A handful of Douglas Laings: a Whisky Wire tasting

A handful of Douglas Laings

2014-05-15 17.10.33

My laziness knows no bounds, the tasting was on Wednesday, it took me two days to finally rewrite my notes into a solid review. First and foremost, my gratitude goes out to The Whisky Wire and the good folks at Douglas Laing, for putting this great selection of whiskies together.As part of the Big Peat tweet tasting we descended unto the queen of the Hebrides and got our fair share of isle’s liquid riches. Thus easing the pain of not being able to partake in the Feis Ile festivities.

Caol Ila 2009/2014: Young & Feisty (Douglas Laing Provenance)


UntitledColour: Very pale, white wine, barely any colouring from the cask. Probably due its young age and lack of lower contact with the cask: matured in a refill hogshead. (One thing’s for sure, no E150 was added in either of these whiskies. So, no masks, no false facades, which is of course greatly appreciated.)

Nose: Young and grassy: a vague touch of sea spray with a whiff of fermenting rice (yeast), slightly peaty with traces of rubber, trails of smoky tar and soot. There is some sourness in the nose, something that reminds me of adhesive, pears, elements that hint to the oak from the cask and to finish it up: a pinch of butter.

Mouth: Briny-, oily-style palate: slightly vegetable, olives, iodine, elements of lemon, raisins and notes of petrol

Finish: A delayed fuse: medium long and burning, with underlying sugary notes

The Verdict

De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum: a particular nose,  but not too strong on the palate. My first guess was a young Bowmore, however it wasrevealed to be a young Caol Ila. A very interesting whisky, like the name itself promises: young and feisty. But it looks like I, as far as whiskies are concerned, am more interested in the Milf-section.



Score: 82


Laphroaig 8yo 2005/2014 (Douglas Laing Provenance)



Colour: Pale white with nice long legs

Nose: Hints of pine, wood polish, honey, (quite deep)underlying elements of menthol, leather and a whiff of smoky vanilla. With water added: a much peatier nose and stronger fruity aroma’s

Mouth: Smoke, a not overly-complex palate, slightly fruity: peach, banana and black currant, light peat, white pepper, orange peel and notes of tea. With water added: much stronger medicinal peaty notes

Finish: Medium long peppery burn, with hints of medicinal peat.

The Verdict

I guess Laphroaig has one of the most recognizable tastes of all the Islays. That medicinal peat is their watermark. And I was right, a young Laphroaig. Less interesting nose than the Caol Ila but so much more enjoyable on the palate.



Score: 85

Bowmore 12yo 2001/2014 (Douglas Laing Old Particular)


12Colour: White wine

Nose: Pineapple, trails of smoky peat, soot, hints of ginger. Predominant salty smoked bacon, and biscuits

Mouth: A soft body, oily on the palate, dried fruit: figs and dates, both salty and meaty with various spices: rosemary, thyme and coriander. But most importantly: charcoal smoked succulent roasted pig’s meat.

Finish: Long and warm, with more notes of that glowing roast.

The Verdict

My first guess would have been Caol Ila or maybe even Ardbeg, as I experienced some low-level bacon notes in those whiskies before. So when it was revealed that this was a 12yo Bowmore, I was simply stunned. This simply is a great whisky, not too complex, but what a treat! I was craving for some salty bacon after trying this one.

The way this whisky was able to capture those spicy and meaty notes is nothing short of a miracle. Even more, when you compare this to a regular 12yo Bowmore, this is by miles the superior malt. A clear example of real cask selection skills, I will trace this one down for sure, it belongs in my cabinet.



Score: 89

Big Peat


13Colour: Pale hay

Nose: Curious yogurt aromas escaping from the bottle while poring the glass. Zesty hints of lemon, honey, a whiff of mint, thyme spice, white pepper and cereal.
(with water added: a fuller smokier nose, notes of earthy peat, bonfire smoke, iodine and some fruity notes are added to the mix)

Mouth: Warm and balanced, more honey, spices and dark earthy peat with hints of salt.(with water added: some citrus, oranges and grilled fruit reveal themselves, this dram definitely needs a few drops of water to reveal the underlying sugary and fruity notes.)

Finish: Sharp and peppery, more hints of peat, a long and lingering finish.

The Verdict

I was expecting that sample #5, would most likely be the Big Peat dram. But sample #4 tasted vaguely familiar, so I went for Big Peat and once again I was right (2/5: not bad, not bad at all). What I like most about this one, is the nose, I could sniff this one for hours.
The most impressive about this whisky is probably its price: a quality vatted Islay-malt for only €38. Certainly worth buying. 




Score: 85

Ardbeg 23yo 1991/2014 (Douglas Laing Director’s Cut)


Colour: Pale hay

Nose: Once again meaty, hints of roast juice, chocolate, honey. Fruity: raspberry and cranberries, overall a  blend of various red fruits with something more tropical hidden in the mix. Scents reminiscent of strips of old leather and orange peel.

Mouth: Rich, old and balanced. An oily palate, chunks of dark chocolate, a fine selection of redolent herbs, humid forest soil, rich smoky peat, notes of raspberry, a hint from the wood and some more sweet sugary notes.

Finish: Orange oil in the finish, tobacco, peat and strips of leather. Sweet and soft, well balanced fruity notes.


The Verdict

What a way to finish a tasting, a pure class-act. My guess was that this could well be a Port Ellen (yes, I know, maybe a bit amateurish of me). No this winner was an Ardbeg, well out of my price-range of course, but nonetheless a stunner. A blast from Ardbeg’s Past, … I could keep talking in hyperboles, but that’s a bit of a cliché in itself, isn’t it? No, this simply was a great dram. You simply can’t beat a well matured Islay-malt, no matter what the NAS-crowd says.



Score: 90