Timorous Beastie’s older brother was released by Douglas Laing towards the end of 2016. The blended components hail from Blair Athol, Dalmore, Glengoyne and Glen Garioch (which I believe is the same constituents as both the NAS and 18 year old versions) and are delivered at a high strength of 54.7% ABV. Big numbers on whisky bottles always tends to open eyes, and with an RRP of £200 you can probably guess how quickly this bottle sold out - much faster than the 8mph average speed of a house mouse.
Bucking my trend for being 5 minutes too late to the party, I was one of the lucky ones to score a bottle of this well-priced older Remarkable Regional Malt. With only 1080 bottles produced for this limited edition, many found their way unto auction sites (where prices started at nearly 50% above RRP, but have of late, levelled off to somewhere between a premium of +10 to 30% plus fees), and equally many are probably still stashed in the growing number of bottle libraries - gathering dust, pretty to look at, but never to be opened. We're all different, and it's your bottle so you're free to do with it as you wish - but I'll freely admit to never really understanding the hoarding mentality. I look on it the same way as I view my in-laws impossibly large collection of salt and pepper shakers - bemused at the wasted utility.
Mine was never destined for either fate – I shared my Beastie with my besties this weekend past.
Nose: Youth in old age. Pronounced, stone fruits (peach and apricot) mix it up with plenty of antique oak. The result is fruity and spry whilst simultaneously conjuring up an image of a wood panelled sitting room with leather armchairs and stacked of dusty books. Aromas of gooey honey and beeswax candles bind both the garden-fresh fruits and austere old wood together into a cohesive whole. Deeper, meadow florals lift whilst kitchen bakery sweetens – wild roses, lupines, cinnamon buns, apple turnovers and vanilla cream puffs. Gentle cask spices waft throughout – cinnamon and almond. The addition of water transforms the fruits into a slightly more tropical composition – tinned in their own juice. It also emphasises home baking – digestive biscuits and pancake batter.
Taste: An full and viscous arrival with plenty of oily weight. Honey leads off, syrupy, sweet and slightly monofloral. Fruits follow – more citrus now – tangerines, orange blossom, apples. Both are very sweet, verging on saccharine. They start juicy and ripe, but quickly develop a sour characteristic. With 40 years of age under its belt, wood is never too far behind – highly polished with adhesive lacquer and a touch of epoxy. The mid-palate favours oaty breakfast cereals, almonds and plenty of cask spice – vanilla pods, ginger and cinnamon – these are pronounced, prickly and with some initial bitter bite. Reduced, sourness, bitterness and sweetness are taken down a notch, giving room for the fruits to become more developed and integrated – juicy, tinned, syrupy. Arguably more balanced unless you have a real thing for sour gummy sweets.
Finish: Long, with dusty spices, dry tight grained wood and hints of varnish.
Timorous Beastie 40 year old has both power and depth – a far cry away from the shy and retiring mouse of its namesake. There’s a wonderful combination of supple vibrancy and rigid history here – the fruits are lively, whilst the wood influence is pronounced, but far from tannic. But, perhaps what pleases me the most about this whisky is that Douglas Laing has delivered it at 54.7% ABV. Both sugars and spice are similarly high impact and this might prove, in its undiluted form, to be too sweet, sour or bitter for some (indeed, the sweetness is right on the edge for me) – but with such a high ABV to play with, there’ll be a balancing point for all palates. When you find this equilibrium you’ll be treated to a refined and elegant whisky packed full of flavour and depth that stands as a real testament to quality cask selection and blending.