Douglas Laing are an independent bottling company based in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded by Fred Douglas Laing in 1948, the business is still going strong today, three generations later.
Fred Douglas Laing had harboured dreams of owning his own whisky company for many years, even throughout his service with the RAF. Finally, after purchasing a few casks of blended whisky, he was able to achieve his goal in 1948, aided by his acquisition of the ‘King of Scots‘ brand name.
After enjoying some early success, Fred was able to secure the long term stability of the business by arranging filling programs with well established distillers. This meant he could supply his own casks to be filled with new make spirit and take them away to be matured at a site of his choosing. In the uncertain world of cask bottling, this move has proved invaluable to the business, ensuring a steady stream of maturing stock, even when other bottlers may have struggled to secure the spirit they needed to keep their brands alive.
When Fred passed away in 1982, the business was looked after by his sons Stewart and Fred until 2013, when the two brothers decided to split their assets and go their separate ways. Fred carried on with the Douglas Laing company name and has since been joined at the helm by his daughter Cara, who learned the trade by working first as brand manager for Jura, then as marketing manager for Bowmore and Glen Garioch.
Though the Douglas Laing business was built on the success of blended scotch, the company eventually shifted towards the bottling of single casks before somewhat returning to their roots in recent years, with the launch of a series of innovatively-branded blended malts which would soon come to be known as the Remarkable Regional Malts.
This series of blended malts has been extensively covered here on WhiskyReviews.net, but the series has rather diversified of late, with the release of limited edition versions of the core expressions.
In this review I’ll be taking a look at three such bottlings, beginning with lowland representative, ‘The Epicurean’…
*Full Disclosure: samples provided by Douglas Laing for review purposes.
The Epicurean Cask Strength Glasgow Edition
Much like myself, Douglas Laing are based in the fine city of Glasgow, so when it came time to release a lowland blend, it was perhaps inevitable that they would look to their home town for inspiration. The Epicurean features a 1930’s Glasgow man with a cheeky twinkle in his eye on every bottle and in this limited edition ‘Glasgow’ version, he sports a traffic cone on his head in tribute to the Duke of Wellington statue in the city’s Royal Exchange Square.
Bottled at 58.6% alcohol by volume, it retails in the UK for around £45.
Smell: Vanilla, Cream, Lemongrass, Hay, Condensed Milk, Lime, Biscuit
Taste: Honey, Caramel & Toffee, Pepper, Tablet, Vanilla, Fresh Bread and a touch of dry Oak.
Value for Money: For as long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve sung the praises of blended malts as great value purchases. This limited edition Epicurean is no exception and anyone who stills see’s the word ‘blended’ as some kind of insult, is missing out on some absolutely astonishing drams.
Scores: 44 / 50. About the Scores…
Scallywag 10 Year Old 100% Sherry Cask Matured
Scallywag represents the Speyside region within the Remarkable Regional Malts range and for my money, offers some of the best bang for your buck on the market today. With this limited edition version however, Douglas Laing have cranked things up a notch by using 10 year old spirit matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks.
Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume, Scallywag 10 year old retails in the UK for around £50 a bottle.
Smell: Caramel, Cinnamon, Raisins, Prunes, Cherry, Lemon, Charred Oak, Sawdust and Struck Matches.
Taste: Salted Caramel and Maple Syrup, Nutmeg, Cloves and Ginger, Manuka Honey and Pepper.
Value for Money: You’d be hard pressed to find any other 10 year old Speyside with the same depth of sherry influence for just £50 a bottle.
Scores: 45 / 50.
Rock Oyster Cask Strength – Batch 2
Rock Oyster is the ingeniously titled ‘island’ representative of the range and utilises spirit from distilleries on the likes of Orkney, Arran, Jura and Islay. The name, it must be said, was well chosen, for it would be hard to find a more maritime malt than Rock Oyster.
This second edition of the cask strength version is bottled at 56.1% and retails for around £48 a bottle.
Smell: Salt & Brine, Lemon, Vanilla Cream… Wet Ash and Wood Smoke.
Taste: Vanilla, Tablet, Fiery Pepper, Liquorice, Sea Salt and Oak. Wafts of Bonfire Smoke in the background.
Value for Money: A dram full of oily, coastal characteristics and a huge dose of punchy pepper. Should be a treat for anyone who enjoys the likes of Talisker and Ledaig.
Scores: 43 / 50.
Three more great drams from Douglas Laing then, and yet more evidence of the quality on offer from the ultra good value Remarkable Regional Malts range. It’s been said many times before, not least on this site, but please do not be put off by the ‘B’ word, these drams are 100% malt whisky and are on a par with any ‘single’ malt you care to mention, except of course, for one key aspect… The price.