When I planned my Scotland trip, I knew that I want to cover and visit as many whisky related places – large distilleries, small independent distilleries, whisky bars and independent bottlers.
So on a rainy day in Glasgow (are there any other types of days there??) we went to visit Douglas Laing HQ.
We were welcomed warmly by Jan Beckers, the un-tiring world rovering ambassador for Douglas Laing and he guided us into the upper floor into the cozy tasting room.
We started with 2 lovely single grain bottlings: Port Dundas 21yo & Girvan 47(!)yo
I surprised myself and preferred the younger Port Dundas. It was more fruity and lively while the Girvan was more mature and restrained and as befitting old age needs more time to savor it, but you can’t really blame me for this, it was barely 11am!
So after warming up, we chatted a bit, discussing our trip, where we were and what are we heading, our origins (did you know Jan is of Belgian heritage and worked at Glenfiddich before heading to Douglas Laing?) and then we moved to taste the first release wave from the “Old Particular ” line:
I didn’t take tasting notes, but the Auchroisk 18yo and the Glen Scotia 21yo really stood out for me from that bunch. Not that the other were bad of course – all were solid drams.
During the tasting, we chatted and we asked a lot of questions on how Douglas Laing, as Independent bottler works – How to manage stock (foreseeing demand cycles), how do they buy casks (with new make of course!), where do they store the casks (at the distilleries warehouses, they don’t have central warehouse).
Before we moved to tasting the peated Bowmore 25 and its’ controversial FWP notes, we made a stop and we were honored to taste Scallywag, Douglas Laing sherried speyside malt blend that was released on that day (see my review here) and is a perfect companion to their Big Peat blend.
Then we moved to the peated part, and we started with the Bowmore 25. This was my first Bowmore that exhibits the FWP characteristics (if you don’t know what I’m talking about – Google “whisky FWP”). Frankly, I can understand why some people can’t stand it and hate it – it’s very distinctive and different, but I was ambivalent on it – it’s not my favorite profile but can’t say I dislike it.
We then discussed Big Peat. Jan said Big Peat is a huge success with over 50 batches of the standard big peat produced so far. Douglas Laing invested big time in branding and styling for Big Peat (and Scallywag). Now, I’m sure this is an integral part of the success – I think that the Big Peat guy (and ‘his’ Scallywag dog) is pure brilliant marketing, but I’d give the liquid the larger share of success credit. You know, Whisky first!
But before we tasted Big Peat, we were for a treat – tasting Old Particular Port Ellen 31yo. Oh what a dram. up there in my best drams for 2013!
So we went ahead and tasted two Big Peat expressions. Both were very good but I thought that the small batch (left pic) was the better one.
It was time to wrap up the visit but I asked Jan one last question: Does Douglas Laing plan to build their own distillery so they could use the spirit for their blends and a single malt. Surprisingly, the answer wasn’t a direct No. Jan said there are currently no plans for building a distillery, but they do check investment options in an existing distilleries, but there are no immediate plans of this kind.
Then it was time to say goodbye and take some pictures together (and with Scallywag too!)
Big thanks to Jan and Douglas Laing for hosting us. I hope to visit again!