For the casual whisky shopper, blended malts are something of an unknown quantity. After all, most of the whisky on todays market is either a blend or a single malt… Single malts are made from 100% malted barley and are produced entirely on a single site, while blends are made by mixing one or more grain whiskies (made from a variety of different grains) with one or more single malts. A blended malt meanwhile is a blend of single malts with no grain component. It’s a relatively unsung category but one that is becoming more common on the shelves of specialist retailers. Independent bottlers like Wemyss Malts and Douglas Laing for example, have had great success dabbling with this format.
Douglas Laing – named after Fred Douglas Laing the company founder – dates back to 1948. Today, three generations down the line, the company remains under family ownership and is known as a producer of fine blends and a bottler of great single cask whisky. Over the last few years though they have become just as well known for the series of Blended Malts they call ‘Remarkable Regional Malts’. There’s Big Peat, made up of Islay malts, Timorous Beastie, made from the spirit of the Highlands, Scallywag, blended from Speyside and last but not least, the latest in the series, blended from island whiskies… Rock Oyster.
Rock Oyster is Douglas Laing’s homage to the sea, made up of island distilleries from Arran, Jura, Orkney and Islay. The nose is brilliantly Briney and really does remind me of the sea: Salty Air & Seaweed with Grass and Hay, a touch of Lemon and just a bit of Bonfire Smoke in the background. On the palate it’s Salty with Honey, Pepper, Caramel and Smoke.
The Scores: About the scores
Smell: 18/20. Very pleasant and a credit to the blender: they’ve achieved exactly what they’ve set out to do. This is like the seaside in a bottle.
Taste: 18/20. I’m really enjoying this. It’s well blended with a nice balance to it all. Each element is subtle and nothing dominates but altogether it makes for a big dram with a gloriously oily feel on the palate.
Value for money: 10/10. You should be able to pick this up for £35 – £40 and that’s fantastic for something of this quality – a delicious 46%, natural colour, non chill filtered blended malt.
As single malts become more fashionable and in some cases overpriced, blended malts like this offer a real alternative to those who want to try something new without breaking the bank. You’re not likely to find it in your local supermarket but it offers proof that a good bargain can still be found in your local specialist.