Jan 222017
 

I really like the direction Douglas Laing is going with the Remarkable Regional Malts line. The vatted malt (blended malt, if I must) line now encompasses five out of the six regions (missing only Campbeltown, which could be interesting with the variety of styles coming out the three distilleries in the town), and has expanded to include cask strength editions of Islay’s Big Peat (ok, this isn’t really new, as the Christmas edition started in 2011), two editions of the Speyside Scallywag cask strength versions, a (hopefully first of a regular release) cask strength edition of the excellent Rock Oyster and now a premium age stated edition of the Highlands Timorous Beastie in both a full cask strength 40 year old and in a 21 year old. This opens the door to a whole new line of premium editions of older malt blends from different regions (think just of all the closed Lowlands distilleries that could participate in an Epicurean 40, or the amazing maritime balance that could be struck with a 25 year old Rock Oyster).

The regular Timorous Beastie (reviewed here) is composed of Glen Garioch, Glengoyne and Dalmore. I tried to find out what distilleries took part in these two expressions, but my quest was foiled as the recipe for these expressions is not being disclosed. Jan did tell me, though, that these expressions are not simply older casks of the same three distilleries, so your guess is as good as mine. Whatever is in there, darn, that’s good whisky!

We’ll begin with a quick reminder of the standard Timorous Beastie notes:

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.

On to the detailed notes for the 21 and the 40:

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

 

Timorous Beastie 21 Year Old (46.8% ABV) Timorous Beastie 40 Year Old (54.7% ABV)

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Copper, very thin legs off a viscous necklace. Color Amber, extremely sturdy necklace, with very thin legs.
Golden honey, fresh sherry, ripe red apples and a hint of nutmeg. Honey dew (green melon) and raisin wine.

With time in the glass, an older dusty sherry reveals itself and takes over.

Nose Cinnamon buns baking in the oven, light floral notes, hint of oak, freshly ground cinnamon, and a hit of lemon. There’s the faintest chalky note with honey and a hit of after eight chocolate mints and tobacco.
Sweet hit, spicy on the tongue with fresh ground black pepper, thick and viscous, with the spice really dominant. Palate Dry and floral (as much as that can be a flavor), with honey and some vanilla custard. There’s a peppery hit mixed with clove – as spicy as the 21, but it’s more wood spice than pepper and a hint of baked apple in cinnamon.
Dry high up on the back of the mouth, spicy on the gullet and tongue with a chalky feel left in the mouth. The linger is pretty long. Finish Sweet on the tongue with a hit of spice, very dry, with a cerealy feel and a chalky dryness on the top of the mouth. After a minute or two, some oak settles on the tongue. The pepper will go with you for a long time.
This dram has a glorious nose with fresh and old playing a hide and go seek game.

The palate is all spice as is the linger.

Conclusion  Significantly older on the nose, with dryer elements. Just as spicy on the palate and linger, but the spice leans more toward wood spices, and some oak.

Final Thoughts

Vatted malts give the blender an incredible latitude of freedom, and in both these Highland malts a clear profile of a relatively complex though gentle nose and strong spicy palate was chosen, far more than the spice on the palate of the regular Timorous Beastie. Both are extremely well crafted. I’m not sure you can still get the 40 year old, but the 21 is still around here and there, and if you do come across a bottle, you’ll definitely want to pick up a bottle. I admit to being more than a little curious about what’s in the recipe for each expression, but that’s information that I just couldn’t come by….next time 😉

Doing this tasting head to head was an absolute pleasure, and I thank Jan Beckers and the Douglas Laing team for the official samples.

 

May 032015
 

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.

Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts

Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts

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:

Photo Credit: thegreenwellystop.co.uk

Photo Credit: thegreenwellystop.co.uk

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Feb 042015
 

2014 was an exciting year at Whyte and Mackay, owners of the Dalmore, Jura, Tamnavulin and Fettercairn distilleries. Following the sale of India’s United Sprints to Diageo and the antitrust regulator’s demand that Diageo not hold on to W&M the company went into months of uncertainty. Last May,  W&M was sold to Emperador, a brandy producer from the Philippines in one piece, despite rumors that Diageo might keep Dalmore and Tamnavulin to itself. Sadly, that probably means that the whisky will continue to be presented below its potential – which can be glimpsed in the tasting, but not quite gotten to.

Photo Credit: jamstudio.uk.com

Photo Credit: jamstudio.uk.com

As you can see on the spirit still on the left, it has a water jacket, designed to increase reflux and produce a more refined spirit. It’s then aged in mostly first fill ex bourbon casks, and in the special variety of sherry casks only Dalmore has, Matusalem Oloroso from Gonzalez Byass, as well as other types of sherry butts. The Dalmore “house style” is a sherried whisky, and the 12 year old is a 1:1 mix of those two types of barrel.

An interesting fact about Dalmore is that over the past few years, peated whisky has been produced at the distillery, and quite possibly we’ll get to see a peated expression in the future. It might be quite spectacular with their sherry casks (especially if a miracle happens and it gets presented non chill filtered at 46% and with a light hand on the E-150a).

 

Photo Credit: spirituosen-superbillig.com

Photo Credit: spirituosen-superbillig.com

Dalmore 12 (40%)

Appearance: Bronze (Albeit artificial), quick and thick legs.

Nose: Starts with a vegetal note on the nose, dissolving into some sherry and orange. Some time brings out raisins and dried fruit, namely prunes and apricots with a slight fruit brandy note. Throughout, the malt is very present. Just a hint of dusty sherry plays with the nose after some time in the glass.

Palate: Oily and bitter, with sherry sweetness laid over it. Mouth drying with spices along the middle of the tongue and a dry feeling on the inside of the cheeks.

Linger: Spice at the back of the throat, with milk chocolate and sherry on the back part of the tongue. A lot of residual sweetness on the tongue in a very dry finish.

Conclusion

Dalmore frustrates me. On the one hand, it’s an under performing distillery as far as the core range goes. On the other, it has a whisky that ages gracefully, which explains its ability to command very high and record setting prices for old and rare expressions.

The 12 year old has flavor, and has a real potential that’s just beyond the drinker. Did I mention my frustration?