Today I’ll be reviewing a whisky which I consider as a controversial one. If there was a dictionary entry for this definition, it’d have a picture of this whisky – the Douglas Laing Old Particular Aultmore XO.
It all started few months ago, when 4 new and exclusive whiskies arrived to our not-so-whisky-central duty free shop in the local airport (TLV, in case you wonder). You should understand, the chance of that happening is equal to winning the national lottery. Yeah, it’s pretty rare.
I recall discussing those 4 whiskies with my friend and fellow blogger, Michael (of Malt & Oak blog) and there was one whisky that piqued our whisky geek senses, yeah, this one – the OP Aultmore XO. After all, how could it not? It’s a pricey sherried Aultmore, a single cask bottling yet there’s no age statement. Instead, it’s titled with XO on the label. However, XO is not a legal age according to SWA, so it falls under the NAS category. but using XO in the whisky name? Nowadays, it’s rarely used in the whisky industry (was used sporadically in the past) and is a term much more recognized from the brandy/cognac sector.
In addition, it’s not a cheap one as it costs $113 (continuing the trend of pricey NAS travel retail exclusive whiskies, are we?), so clarifications were needed.
Michael asked the duty free shop for additional details but was thwarted, so instead he asked the whisky community in the Malt Maniacs & Friends FB group and all hell broke loose.
When the dust settled down we weren’t smarter by much. Fred Laing said the XO stands for Xtra Ordinary (to describe a special cask) but they stayed tight lipped about the age and we still didn’t know if it justify the price tag.
So we were left with only one option: buy it, taste it and report back to you.
Douglas Laing Old Particular Autlmore XO (55.5%, 450 bottles, $112.9)
Nose: Lots of vanilla mixed with new make spirit notes. Yes, I’m not kidding you. I tasted this whisky four times over 2 weeks period and had the new make notes every single time, sometimes stronger, sometimes fainter, but it’s always there, although it does mostly dissipate over time. Stewed fruits and baked nutmeg and chocolate. But it’s not thick or dominating so it’s not a sherry bomb in the normal convention as the rich vanilla balance the sherry impact and gives us here a lighter and fresh nose which is lovely (especially if you wait a bit untill the new make notes are mostly gone).
Palate: Stewed fruits and fruits cake with sugar icing (bit fizzy), nutmeg, chocolate, powerful sherry impact yet again fresh and light. On the last sip there was again that vanilla/new make note, ugh.
Finish: Medium (maybe even Medium-Short) finish with lingering sweet fruits and hints of tobacco, chocolate, fizzy and gentle lingering numbness.
Thoughts: There’s a lot on my mind here, so I’ll break it into 4 points:
- It seems to be a young whisky, probably around 5-6 years. There’s no way around it with all those new-make notes. If you take young age into consideration, then the whisky is fabulous and indeed this is an extra ordinary cask to produce such a good whisky after such short period.
- I’m not sure how smart was it from Douglas Laing to release such an expression of a single cask bottling without age (was it some kind of experiment and our duty free shop the lab?). We want information and transparency. The words game on XO here is a tough nut (I find it hard to believe they didn’t consider the psychological impact here).
- Based on what Gavin Ryan Thompson, Bowmore Brand Ambassador, comments, this ‘experiment’ will not be repeated, and I think it’s a good thing as I believe that single cask bottlings should have age statement. I don’t mind it bottled young but I want to know that and to have that information when I ponder whisky purchase as there are too many over-pricey NAS whiskies out there.
- And now to the critical question, should you seek & buy this whisky? I think, that at the current RRP ($113 or 87 euro) it’s way over-pricey. If you have 20% off voucher, it may be worth taking a flyer if you don’t have anything else that you fancy.
And now I wonder what Michael have to say on this one…