisky details. I really, really don’t mean to sound like a git about any of this, I like the people who are involved in bringing this to market and know how hard it is, and I am trying very hard not to look like I am poking fun at it. I am simply trying to get under the skin of a new product range by sharing with you what I see, as I see it, in the order that things are presented to me. Despite what my mother says, I am a bright lad, and I can’t see the hook here.
Look, I understand the frontline and the need to stand out in today’s cluttered whisky market; and I also get that many brands have very little they can say about a product because the whisky industry is fabulously anti-provenance. But I am just a wee bit confused by what this is claiming to be – or rather what it is claiming not to be.
I am prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, and believe this was all a bit of hijinks that misfired.
Plus side? This has a cute label, a touch of the Glenfarclas about it with the red capsule, the vintage logotype and so on. And it’s £45 a bottle, although this is a few quid more than the excellent Scarabus. Does it match up? A brace of tasting notes for you:
Aerolite Lyndsay Aged 10 Years – Mark’s Review
Colour: VERY pale, white wine – Pinot Grigio.
On the nose: slightly mealy, with boiled ham, husks, oatmeal crackers and a sprinkling of soot. Indeed, the peat that is still just about here is rather ashy and astringent, with some sharp grapefruit, pineapple and green apple notes. It’s light, if I must say; the whiff of Caol Ila about it?
In the mouth: not much going on at all. A little ashy peat, underlying straw, some lime juice, pineapple and light cream cheese. A touch of Horlicks. Warming, but only a little, with just a hint of black cherry. I suppose the texture is quite pleasing, but the flavour just isn’t there. What we have here is a spirit that’s sat in very, very poor wood for a decade. Grassinesss, slightly brackish, with brine and a touch of lemon curd. Look at my language: slightly, a touch of, a little; nothing really comes through fully, there’s no soul, there’s no statement. It’s just very bland.
I did want to give this the benefit of the doubt. But I’m afraid that with the likes of the rather excellent Scarabus out there at a slightly lower price point, I can’t hand-on-heart say that that this is worth your pennies instead of that. It isn’t bad. It isn’t great. It’s just okay. But I don’t understand why they released this in this peculiar way, other than as some curious sociological experiment on the whisky-buying community.
Colour: pale straw
On the nose: initial hit of germolene. The peat is very subtle but becomes more apparent as the whisky opens up. There are notes of lemon icing and barley sugar with banana fritters coming through after a while. In the background, there’s a hint of coal tar soap throughout.
In the mouth: the peat kicks in after a few seconds; it’s not there from the outset. The peat is greater on the palate than the nose suggests. There’s a white pepper heat mixed with a hint of aniseed balls together with salted caramel. On the finish, there’s a slight TCP note which develops into quite a harsh spicy kick.
This isn’t overly complex but still a perfectly decent everyday sipper. Having recently tried Scarabus from Hunter Laing, Aerolyte Lyndsay feels like it’s priced at a tenner too much.