Earlier this year, I wrote about the changes that had occurred at Douglas Laing & Co, an independent bottler in operation since 1948. At the time, the two brothers who owned it – Fred and Stewart Laing – decided to go their separate ways.
Fred retained Douglas Laing & Co, and brought on daughter Cara Laing to be his head of brands marketing.
Stewart Laing, meanwhile, formed Hunter Laing & Co – read about that venture in this interview.
With all the changes afoot, it was inevitable that innovation for each would follow. For Douglas Laing & Co, this has meant the launch of a whole new line of independent bottlings called the Old Particular Single Casks, which hit the market in late September. The team has also launched Scallywag, a Speyside blended malt, which may have the cutest mascot around in whisky right now.
But I digress – because this post is ultimately about the Old Particular Single Casks range. I was sent a few samples back in September and have finally had a chance to have a wee taste of them.
The background to the range is that Fred Laing and the company’s global malt ambassador – Jan Beckers – worked since the start of this year to find particularly interesting casks to release as part of the series. All are bottled at higher alcohol strengths (48.4% for bottles up to 18 years of age; 51.5% for those over 18 years) and sold in very beautifully designed packaging, which reminds me of Wild West style, late 19th century photography.
The company’s release list shows around 21 bottles available, including a 31 year old single cask Port Ellen.
I have tried the 25 year old Bowmore, the 18 year old Auchroisk and the 21 year old Glen Garioch. Here is what I thought of them:
Auchroisk 18 year old: 51.4%:
(c): Pale Straw
(n): Fairly sharp, acidity wise, with an intriguing mix of newspaper, spun sugar, candied almonds, tree bark and vanilla ice cream. With water, more of a glue and newspaper note comes out for me, along with waxy lemon peel.
(p): Quite oily with notes of lemon zest and green grass, before it shifts to white cake, vanilla, cream and something just a wee bit smoky. With water: more appealing – quite refreshing and clean; reminds me of pineapple cubes, strawberry foams – a general sweet shop.
(f): Wet paper and strawberry laces. With water, a slightly flatter finish along same flavour notes as without.
Bowmore 25 year old: 51.5%:
(c): Melting butter
(n): Like a buttery crumpet, eaten by a campfire: buttery, warming, smoky, salty, malty! A lovely amount of sweetness also comes through – lots of vanilla sugar and marzipan. With water, the peatiness dissipates and I’m left with lots of fresh fruit (fresh ripe strawberries for me) along with a waxy toffee cube and lemon sherbets.
(p): More delicate than I was expecting, with an initial hit of those classic, 1980s Bowmore parma violets wooshing through. Quite round and less peaty than the nose would suggest. Hard to get past both “purple” and “candy shop” in my head. With water: still parma violet heavy, even with quite a few drops. Becomes sweeter with water.
(f): Smoky, sweet cardboard. With water: Sweet Tart candies.
Glen Garioch 21 year old: 51.5%:
(c): Golden sunshine
(n): Freshly sawn pine, sticky honey, Cheerios, malt, raw peanuts and vanilla lead this one for me. Classic Glen Garioch notes but ramped up a bit because of the ABV. With water, it becomes a bit musty almost, and some chocolate and pineapple notes feed through.
(p): Round and warming, like a fresh loaf of bread from the oven. Just a bit spicy but good amount of freshness. Wheat, cream, peaches and cream oatmeal, orange blossom. There’s a great transition between initial sweetness and spice – really welcoming on palate. With water, there’s certainly more delicacy there. The orange blossom/floral notes are highlighted but it becomes slightly grassier/drier towards the end now too.
(f): Orange blossoms in honey. With water: milk chocolate with green grass.