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Douglas Laing are an independent bottler founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing, carried on by his sons Fred and Stewart. The two brothers ran the company until 2013 when they decided to split the assets and go their separate ways. Fred retained the ‘Douglas Laing’ name, while Stewart formed Hunter Laing, the company behind the forthcoming Ardnahoe distillery on Islay. Fred has since been joined at the helm by daughter Cara, adding a third generation of the family to the business.
Douglas Laing bottles single cask and small batch whisky under their Provenance, Old Particular and XOP brands, though it is perhaps for their foray’s into the world of blending that they have become better known in recent years.
In 2009, the company unleashed Big Peat onto the world, which would in turn, lead to the creation of the ‘Remarkable Regional Malts’ range, a series of blended malts intended to capture the traditional style of each of Scotland’s whisky regions.
Big Peat is a blend of malt whiskies distilled on the isle of Islay and includes spirit from Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and even the lost Port Ellen distillery. Uniquely adorned with a charicature of a rugged Islay fisherman named Peat, the brand seemed to offer something new at a time consumers were beginning to explore bolder flavours. Bottled at 46% and non chill filtered, Big Peat is available in the UK for around £40 a bottle.
Smell: Medicinal Peat Smoke, Tar and Ash with Brine, Vanilla, Malt, Lemon and a touch of Apple.
Taste: Salty, with Vanilla, Caramel and White Pepper, Smoke ever present but not as dominant as you would perhaps expect.
Thoughts: Blended Malts could well be the future of ‘affordable’ whisky, and Big Peat with its bold flavour, natural presentation and reasonable pricing is right at the forefront of the movement. Perhaps not likely to convert anyone, but those who love the traditional Islay profile, should love Big Peat.
Fronted by a mischievous, monocle-wearing Fox Terrier, Scallywag followed the same approach as Big Peat, combining a selection of some of the finest Speyside malts to create a representation of the regions traditional character. Featuring whisky from the likes of Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, Scallywag is produced in small batches and bottled at 46% abv. Like Big Peat, Scallywag should be available in the UK for around £40.
Smell: Lots of Orange and Cinnamon, with Ginger, Honey, Toffee and Dried Fruits.
Taste: A wintery mouthful of Cinnamon and Nutmeg, Ginger, Toffee, Orange and Vanilla with a touch of Oak at the finish.
Thoughts: Another gem of a dram that offers real consistency where value for money is concerned. Speyside whisky with significant sherry influence is becoming rarer and more expensive, but Scallywag offers exactly that at a reasonable price. Not to be missed.
Representing the Highland region of Scotch, Timorous Beastie takes inspiration from Burns’ ‘To a Mouse’ and carries the image of a sleekit field mouse on its label. Though, the dram itself is anything but timid. Created using whisky from distilleries like Blair Athol, Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Glengoyne, it is bottled at 46.8% abv and natural colour without chill filtration.
Smell: Vanilla, light touch of Brine, Honey, Apple and Pear, Heather and light Smoke.
Taste: Salty on the palate with Toffee, Chocolate, Apple Juice, Malty Biscuit and gentle Woody Spice.
Thoughts: Again, anyone willing to give it a go will not be disappointed in their purchase. Great value for money. Don’t let the name fool you, this is anything but timorous. Rather it is an exciting, richly flavoured dram with wide appeal across the board.
*If any of the whiskies reviewed in this article have caught your eye, you can buy them from Master of Malt.
Buy Timorous Beastie here
Buy Scallywag here
Buy Big Peat here
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