Tag Archive: Douglas Laing


Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again – especially for this one.

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Clan Denny / Douglas Laing: North British : 1991 (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 46.7% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellowed grain. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Baileys. Orange cream to choc orange. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Water adds tannins, lemon cheesecake and menthol to grapes notes.

Body: Custard. Golden syrup. Apples. Calvados. Water adds icing sugar, lemon cheesecake, has more of a waxy and alcohol feel.

Finish: Apples. Pears. Creamy to baileys. Pear drops. Lightly waxy. Slight dry shortbread. Water adds light oak and white chocolate. More water brings out menthol notes and grapes.

Conclusion: This is a sweet and creamy one. Initially it really pushes a Baileys style – thick and creamy against young spirit style green fruit notes. There is a slight thickness to it, actually a kind of polish to wax feel that actually enhances the creaminess.

Water makes it drier and slightly spicier, but otherwise manages to marry the two sides of the neat whisky. The fruit notes become creamier in a soft lemon style over a sweet cheesecake like base, rather than the brighter green fruits of the neat spirit.

Here, with water, more of the bourbon cask influence shows, more oak, more white chocolate, all emphasising sweeter notes that makes this feel like a bright, dessert style, whisky. Adding just a drop of water does bring out more alcohol roughness, but if you can push through that, adding even more water mellows it down again and lets you enjoy the gentle lemon character.

It always keeps a touch of energy that comes from the grain spirit style, but matches it to a sweeter, gentler, dessert style which means it manages to be relaxing despite that grain energy. It feels like some thing to enjoy post meal and relax with.

A lovely bit of a dessert edged dram.

Background: One of about 300 bottles this is a single cask single grain whisky and the first of five whiskies I tried at the most recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. Single grain gets a lot of shit as the lesser cousin of single malt, but there are some gems hidden in its depths as I have found over the years. Time will tell if this is one of them. This was aged in a refill hogshead cask. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again.

Douglas Laing’s Provenance Single Cask: Auchentoshan 11 Year (Scottish Lowland Whisky: 11 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light and pale, with a slight brackish hue. Very slow streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Strawberry crème. Viscous alcohol notes. Dark Belgian chocolate. Pine cones and pine needles. Water adds peppermint, more water turns menthol.

Body: Warming. Grapes. Shortbread. Vanilla fudge. Oak. Lightly peppery. Water adds slight sulphur. More water adds creamy notes and lots of grapes. Cinnamon doughnuts.

Finish: Oaken. Pine spray. Menthol. Fudge. Strawberry crème. Water makes more menthol. Mint leaves. More water adds grapes, light cinnamon and Belgian black chocolate.

Conclusion:There are lots of different elements in this – ones I would never expect to see side by side. The most disparate elements never seem to overlap, instead you get each of the distinctly different elements coming out one after each other.

First aroma notes come out like Belgian chocolate and strawberry crème- yet the body after that comes out as tart grapes and light fudge. Then, as that goes out the strawberry crème comes back out in the finish.

On another run it was alcohol strong, piney and heavy on the aroma, going into a peppery body, then somehow out into menthol freshness in the finish. I’d like to claim that it is water, or time that makes this change – but while water does bring changes, it seems like any of the prior elements can return at any point.

So, to try and generalise a whisky that seems to actively resist categorisation – well, generally there are some grapes. Generally there are slight pine to pine cone notes. It is generally smooth but warming and generally there are some sweet notes behind that – be it toffee, chocolate of strawberry.

What is oddest, for all that is odd about this whisky, is that for all the odd notes, this does not actually really stand out as a whisky. It has the odd moments, as described above, but they all clinging around a solid but unexceptional whisky. Very contrary, no? Not bad, hard to sum up which is a value in itself. Not a must have, not one to avoid. Not bad.

Background: Yay, mini hip flasks of whisky- chances to try different experimentations without spending a vast amount on a full size bottle. It is especially nice with lowland ones like this as I can be a bit mixed on how I find stuff from this region. The Provenance lot, whisky taken from a single cask and bottled at just a tad stronger strength than normal, has been pretty solid so far. I grabbed it from Independent Spirit and put on Miracle Of Sound’s Level 8 while drinking – very cool drinking music.

Douglas Laing: Independent Spirit: Old Particular: Port Dundas 13 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 13 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Brackish water to pale yellow. Fast streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous alcohol. Apples. Menthol. Water makes creamy and adds light peppermint.

Body: Baileys. Green apple. Strong alcohol. Water makes more creamy. Light peppermint. Toffee. Pears. More baileys. Viscous jelly alcohol feel.

Finish: Alcohol air. Menthol. Baileys. Pear. Water adds white chocolate. Tinned tropical fruit. Creamier and with peppermint notes.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unexpected. I had tried this in the shop before buying and I have general memories of being impressed by it. Hence why I bought it, it wouldn’t make sense otherwise, right?

On first open of this bottle this seemed familiar, but I couldn’t work out why it had jumped out at me before. It had green fruit that spoke of a younger spirit matched with a thicker, viscous body – warming with a jelly like alcohol feel, but not burning like a young spirit would be. Good, but hardly stand out.

Which is why, these days, I do notes about a week after breaking open a bottle. It really seems to make all the difference.

Now, a week on, it has a lightly creamy liqueur like set of notes which becomes distinctly Baileys like with water. It is a completely unexpected blast that mixes with the green fruit to crate a thicker and heavier single grain experience. It is still that thick, viscous alcohol character in the body that you often get of grain, but with the creamier flavours heading out into a fresh peppermint and menthol endgame.

Usually I expect single grain to show more of the cask influence, but here the whisky is very much its own thing. There is white chocolate, toffee and tinned tropical fruit notes, that say bourbon ageing to me – but they take time to come out and take the stage.

This is very good – it does have some rough alcohol edges and slight overly heavy jelly alcohol character at times which are not the best, but generally it is very enjoyable. A touch of water helps but never quite removes the alcohol character – a flaw but not one that ruins this interesting experience.

Background: Another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this time in collaboration with Douglas Laing. This is one of 126 bottles and was aged from 2004 to 2017. Port Dundas was a single grain distillery that stopped production in 2011. I’ve tried a 20 year bottling of it before, but is my sole experience of this distillery and not quite to my tastes. This was drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy CD for the 2nd time– seems more varied than prior albums, taking a bit of time to get used to it.

Douglas Laing: Scallywag: 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Blended malt Whisky: 13 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Plums. Some alcohol air. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Treacle. Water adds grapes to the mix.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Raisins. Grapes. Some tannins and oak. Golden syrup. Water makes silky smooth. Adds grapes, quince rakija and pears. More water adds plums and dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slightly peppery. Fig rolls. Tannins and tea bags. Honey. Water adds tart white grapes and pears.

Conclusion: Ok, with and without water is like night and day for this whisky. By which I am not saying that one is good and one is bad – just that they are radically different in emphasis while still having slight reflections of the other in some circumstances.

Neat it is very sherried, from a plum aroma to a tannins and grapes filled body layered over honey sweetness. There are hints of green grapes as well as the more expected red grapes in the there, but generally it is heavy sherried spice added to the native speyside sweetness. Water releases that green fruit so it can come to the fore, still matched with speyside sweetness, now with the plums and raisins at the back as mere sherried hints.

Time lets the two sides come to a compromise – the sherry raisins, pepper and tannins merging with the clear vanilla toffee and green fruit to give a very satisfying and silky smooth whisky. The slight raw alcohol it has neat, while never heavy in the first place, now has completely vanished.

This is a very good example of both the wide range that different Speyside distilleries can bring, the range you can get from blending the malts, and the smooth package that such blending can result in. No real rough edges, but manages to keep a lot of the individual malts character, and give room for water experimentation. I’m impressed.

Background: The first age statement release of the Speyside blended malt from Douglas Laing – this one matured in sherry butts in its entirety. So far their blended malts have impressed me highly – generally keeping the smoothness of the blended malt, without completely losing the character that their malt components bring. This was another of the rarer releases that Independent Spirit had a minis, so I, of course, grabbed one while I could. Felt like some straight forwards metal for music while drinking after being more experimental recently – so went for Shadows Fall – Fear Will Drag You Down.


Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Blended Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Madeira cake and plum pudding. Old sweet shops. Pear drops. Slight alcohol. Hard sugar coating. Water makes similar but with varnish like notes.

Body: Light front, with warming alcohol that builds in intensity quickly. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Oak. Madeira. Lime jelly. Raisins. Water makes more caramel like, and adds red wine. Pears and pear drops.

Finish: Oak notes. Alcohol air. Madeira cake. Raspberry yogurt bits. Water adds sweet red wine. Raisins. Pear drops and slight varnish notes.

Conclusion: As someone who has really enjoyed the various Timorous Beastie takes I have tried recently, I am kind of split on this one. Some of this may be because of the first impressions you get on sipping. The age seems to give it a tad overly light front, but then a stronger than normal alcohol burn quickly rises to overwhelm it. So, when taken neat you only really get hints of the flavours that it may carry, too much burn, and no pay off for that burn. You get the idea there is a tale going on below that, but nowhere near the full story. You need to use some water to get some decent play from this.

So, onto trying with water then. Water does help, and there is more play from the flavours here with more sherried notes coming out in an understated but rewarding way. It matches red wine and raisin notes that feel sherry influenced to pear drop flavours that remind me of younger, cleaner spirit. However even with water it feels a tad rough, with a slight varnish like touch. Normally I can dig rough edges, as long as they give extra layers of complexity. This has a decent range of complexity, with fresh lime jelly sweetness and Madeira mixing, but doesn’t create something special that feels like a reward for the need to use the slight varnish like notes.

Now it has promise, but it seems either too light, or too varnish touched, depending on when you have it – it feels like the promise of this is delivered in their far superior, and excellent dram that is the 21 year sherry cask version, for which this feels like an inadequate replacement for that one’s vanishing.

So, this has lots of good notes – a nice mix of spirit influences, and nice use of sherry cask ageing, but has a few too many off notes to be great – odd, especially for a blended malt where usually they usually mix things to within an inch of the most smooth it can be.

Ok, but far from top bombing.

Background: This was grabbed in a mini from Independent Spirit – as before they have a bunch of rarer limited edition minis of the blended whisky range. I’ve been enjoying them a lot so far, so grabbed this one to give a try. I drank this post watching the piece of shit that is the Netflix adaptation of Death Notes, and I have to admit I think I was a bit distracted so these aren’t my best notes. Tried to tidy them up on write up before posting, hope they are ok.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Douglas Laing: Provenance Single Cask: Glengoyne 8 Year( Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale clear spirit with a light brackish hue to it.

Viscosity: Medium speed thin streaks.

Nose: Moss. Moderate alcohol. Citrus – fresh lime. Very fresh. Mojitos. Crushed leaves. Light menthol. Gin. Water adds vanilla pods.

Body: Warming. Smooth feel despite the alcohol. Very viscous. Soft toffee. Water makes creamier. Kiwi, grapes and vanilla. Apples. Jelly. Raisins.

Finish: Light charring. Malt drinks. Lots of oak. Greenery. Alcohol air. Water makes creamier. Brown bread. Fudge. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: This really shows the energy of its relative youth. While not burning in its alcohol, it is still that very viscous styling of strong alcohol with a very melting jelly like feel to the centre and very familiar alcohol warmth with it.

Flavour wise it is also very youthful – lots of full on green fruit akin to a young spirit. Neat it is fairly raw, but water soothes that, turning it into a sweeter, creamier version of itself; In this form it seems to call slightly to Speyside character rather than its Highland home However underneath that is the more familiar sweet highland in a fudge and malt drink styled base. It is more gentle that normal, more a backing note than its more mature cousins.

In oddities that it has, there is a slight crushed leaves amongst the citrus notes – which makes if feel slightly mojitos like in its expression top and tail. Which is unexpected. A cocktail experience in a single malt.

It is a raw green fruit thing neat, becoming more recognisably highland sweet the more water you add. While I would say it is too simple neat, water gives an impressive depth for its youth with raisins and dark fruit coming out as a balance to the brighter green fruit. It is a very different experience from neat to water laden, going from super fresh to subtly dried fruit.

Not excellent, but has a decent range with water so I can’t complain.

Background: Hip flask sized bottles of whisky, one of my favourite ways of trying a wider range of whisky without having to spend a fortune on full sized bottles. This one, grabbed from Independent Spirit, is a Glengoyne bottling – done without colouring or chill filtering. I’ve actually been to the Glengoyne distillery, back when I did a tour of distilleries in Scotland – very pretty and tucked away near a waterfall. This was drunk while listening to Anthrax – Amongst The Living – no particular reason, just good tunes.

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.

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