Nov 142016

Yula is a celebration of the traditions of the islands around Scotland, much of which is Norse. While reviewing the first Yula, the 20 year old, I brought the full story which you can read here.  I will say, however, that Yula is deeply connected to the story of the formation of the islands. The first edition was music to my palate, and I was really curious to see how it is.

In short, while a tad shyer and needing a bit of coaxing, it’s every bit as beautiful, with orange sweetness coming in and being more dominant than the grapefruit at first. The extra year in the casks definitely had an effect, and it goes beyond dropping in ABV from 52.6% to 52.3%. I can hardly wait for next October to taste the third chapter in this saga.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Douglas Laing’s Yula II – 21 Years Old Island Malt Blend, 900 Bottles (52.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, necklace remains for a long time with a lot of residue.

Nose: Peat rises to the nose, with brine and a residue of honey. The nose is somewhat shy at first, and needs some time in the glass to open up, and looks like some water would serve it well. With time, honeysuckle blossoms are added over the briny peat. A few drops of water bring out honey candy and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg

Palate: Thick with citrus rind dissolving into peat and some orange sweetness. Bitterness and heather honey with smoke wafting through, before some spice washes over the tongue. The mouth feel is rich, and the orange sets this apart. You’ll get even more of the orange after some time and a few drop of water and then the spice is definitely white pepper with some notes of grapefruit on the back of the tongue.

Linger: WOW, this finish is stunning with light smoke on the palate, bittersweet orange rind, a residual dryness all over the mouth.


It took some time for the sample to make its way to me, so those 900 bottles are probably all sold out by now, but if you come across one, pick it up. This expression isn’t for a quick dram, it’s complex and needs time, and will reward you for investing it. Great stuff!

Official Sample provided by Douglas Laing Co. Thanks Jenny and Slainte!

Jul 112016

I’ve been looking forward to this release ever since my visit to Douglas House in late September. My fascination with vatted malts (officially malt blends) is nothing new, and I find them to hold great promise for being more than the sum of their parts.

Visit to Douglas House

Visit to Douglas House

I was sitting with Jan Beckers in the tasting room and we were discussing the Remarkable Regional Malts branding move, and said “So with Rock Oyster out, that leaves the Lowlands”. Jan smiled and said quietly “it’s coming…”. I half smiled and said “So it’s Rosebank, St. Mags and Littlemill?”. All lightness aside (although anyone who knows Fred knows that lightness is never really aside), choices are rather limited for Lowland malts these days so this is probably Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie, and possibly some of the young Ailsa Bay that’s starting to show up. Might there be some Daftmill in there? I wouldn’t bank on it, as none of it made it on the market, but in the whisky industry you never really know, do you?

The Epicurean is bottled at a somewhat curious strength of 46.2% ABV, and it really is time to give it a taste.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts – The Epicurean – Lowlands Malt Blend (46.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Very pale yellow, with thin and rather slow legs.

Nose: Starts off soft, grainy and youngish. With a fresh green fruit sweetness and a touch of allspice. Left to breath for a bit, the allspice gets a little stronger with barley sugar and open fields. Hints of lemon rind develop too.

Palate: Sweet and citrusy, with grapefruit bitterness and a sweet dollop of jam on it. Also, some pepper comes in. The mouth isn’t as sweet as the nose promises, and this really isn’t a detractor, in fact, it’s nice.

Linger: Light bitterness, malt and a very mild chili in a pretty long finish. The sweetness remains for quite a while on the tongue.


I honestly didn’t expect the beautiful bitterness on the palate and linger. This is good whisky, and if it is, indeed, Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie, the vatting did, indeed, make a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts.

Dec 052015

As my readers know, I’m intrigued by malt blends (vatted malts), and you really don’t get to see too many of them that were aged for 20 years. Douglas Laing has started a series of three very limited expressions of Island malts. This blend is made of paeated Island malts and is the first in three consecutive annual releases of the same malts, as they age in the casks.

Originally, there were supposed to be only 900 bottles of it released, but they sold out so quickly (we’d expect nothing else, as the quality of whisky coming out Fred and Cara’s blending shop is nothing short of outstanding), that the folks at Douglas Laing made some more available, and you can actually still get a bottle for Christmas.

Why Yula? Stories vary and nobody is really sure if Yula was a Norse goddess, a Danish princess or even the daughter of the King of the Giants, but the sad story has her roaming the western seas (the Atlantic Ocean) with an apron full of rocks as she was searching for adventure or love (or maybe both?), and wherever a stone fell, it became an island (namely Ireland, and many of the Hebrides, if not all of them). Legend has her being claimed by the sea at the exact location of Islay, and the remaining rocks made up the island of Islay, where she found her final resting place. Islay is said to have taken its name from Yula/Iula/Ile the drowned princess (or goddess). This legend is reflected in the striking box and label the bottle comes in.

I tasted the Yula last night, which was the first time we dropped below 10°C since last March, so a celebration was in order with this gorgeous peated malt blend…

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Douglas Laing Yula (52.6% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, thin legs coming really slowly off a necklace.

Nose: Subtle peat and honey at the start. This is more coal smoke than peaty. Some lovely spice, with white pepper and nutmeg (yes, not the most common of combinations). Salt and a hint of meat on a barque, later giving way to brine and a touch of vinegar. A hint of malt is beneath all that.

Palate: YUM!! Yellow grapefruit greets the palate, with a seriously gorgeous bitterness. Light pepper, peat and tar play too with hints of honey in the background, though not by any means sweet.

Linger: Bitter on the tongue, with a hint of spice. Leaves the whole mouth tingling with grapefruit zest, giving way after some time to a hint of sweet candy, with a drying feel on the roof of the mouth.


It’s as if this whisky was designed for my palate! Bitter and peaty, and interesting and engaging at the same time.

Beautiful stuff, really! This would make a great birthday present for me 🙂 The only shame is that we’ll have to wait for the second installment…

My thanks to Douglas Laing for the official sample.



Mar 302015

My affinity and curiosity (and often disappointment) from vatted malts is well known to my readers, as making a really good vatted malt, one that truly highlights what each of the different malts brings into the blend is a true feat of art. Also well known is my disdain for the inevitable “best ____ whisky of 201X” prize-fests, especially those that don’t come with a detailed reasoning of the reasons for the particular selection versus the other contestants.

On another front, Wemyss' Kingsbarns Distillery recently opened. Photo Credit:

On another front, Wemyss’ Kingsbarns Distillery recently opened.
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So with all those caveats in mind, I got to taste Wemyss’ Velvet Fig, quite a long time after a friend sent me a sample of it. Incidentally, that week Velvet Fig also won Whisky Magazine’s Best Scotch Blended Malt at the World Whiskies Awards, making this post doubly timely.

In Velvet Fig, Wemyss changed their entire approach to vatted malts (or malt blends, as they should be legally referred to ). The previous editions of the three regional vatted malts -The Hive, Peat Chimney and Spice King – were bottled at 40% ABV, not stated to be unchill filtered, and were age stated with both 8 and 12 year old versions available. Velvet Fig, on the other hand, is NAS but is bottled at 46% and is non chill filtered (the press release says “natural mahogany color” so I’ll assume there’s not coloring added). Right off the bat I’d expect a much richer flavor profile, and being a heavily sherried whisky, it can probably get away with being somewhat younger. So on that front, Velvet Fig is a step forward. The only thing to be sorry about is not keeping the age statement on it.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig Vatted Malt (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep bronze, very slow legs.

Nose: Dried fruit jump out of the glass at you, cinnamon and cloves with a deep sherry sweetness, wood spices and orange peel under the sweet layer.

Palate: Sweet and syrupy, with sweetness washing over the tongue, sweet and hot spices intertwine with the tiniest hint of salt.

Linger: Light dryness on sides of cheeks plays with a latent sweetness on the tongue. Notes of espresso and chocolate mix with gentle spice.


They nailed it! They really did with this one. While I wasn’t all that enthused with Peat Chimney (reviewed here), this vatted malt is a whole new ball game.

It feels like Aberlour A`bunadh with a touch of Talisker and a western Highlander for the Salt (like Old Pulteney), and the malts work beautifully together. The bottle says that this is a limited edition, and if so, and sherry is your thing, you might want to get a bottle.

Nov 152014

My fascination with vatted malts is something I have written about before, and John Glaser at Compass Box has really taken malt vatting (or malt blending, as it should be officially called) to an art form, combining breakthrough production methods with tenacious talent (which in blending is probably 95% methodical experimentation an patience) and great whisky sourcing to proviede excellent products (some of which have been previously reviewed by me: Oak Cross, Spice Tree, Peat Monster and The General Blend).

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Another thing I like about the Compass Box is the transparency, as you’ll get all the information they can give you (even if sometimes sending you off on a little quest of elimination to figure things out on your own with clues). Here too, you get 40% Clynelish, 40% Allt-a-Bhainne and 20% Caol Ila, with no age statements, but at least the Caol Ila is rather young.

Like all of their whiskies, this one has a story too as Glaser was attempting to recreate Eleuthera, the very first blend he made in 2001 and had to be retired after three years after losing the source of the “other” (non Clynelish) highland whisky which made up the blend. The name is derived from a short story by O Henry published in 1907 about two men, The studious Riley and the morose McQuirk who come to a New York bar to recreate a blend made in Nicaragua to avoid paying tax. That blend, said Riley was “distilled elixir of battle, money and high life” which 30 drops of which would make you feel like you “put on a straw hat with a yellow band around it and go up in a balloon with a pretty girl with $8,000,000 in your pocket all at the same time?”. Sounds like prtetty nifty stuff, huh?

If you want to read the story, you can click here, just don’t forget to come back and read the tasting notes .


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The Compass Box Lost Blend, Limited Edition of 12018 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold with thin and slow forming legs.

Nose: Sweet fruit, light peat, vanilla, honey, light and floral with a freshly baked cookie note. Faint lemons and organges, with something spicy, heavy, waxy and dark lurking under the light notes.

Palate: Very full of body, lemons and some pepper with honey and fresh green fruit.

Linger: Lightly sour on the tongue with citrus-y notes. Pepper dominates the back of the throat with faint smoke down the center of the tongue.


Well crafted, very sensory whisky. The nose and palate work well, and the Clynelish gives it a nice body. This is a great everyday drinking whisky best described as “fun”….

Official Sample Provided by Chris, Compass Box Whisky.