Douglas Laing are an independent bottler and blender of scotch whiskies based out of the city of Glasgow. Founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing, the company is now being run by Cara, granddaughter of the founder and the third generation of the family to lead the business.
As well as bottling single cask single malt and single grain whiskies, Douglas Laing hold the rights to a range of successful blended scotch brands like The King of Scots and Clan Denny but it is perhaps for their blended malts that the company has become best known.
Beginning in 2005 with the release of Big Peat, a blend of malts from across the isle of Islay, the Remarkable Regional Malts brought together spirit from each of Scotland’s whisky regions, creating a definitive representation of each area’s traditional style.
Fourth in the series after Big Peat, Scallywag and Timorous Beastie was Rock Oyster. First released in 2015, this was a dram created to represent the wild, sea-sprayed nature of Scotland’s islands. Featuring malts from Islay, Arran, Jura and Orkney, the dram quickly found an appreciative audience, wooed by its sweet yet briney nature.
Following extensive global feedback, it was decided in April 2019 that Oysters were too divisive a subject to name a whisky after, so Rock Oyster became Rock Island, though the recipe and packaging would remain the same. To establish the new identity, a pair of new editions have been released. The first, a 10 year old, is a permanent addition to the range, whilst a 21 year old has been released in a batch limited to 4200 bottles worldwide.
10 Year Old
Smell: Lemon and lime, creamy vanilla ice cream, heather honey and malty cereal notes. Lots of brine and smoke.
Taste: Sea salt and pepper with vanilla. Touch of subtle oak. Orange and creamy malt. Peppery smoke and brine. Ash.
Value for Money: This range has been consistently nailing the value for money category for a long time now and by the looks of it, that isn’t about to change.
Score: 43 / 50 About the Scores…
Takes the original Rock Oyster / Island and dials up the maturity a little, allowing an arguably better balance to be struck. For me though, it possibly lacks a little of the coastal bluster the original NAS version carries so successfully.
21 Year Old
Smell: Somehow shows noticeably more wood influence than the 10 whilst also appearing fresher, with green apples and pears and that heather honey note again, before the ash and brine make their presence felt. The smoke is possibly even more of a presence than in the younger version, at least on the nose.
Taste: Salted caramel, toffee, honey, pepper, orange, chocolate and oak. More peppery spice then some soft smoke, subtle at first but rises at the finish to leave a dry, woody and peaty finish.
Value for Money: At £85 it is certainly not a cheap dram, but compare that price to a 21 year old single malt and we once again see the exceptional value for money that is to be found in the blended malt category.
Score: 45 / 50
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the ten year old, I did, but this is something else entirely. A fantastic dram that takes the Rock Island template and ages it to a new level of maturity. Fantastically complex, it manages to show both the telltale signs of age whilst retaining a zip and a freshness you would expect from a much younger dram. Excellent.
For more on Rock Island and Douglas Laing, click here.
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