I like malt blends, it’s no secret. I think that when done right, they can literally make each of the component malts shine, and the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. This is, of course, true also for the the other end of things. Vatted malts are easy to botch up, and when they don’t work, they’re a colossal flop.
After the great success enjoyed by Big Peat, which was released by Douglas Laing in 2009 and has literally become a brand onto its own (see review here) the past two years, since the Laing brothers have divided up the business (with Stewart and his sons forming Hunter Laing) have seen Douglas Laing making a concentrated expansion of the line into a full range of regional malts including a Speysider (Scallywag, released in 2013), Timorous Beastie made from Highland Malts (released last year and reviewed here) and an outstanding Islands regional blend – Rock Oyster – released earlier this year. All four malts are non chill filtered, natural color and at 46% or 46.8% ABV. They’re all also NAS, but in a blend that’s less of an issue to me.
Now Douglas Laing has created a series label for the four whiskys, called “Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts” and while the fanfare around the name is naturally about marketing, I think it does reflect upon the way Fred and (especially?) Cara see the category of vatted malts, as the torch in this area of the whisky market has passed completely from the big corporations to the indies (like the two Laing companies, Wemyss Malts and, of course, Compass Box). I think the series of releases over the past two years and the creation of this collection label have firmly put Douglas Laing in front of the category.
To bring it all together, this seems to be a great time to taste the Timorous Beastie, and go around the Highlands, from Dalmore to Glen Garioch and Glengoyne in a single glass:
Douglas Laing Timorous Beastie Highland Malt (46.8% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Pale gold, thin legs dropping slowly.
Nose: Honey and salt are the first things to reach the nose. Somewhat maritime, with a layer of spice right under that first sweet brine with cinnamon and baked clove, malty cereal and the lightest sour note. Time brings out something earthy and
Palate: Sweet honey with notes of citrus, the full body is almost chewy, this is an easy sipper and is very gentle. You could easily lose count of how much you drank of this.
Linger: Very gentle spice warms the mouth, especially on the top of the palate, with some lingering sweetness and the lightest hint of citrus on the tongue. There’s not too much going on in the finish here, but it leaves a pleasant flavor in the mouth.
The idea of regional malt blends isn’t originally Douglas Laing’s. Douglas Laing, however, chose right out the gate – with Big Peat – to do it right both with the ABV and the natural presentation, and is, thus, able today to present a coherent vatted malt regional collection. All four members of the collection are great tipples, and you really can’t go wrong with either of them.