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What has Campbeltown got to do with Bruce and the Spider?
Douglas Laing’s ‘Remarkable Regional Malts’ are a series of blended malt whiskies that represent one of Scotland’s whisky regions. Released in late 2017, the Gauldrons is the final piece of the jigsaw and features a blend of Campbeltown malts. The Gauldrons name comes from an area of coastline at Machrihanish on the Kintyre coast and the beautiful bottle is adorned with the image of a spider in reference to one of Scotland’s most famous legends.
During the Scottish Wars of Independence, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, was defeated by the English at the battle of Methven. He fled the battlefield and soon found himself living as an outlaw in his own country. Seeking refuge, he made his way to Rathlin Island off the north coast of Ireland. Legend has it that it was there, in a dank cave or ramshackle hut, that he had an encounter with a persistent spider. On a wind-battered night, the Bruce watched by firelight as a Spider attempted again and again to build its web, picking itself up after each failure and trying again. The king was inspired by the creature’s determination and it fuelled his desire to return to Scotland. Within a few months he came to land at the Gauldrons on the west coast of Kintyre (a short distance from what is now Campbeltown). The country rallied behind him and the outlaw King went on to defeat the English at Bannockburn in 1314, finally winning his county’s freedom from English rule.
The story of Bruce and the Spider is almost certainly just that – a story. It first appeared in the writings of Sir Walter Scott, a man for whom gritty realism never appeared a high priority. Indeed, similar stories have been told about other historical figures, including Bruce’s colleague James (the Black) Douglas. Still, just as Bruce was supposedly inspired by his spider, so too does Scotland’s folklore enthuse the whisky drinker, conjuring up images of fireside story-swapping over a few shared drams. So while the link between Campbeltown and Bruce’s spider may be rather tenuous, we shall let it slide due to its effectiveness at building an atmosphere in which to enjoy this rather pleasant malt whisky.
Smell: Pastry & Bread with Vanilla, crisp Lemon, Honeycomb and a touch of Smoke and Salt.
Taste: Butter Shortbread, Pastry, touch of Mint, Sea Salt and Pepper – light at first but growing all the time. Smoke and Oak finish.
Thoughts: The Remarkable Regional Malts offer exceptional value for money. They’re higher strength, un-chill-filtered and natural colour. The quality is high and they’re reasonably priced.
The Gauldrons comes in a little steeper than the rest of the range and it’s been labelled as a more limited release but that’s understandable given the scarcity of casks of Campbeltown whisky. There simply isn’t a lot of Springbank lying around and what is available, doesn’t come cheap. Then there’s Glengyle, which produces in such small quantities I can’t imagine there’s an abundance of that either. It seems safe to assume then, that the Gauldrons is made up largely of Glen Scotia, with a small amount of Springbank making it a blended malt.
I was excited about this release. Campbeltown is home to three excellent distilleries and Douglas Laing seem to know what they’re doing with these blends. It took me a while to get round to picking a bottle up but I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I did. The Gauldrons is as good as anything else in the range and gives a good introduction the the Campbeltown style. It’s a little oily, a bit coastal and lightly smoky. It’s full of flavour and intensity and it coats the mouth beautifully. Great whisky.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.