It’s no secret that we love independent whisky bottlers at The Dram Team. So much so that we’ve regularly featured them as part of our tasting boxes! So, as part of an ongoing exploration into the incredible indies in our tasting boxes, we're also going to write about them on the blog. Our first feature is all about Douglas Laing Whisky, that inimitable Glasgow-based bottler and blender...
Douglas Laing Whisky: History & Overview
From humble beginnings, taking over the production and distribution of then-tiny blended Scotch brand King of Scots, Douglas Laing & Co have definitely had what you'd call a storied past.
Now onto their third generation, this independent, family-run business was formed just after World War II in Glasgow. It was founded by the eponymous Douglas Laing himself, after he finished serving in the RAF.
The fledgling company initially focused on markets further afield than the UK, such as Germany and Asia. In the seventies, the company’s lucrative products included blended whisky packaged in ceramic golf bags, destined for Asian duty-free stores. The bottom fell out of the Asian market in the late nineties, so the firm turned its sights a little closer to home, opening up the UK market and reinventing themselves as a single cask bottler.
From there, they developed their now-famous range of regional blended malts, the first of which (the notorious Big Peat) launched in 2009. More recently, in an exciting development, Douglas Laing have established a foothold in the distilling side of the industry, buying Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire. They also began work on their very own Glasgow distillery, named Clutha after the local Clyde River.
So, now we've covered off Douglas Laing's storied history, what about the whisky, we hear you ask?
Here's a whistle-stop tour of the mouthwatering variety of whiskies you can get hold of from Douglas Laing...
The Douglas Laing range
Douglas Laing’s current range includes 6 regional blended malts from the big Scotch whisky areas, with quirky, charming labels. Alongside this they produce an interesting spectrum of single cask ranges (including the Old Particular, Premier Barrel and Provenance brands), their long-running King of Scots blend, and a variety of speciality whisky releases (such as Double Barrel and Single-Minded).
Remarkable Regional Malts
The Remarkable Regional Malts range consists of 6 blended malts representing each of the six main whisky-producing regions of Scotland - Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, the Islands and Islay.
To date, we've featured the main five Remarkable Regional Malt releases in our sets over the past 4 years (with Gauldrons being a limited edition we didn't get our hands on yet!).
As well as these core versions, we've also featured some of the special edition age statement versions (like Timorous Beastie 18 year old from our "Myth Busting Blends" set) and cask strength editions in our sets - look out for those from time to time and grab them while you can!
Fred and Cara love that the Company has come full-circle back to its “blending” roots – something that would have made Fred Douglas Laing very happy. They say that whilst Single Casks are still a huge part of the Douglas Laing business, they are "very proud of our Regional Malt range and believe the skill and art involved in marrying together Single Cask Single Malts to create the likes of Big Peat, Scallywag, Rock Island etc, really sets us apart and makes us unique."
For now, here's a run down of the core offering:
Named for the 1930s Glaswegian character on the label, this blend of Lowland malts is bright, citrusy, and grassy, with soft herbal notes.
Including malts from Glen Garioch, Dalmore, Blair Athol and Glengoyne, this whisky is honey-sweet, rich with vanilla and soft fruit.
Scallywag, so named for the fox terriers that the Laing family have often kept, is a blend of quintessential Speyside malts, including whiskies from Macallan, Mortlach and Glenrothes. With rich sherried notes at the core, it’s full of sweet fruit, spices, and orange zest.
Douglas Laing describes this whisky as “beachy”, and I couldn’t agree more. This blend of Campbeltown malts is fabulously briny in a smoked sea salt way, with a backbone of salted caramel and cereal.
A celebration of Island malts, the majority of this blend hails from famous maritime distilleries on Jura, Arran, Orkney and Islay. Naturally, it’s salty, smoky, a bit peppery and subtly sweet.
Big Peat’s label features a stereotypical Ileach character that’s become such a cult icon that some have even got tattoos of it. This is one for the peat heads, a smoke driven, heavy-hitting dram with malts from several famous Islay distilleries including Ardbeg, Caol Ila, and Bowmore.
Exceptional Single CasksAn XOP bottling from the Exceptional Single Casks range
Old Particular and Xtra Old Particular
The Old Particular range, and its older brother, the XOP (Xtra Old) range, are limited edition rare and sought after single cask releases of both single malt and single grain scotch. While the availability of each product will vary, they never have any colour added, or chill-filtration applied, and are all bottled at natural cask strength, for the full flavour of each cask as it was intended.
Calling back to their focus on regional whisky profiles, each release is colour coded for the region it came from - green for lowlands, blue for Islay, purple for highlands, and so on - to give the drinker an indication of the style and provenance of each dram.
Every now and then we manage to fit a particularly good value Old Particular bottling into our sets, and they are always a treat - one of the best-value ways to get cask strength whisky at a good age.
Presented in unique ceramic decanters, each bottle of Premier Barrel comes from a single cask of Scotch whisky. Like the rest of the Exceptional Single Cask range, it is non chill-filtered and uncoloured.
The Provenance range focuses on malts that are typical to the region and terroir that they are from, all single cask, non chill-filtered and uncoloured. Again, they are colour coded to describe the flavours that should be expected within the bottle.
We've featured a lot of Provenance bottlings in our packs over the years, as they are a great way to explore distillery styles in a stripped-back fashion, and great tasting comparisons to whisky brands' core releases.
Specialist WhiskiesThe King of Scots is one of Douglas Laing's whiskies you need to know
King of Scots
Douglas Laing’s original whisky, harking back to 1886. This is described as a premium blended whisky, with the exact recipe a long-guarded secret.
(This remarkable value blend joined in the fun in our "Myth Busting Blend" box in 2019)
The Single Minded range contains 3 single malts that are in constant supply, so fans of the range should not have to miss out, along with limited editions that are often snapped up quickly. Again, each one is colour coded for the region that it comes from. Craigellachie 10yo, Glengoyne 10yo and Bunnahabhain 10yo are fixtures of the range, but keep a lookout for their special releases.
Douglas Laing shows off their blending skills here with this range of blended whiskies composed of only two very different single malts which are blended and then bottled together, in an exploration of unique flavour profiles and combinations. Occasionally limited editions will surface, but the “Islay & Highland” and “Speyside & Lowland” blends will always be available.
We find the Double Barrel perhaps the most interesting of ALL the whiskies Douglas Laing put out, because, as a certified whisky geeks, the concept of just 2 barrels being blended is really interesting.
A final few words on Douglas Laing
If you enjoyed this feature, check out this great read over on the Spirits Business for even more of the Douglas Laing story. We also interviewed Cara Laing for the blog a little while back - have a read of what she had to say.
As you can probably tell, we love independent bottlers like Douglas Laing, above all else for the sheer range of amazing opportunities to explore whisky they offer.
Try our favourite Douglas Laing whiskies
Every month The Dram Team sends six fantastic whiskies to our members. The June 2020 box included all of our favourite Douglas Laing whiskies. So, unfortunately, it's now sold out - but you can still take a look at the whiskies in The Douglas Laing Collection.
Better still, join our Dram Team Tasting Club. And, as a special bonus, you’ll save £5 on every box after that!
Our members have our whiskies delivered right to their doors every month, what more could you ask for?