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A King, a Spider and… Campbeltown?
Douglas Laing’s ‘Remarkable Regional Malts’ are a series of blended malt whiskies that represent each of Scotland’s whisky regions. Released in late 2017, the Gauldrons was the final piece of the jigsaw, consisting of malts from Campbeltown. The name comes from an area of coastline at Machrihanish, 5 miles from the town. The beautiful bottle, meanwhile, 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 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. According to legend, it was there (or any number of other islands that claim to be the one), in a dank cave, or ramshackle hut, that Bruce had an encounter with a spider. On a wind-battered night, the Bruce watched by firelight as the persistent spider attempted again and again to build its web, picking itself up after each failure to try again. The creature’s determination inspired the King and fuelled his desire to return home. A few months later, the Bruce landed on the west coast of Kintyre, in an area known as the Gauldrons, with an army at his back. The campaign that followed culminated in thd defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314. Bruce won Scotland’s freedom from English rule, and finally established himself as the nation’s undisputed ruler… all thanks to the wee spider. Or was it?
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 was never a high priority. Similar stories were told about other significant historical figures, including Bruce’s colleague, James Douglas. Still, just like the spider, these stories are designed to inspire and to teach us a lesson – in this case – “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”. So while the link between Bruce’s spider and the whiskies of Campbeltown may be rather tenuous (that’s being generous) we’ll give Douglas Laing some leeway since it’s a nice story and the spider looks good on the label.
Smell: Pastries and fresh baked bread with vanilla, crisp lemon and honeycomb. Subtle salty smoke.
Taste: Buttery shortbread and pastry. Wee touch of fresh mint. Sea salt and pepper. Smoky, slightly oaky finish.
Thoughts: The Remarkable Regional Malts series offers exceptional value for money. For a start, they’re higher strength, un-chill-filtered and natural colour. The quality is high and the price, relatively speaking, is low.
That said, The Gauldrons is a little steeper than the rest of the range and it’s been labelled as a limited release but that’s understandable, given the scarcity 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 consists largely of Glen Scotia, with a small amount of the others added to make it a blended malt.
This is an exciting release, though. Campbeltown is now home to three great distilleries and Douglas Laing know what they’re doing with these blends. I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I got hold of this one. It’s as good as anything else in the range and offers a perfect introduction to the Campbeltown style. It’s a little oily, a bit coastal and lightly smoky, full of flavour and intensity and it coats the mouth beautifully. A great dram.
*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.