Tag Archive: Douglas Laing


Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie (Scottish Blended Malt Highland Whisky: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain with greened edges.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Alcohol touch. Lime. Caramel. Orange crème. Hint of smoke. Dry raisins soaked in sherry. Water gives grain fields. Dry sherry. Red cherries.

Body: Slight beefy character. Slight alcohol air. Slight musty character. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Water adds light liquorice. Dry sherry. Light orange skin. Slightly vinous. Green grapes. Slightly waxy. Marzipan and almonds.

Finish: Dried beef. Slight raisins and fruitcake. Musty character. Water adds fruity red wine. Black cherry. More fruitcake and some Madeira cake. Slightly waxy. Slight sour grapes touch. Almonds. Light custard slices.

Conclusion: Ok, this is completely opposite to what I said in the “Big Peat” tasting, but this vatted malt is definitely better with water. Odd how these things work out.

Neat this is ok – it has a lot of evidence of dry sherry notes that show its oak ageing well. However despite that it is a bit closed – slightly dusty, musty and with some alcohol notes that – while not harsh – do seem to obscure the flavours a touch. Still not bad, but a sub optimal way of enjoying this whisky.

So, let’s add some water and concentrate on enjoying this the way it should be enjoyed! All hail the water! Now the sherry is definitely the core at the centre. Very evident, very fruitcake, raisins and cherry in the notes as you would expect. While not as awesome in this as the Sherry Cask 21 year Beastie, it is also far cheaper. Which does have a lot to say for it.

What I find very intriguing though is that this also has some of the odder edges that typified the 40 year old. Some of that unusual take on light tart gapes, some waxy texture to which it adds a similar, but distinct set of notes in a mix of light marzipan and almonds around the edges. All very light, lightly fresh notes around the sherried core. While they are fresher notes the intrinsically very dry sherry character of the core is what really shines through.

This is good – not quite enough to be called great – but good. A lot of depth and room for water, just not quite distinct enough to stand out. However a very solid, above average whisky.

Background: Another whisky I have run into a few times before – tried this at both an independent Spirit and a Hideout tasting over the years – neither time with my notebook with me. I also got to try the excellent 21 year Sherry Cask Timorous Beastie, and the 40 year at another of Independent Spirit‘s tasting. So, quite a history. Anyway, the self same Independent Spirit kindly provided this sample for me to do some notes on. Much appreciated. Anyway this was drunk while listening to Hate In The Box again – this time the “Under The Ice” album.

Douglas Laing: Big Peat (Islay Blended Malt: No age statement: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain touch and with hint of brackish green.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Lightly medicinal but clean. Salt and moss. Light alcohol air. Peat smoke. Water makes slightly harsher medicinal but cleaner alcohol with more moss.

Body: Beef. Vanilla and toffee. Light chocolate to praline notes. Salt. Crushed nuts. Peat. Light alcohol air. Water makes smooth – caramel and fudge notes. More water makes slight golden syrup.

Finish: Peat smoke. Smoked beef slices. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Lightly medicinal. Nutty. Water makes more beefy and peaty.

Conclusion: The odd thing I find with vatted malts is that, unlike single malts or standard blended whisky, they often can work best without water. It is a miracle! I guess since they have more room to design the exact nature of the whisky it may be easier to get just the balance they want.

Anyway, that is to say, this is a good whisky with water, but best tried neat.

This is, well – not a simple whisky, but a fairly straightforward whisky if you get the difference. It seems very clean, but despite that a typical Islay style on the aroma. Not heavily done, smooth as vatted malts often are, but balances the peat, salt and medicinal notes.

The body is the biggest difference from an Islay single malt – it is very sweet for an Islay. Most Islay have some sweetness, but this has a thicker toffee, caramel or even fudge character depending on the level of water used, and behind that some chocolate notes mixed in there. A much more solid base in the sweetness. From that the peat, beef smoke and salt that the Island is famous for seem much more well contrasted and a smoother experience because of that.

So, why do I say it should be drunk with no water? Well, without water it feels more intense and – despite the alcohol being slightly noticeable – it still seems less harsh in the medicinal notes that with a little water. Now, if you add a lot of water, rather than a little water, then it gains the caramel character and becomes very smooth indeed in all things, however that comes at the cost of a lot of what you came here for – the peat. So, yep, without water is the way for me.

Now, on that note, for something call Big Peat it is, well, moderate peat on the Islay scale. So, not one in you want it super intense and peaty. However as a smooth, balanced, sweet and peaty whisky it is very good. So, not as super intense as the name suggests but that does not make it bad in any way at all.

Background: Had a few run ins with this one, first at a tasting session at Independent Spirit, then a Douglas Laing tasting at The Hideout. I never had my tasting note kit on me though,I was going for more social nights out at the time. So now, finally I get to do my notes as Independent Spirit kindly donated a measure of it for doing some notes on. Many thanks. This is an Islay vatted malt made with Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the closed distillery Port Ellen whisky! It was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah – hard music for heavy peat. Also drunk after watching some new Doctor Who, so in a generally good frame of mind. Also, because we are childish, at the first tasting note we were amused by the idea of having some of Big Peat in our mouth. Also we were drinking, which may explain it. Also that works better when said rather than written down.

Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Caol Ila: 20 Year (Scotland Islay Single Malt Whisky: 20 Years: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Medicinal. Charcoal. Charred oak. Salt. Quite clean. Moss. Water is similar but smoother.

Body: Clean vanilla and caramel. Tinned tropical fruit. Tingling hint of alcohol. Water adds light custard. Cooked pork meaty notes. Oily and quite viscous. Light lemon.

Finish: Medicinal. Thick sheen. Oily. Slight tar. Mostly clean. Slight teacakes. Water doesn’t completely remove alcohol tingle.

Conclusion: This is a very clean Caol Ila. Very viscous as well in how it delivers the medicinal notes compared to the usual rather dry medicinal character of a lot of these. It really has a thickness to it, giving a thick sheen on your tongue rather than only evaporating to fill the mouth. It makes it a chewable medicinal style, with some, but not a vast amount of the Islay peat smoke coming in with it.

Flavour wise, while peat light, it lands smack solidly in the middle of what you would expect of a Caol Ila. Smooth vanilla and tropical fruit styling that I presume come from time spent in a bourbon cask – warming, with slight lemon notes and the expected salt character – it is not as unusual in flavour as it is in texture, but everything is done very smoothly indeed. So, the expected range, just polished beyond what you normally see.

It is not one that will convert people who weren’t fans of Caol Ila to begin with – but with the smoother character you find the vanilla and toffee being more present and offsetting the more medicinal notes – so it may tip someone on the fence over into liking it. Nothing is too hash, even the alcohol tingle feels more warming than burning – obviously its old age being put to good use. As long as you are not put off by Islay, then this is a smooth take on that, especially with water.

I have made this comparison before with other whiskies, but this does have small calls to Kiln Embers with its smoothness and salted lemon characteristics. This however is far more distinctively Islay and wears it more openly. A classic of Caol Ila, one that doesn’t break the style, but does it very well indeed.

Background: This is the final of the five whiskies had at Independent Spirit‘s latest Uber whisky night. This is an aged independent bottling of Caol Ila. I’m a big fan of all of Islay, and Caol Ila is definitely in the top 50% of them. Any more detailed than that is hard to call with the quality of the area. This should be an interesting one- while not the heaviest peated Islay, Caol Ila still has some character of it, and peat tends to vanish quickly with age. Should be fun. This is one of 316 bottlings for this release. Anyway, as always for these events – I was doing my notes in a social environment, with five strong whiskies back to back – my notes may be affected by other peoples thoughts, the drunkenness, and the other whisky I had. However, as before, for trying five expensive and rare whiskies like this I could hardly miss the chance to do some notes. Hope they are ok by you.

douglas-laing-old-particular-laphroaig-18-year

Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Laphroaig 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Quite light grain gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin puckering.

Nose: Salted rocks. Peat. Medicinal. Dry. Ash. Salted lemon. Water adds ashtray style notes.

Body: Dry. Lemon juice. Vanilla. White grapes. Dry white wine. Salt. Peat. Water adds lemon cordial and wine gums. Slight oily and slight creamy character.

Finish: Lemon juice and dry salted lemons. Slight golden syrup. Cinder toffee. Water adds more lemon. Toffee. Even more water adds malt chocolate.

Conclusion: This is an odd mix of fresh squeezed lemon and dry salted lemons, all mixed up with a medicinal Laphroaig character. It is less harsh than the similar medicinal notes in a younger Laphroaig, but it still shows some of that pure salt behind the more mellow salted lemon character.

Nice as this is it doesn’t have the booming depth or intensity of the Quarter Cask – instead it makes a fresher, and somehow refreshing, yet intense character. The spirit is smooth – showing surprisingly little alcohol character and with that gives a show of an oily base and a slight creamy character that doesn’t seem to come out in other expressions I have tried. With water it becomes more creamy and slightly dessert like making it almost a medicinal lemon meringue of the Islay world. Another case of words I never thought I would type. I know the idea sounds horrible. It is not. This is actually pretty darn nice.

This is a strange expression – the lemon character reminds me of the unpopular Laphroaig Select – an ok whisky but one I tend to refer to as the lemonade of the Laphroaig world due to its lighter character and lack of a lot of what makes Laphroaig recognisable. This however does not sacrifice its fuller character as it brings in the smoothness and lemon flavours, making it far better than that weaker attempt. In fact this lays in the same area as the blended malt Kiln Embers – which is both a complement – as that is a very nice whisky – and a problem, as that was far cheaper than this expression. This is slightly better than Kiln Embers, but only just and for that slight bit extra it costs a lot more cash. So, depending on your cash flow, make your choice. Had as I did, I enjoyed it, but for grabbing a bottle – Kiln Embers is the one I would return to if you can still find it.

Background: One of 317 bottles this is a rare independent bottling, single cask Laphroaig expression and the final of the five whiskies had at the uber whisky tasting night at Independent Spirit. I am a huge Laphroaig fan, and you don’t see many bottlings of these guys so was looking forwards to this. My photo skills were pretty much gone by the time I took a photo of this glass – sorry – I blame alcohol. As before due to the social environ and number of whiskies tried at the event my notes may be less comprehensible than normal – I try my best.

timorous-beastie-40-year

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 40 Year (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 40 Year: 54.7% ABV0

Visual: Custard gold.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Very floral. Slight menthol. Vanilla. Oily and waxy. Heather. Light smoke. Battenberg. Grapes. Cream soda. Water adds sour grapes and sulphur. Butterscotch.

Body: Grapes. Caramac sweet bars. Definite alcohol. White wine. Cream soda. Water makes more marshmallow front and citrus back. Apples in a calvados style comes out over time.

Finish: Strong alcohol. Gin. Elderberry. Grapes. Waxy. Cream soda. Drying. Tropical fruit and white chocolate. White wine. Water adds more grapes and a slight make spirit style fruitiness.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected of a 40 year old whisky, not at all. It has all the vibrancy of a young whisky – especially a fruitiness that hints to make spirit, but it is matched with a smooth character and a very white wine style character that speaks of its age. It even has a very unusual cream soda style side of sweetness. It matches very vinous notes with butterscotch and even a slight sharpness in the fruitiness in a way that is very rarely seen in whisky.

There are elements that range as wide, and are as unexpected as a waxy battenberg, a sharp butterscotch, and a vinous soda. Combinations of words that you would not expect to be seen together, even less so to work as well as they do. It is very distinct and different. Most old whiskies I try are good, but feel so smooth as to be understated – the strong abv of this means that it is still forceful in its odd complexity.

Water integrates the notes and smooths it out a lot, but it still keeps a slight sharpness – what gets brought out is more white chocolate and tropical fruit – really emphasising the bourbon ageing influence.

A spritzy, unusual, gin influenced, winey, butterscotch whisky. It feels like it has been influenced by far more spirits than it can possibly have been – white wine, grappa, gin, rakia, calvados. So many styles resulting in a whisky unlike any other. It does have slight rough edges at times of sourness and alcohol, but I have not seen many spirits this fascinating and unique. So, not the best, but unique and that earns it a heck of a place in itself.

Background: 300 whisky tasting notes! I actually had a bottle set aside for this, but ended up hitting the 300 at Independent Spirit‘s uber whisky tasting. A 40 year old blended malt is one well worth the 300 mark, so what a wonderful coincidence! Sorry the photo is a bit rubbish on this – I started drinking then realised I hadn’t done the photo yet so it is a bit hurried and half empty. My bad. As before as this was a social event with five different whiskies my notes may be shorter and more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

timorous-beastie-21-year-sherry-edition

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 21 Year Sherry Edition (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Dark gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Strawberry yogurt. Blackcurrant. Moderate oak. Vanilla. Mince pies. Dry. Water adds dried apricot and stewed fruit notes. Treacle. Oily character. Later you get red wine, port and more blackcurrant.

Body: Strawberry. Lots of sherry. Dried spice. Thai 7 spice jars. Dry. Sultanas. Water makes sweeter and spice raisins.

Finish: Blueberry. Mince pies. Dry. Vanilla. Sultanas. Thai 7 spice. Water makes much more spicy. Slight marzipan. Red wine.

Conclusion: This is very sherried, emphasising the drier end of the spectrum as well. It seems sweeter on the nose than it actually turns out to be – on the aroma it promises almost strawberry yogurt kind of notes. However this sweetness doesn’t really penetrate the body. Instead you get darker fruit, mince pies, Christmas spices and dry wine – it gives quite the intense but not harsh character.

There are some light sweet notes – some vanilla, and some parts of the blueberry are sweet, but these elements are rounding ones, not the notes emphasised.

It is nice enough like that – a bit one note but I was enjoying it – water however brings out a slight stewed fruitiness that gives it that tiny hint extra sweetness it needs. Now it is very rewarding, balancing and giving a huge range of flavour within the sherry style.

Then if you give it just a bit of time it rewards you yet again – giving much more red wine and dark fruits amongst the suet mince pie dryness. It is a brilliant example of sherry work here, emphasising it to heavy degree without become so overpowered by it that it becomes one note and dull which can be a flaw on heavily sherried whisky.

It is just fruity enough to let that re-emphasise the dry spiciness. Very nice and complex. I heartily approve. As a vinous, fruity, drying and sherried whisky in equal measure this is a big one I have no hesitation in recommending if you can afford it.

Background: So, Independent Spirit did another one of their Uber whisky tastings – their last one was the first of their tastings I went to and was sensational, so of course I jumped on this one. This is the first of five whiskies had that night. As it was a social event, and due to having more whisky back to back than I normally do for notes these may be slightly shorter and more scattered notes that usual. I did my best for you all though. Kicked off big with a 21 year blended malt. Don’t think I have ever tried standard Timorous Beastie – however its existence led to me winning a pub quiz once as the image of the mouse on the front meant that I knew what animal the term refers to. See? Drinking is good for knowledge.

Invergordon 50 year Old 1964 Cask 2 Xtra Old Particular
Douglas Laing: Invergordon 50 year Old 1964: Cask 2: Xtra Old Particular (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 50 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Watered down treacle to gold.

Viscosity: Mixed speed streaks.

Nose: Perfume. Cedar wood. Honey. Rose bush. Cherries. Treacle. Vanilla. Water adds oatmeal biscuits.

Body: Smooth but surprisingly thick feel. Oak. Cherries. Treacle. Rose wine. Water adds digestive biscuits and vanilla.

Finish; Mild milky coffee. Cherry pocked digestives. Lemon cakes. Water loses some of the character but adds vanilla. Very long lasting.

Conclusion: Ok, the wood influence here is off the charts, yet someone how not dull and single note oaken. You have my attention. This breaks out with what I think may be a very aromatic cedar wood style along with cherry notes. I say may as I am not exactly an expert on wood, grant me some lattitude here – it is kind of rosebush style as well, very floral.

Normally too much raw oak puts me off a whisky, but that is because they get dull – here the wood influences all have a character of their own. It feels and smells like so many different types of wood which I am fairly sure were never used in the ageing but seem there nonetheless.

When you start to sip the feel is thicker than you would expect from such an old whisky – not heavy, just viscous. It makes the sweetness so treacle styled against the still floral and cherry dominate oak style. It is very different to the very old Malt Whisky I have tried – the whole thing puts me in the mind of one of those sweet dried cherry pocked digestives you can get. Possible cherry wood influence as well – though that is based entirely on a comparison to a Stone Brewing beer I had that had been made with Cherry wood. I find it odd that cherry wood seems to actually give cherry notes. Go figure.

Careful application of water seems to mainly bring out more digestives and vanilla sweetness. It doesn’t make a huge difference and the whisky is fine by itself. While this is not my favourite whisky it is most definitely something I have not seen before. A real showcase of the influence of oak- fascinating and still pretty good as a standalone whisky. At the cost of a bottle I would probably not grab one, but it is well worth trying if you get the chance without committing to a whole bottle.

Background: One final time! “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. So a few things about this whisky. 1) It is fifty years old. I repeat 50 YEARS. Ok, age isn’t everything but this is the first time I have run into a single grain whisky this old. 2) IT IS SPELLED EXTRA MOTHER FUCKERS. THERE IS AN E IN IT. Anyway, excited, the final whisky of the whisky calendar, it was a fun time.

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