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Douglas Laing are blenders and bottlers of fine scotch whiskies, based in the city of Glasgow. Though known for releasing some excellent single cask drams under their Provenance, Old Particular and X.O.P labels, they have featured more prominently on this website due to their ‘Remarkable Regional Malts‘ series of blended malts.
This ever growing range of blends, created using 100% malt whisky, represents each of Scotland’s whisky regions, with the latest addition to the series coming in the form of a 12 year old version of Timorous Beastie, a blend of highland malts bottled at cask strength and named after the Robert Burns poem ‘To a Mouse‘.
To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785, is one of the best known and most beloved examples of Burns’ work. So popular perhaps, because it hints at the author’s gentle nature and offers a glimpse of his oftentimes fragile mental state…
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle!
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ requet;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuing,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves and stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I cannot see,
I guess an’ fear!
Burns was inspired to write the poem after accidentally destroying the nest of a field-mouse with his plough, and it reads as the words of a man genuinely remorseful for his actions. He empathises and even comes to envy the mouse for its ability to live in the moment, whilst he must live with the regrets of yesterday and fear whatever trials the future may yet have in store.
Burns’ mental health has long been a subject for debate and in 2018, researchers at Glasgow University found evidence in over 800 examples of his writing, collected from various letters and journals, which supported the assertion that he may have suffered from Bipolar Disorder. This of course would be impossible to confirm in the case of a 200 years dead patient, but it is nevertheless an interesting interpretation which seems to gel with the picture he so vividly paints in ‘To a Mouse‘. That of a man who stands distracted in his field, dwelling on the plight of a fellow mortal before inevitably being dragged back to face his own demons once more.
Burns is widely regarded as Scotland’s National Poet and his influence can be seen far and wide. Even the line which begins ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men…‘ is now a well known turn of phrase, quoted across much of the English speaking world. One suspects however, that of all the tributes to his work, Robert himself, being no stranger to Scotland’s national spirit, would have perhaps held most affection for the whisky which takes his very own words for it’s name…
Timorous Beastie 12 year old is a blend of highland malts, aged for a minimum of 12 years and bottled at 54.4%. Natural colour and un-chill filtered, it retails in the UK for around £60.
*Full disclosure: this sample was provided by Douglas Laing for review. As always, I will attempt to remain as impartial as possible…
Smell: Green Fruits, Lemongrass, Vanilla and Clotted Cream. Butterscotch, Lemon Meringue and Biscuit with White Pepper.
Taste: Butter Pastry, Vanilla Fudge, Creamy Caramel, Soft White Pepper and Citrus Orange. Silky smooth on the palate.
Value for Money: I would be relatively happy to pay £60 for a cask strength 12 year old of this quality. No issue there at all.
I must confess that I have been a little underwhelmed in the past by some of the limited edition Remarkable Regional Malts, not because they are of inferior quality, but simply because the original NAS versions are so strong – and so affordable.
However, whilst this 12 year old Timorous Beastie is very much in the same flavour category as the original, it does seem to improve upon it a little, with added weight and increased complexity. A welcome addition therefore, to any drinks cabinet and an appropriate selection for Burns Night 2019.