The Old Malt Cask range was introduced by Douglas Laing in 1998, but it is now part of the Hunter Laing portfolio. Founded by Frederick Laing in 1948, the independent bottler was inherited by his two sons Steward and Fred, who after over 40 years of working together amicably agreed to split the business into two separate companies in 2013 - whilst Douglas Laing continued trading, Hunter Laing was formed. In essence to provide two different futures for the two different sides of the current Laing family. Sharing many of the brands between them, Old Malt Cask moved to the newly created company, joining Old & Rare, The Sovereign and Hepburns Choice to name but a few.
Today’s review is of an Old Malt Cask bottling produced before Hunter Laing’s time – it’s an 18 year old from Glen Scotia. Like all Old Malt Cask expressions it’s bottled at 50% ABV. This one (DL6058) was drawn from a hogshead (presumably ex-bourbon) and then finished for an unspecified amount of time in sherry. It was released back in 2010 and was one of 222 bottles.
Nose: Gentle and relaxed, but my no means shy. Immediate floor polish and varnish mingle with orange and lemon peels and light toffee for a sharp and sweet opener. Smoke is quite gentle, part charred wood, part mineral. There’s a high level of wood influence here – fir trees, branches, twigs and some freshly cut wood planking. After some resting in the glass, the minerality increases – wet slate, and granite. The addition of a few drops of water releases natural earthiness with some hay, but it also diminishes the polish and varnish.
Taste: Full bodied and quite oily on arrival, offering much more impact compared to the nose. Starting with juicy fruits – light red berries and oranges – nuttiness (walnut) develops in the mid-palate and is supported by high levels of spicing – particularly pepper, but also some salt. Wood influence is again high, somewhat sappy in flavour, but quite drying around the gums. Smoke is present, but not prominent, certainly not in the driving seat. It offers an interesting sharp and steely flavour – sour lemons meeting fired metals. On the back of the palate notes of chocolate and leather. Overall, quite sweet, but fairly tempered by the spice, wood and peat. Dilution brings out the fruitier notes, diminishing the spicing and adding further slates, rocks and granite.
Finish: Medium to long, very peppery and with a good sprinkle of water. Once diluted, the finish is shortened and somewhat less spicy, offering more natural oak flavours.
This Douglas Laing Glen Scotia is solid stuff. Whilst to my taste it didn’t overly benefit from water (and indeed is totally drinkable at 50%), the combination of sweetness and steeliness work well. The sherry cask finish has added in some additional fruitiness and sugars, but not at the expense of the underlying spirit character. Quite spicy and by no means a sherry-forward whisky, this will still appear to those of you looking for a slight twist on Campeltown’s ‘other’ distiller.