Douglas of Drumlanrig is a collection of single cask whiskies from independent bottler Hunter Laing. The bottlings are named after Drumlanrig Castle (more of an imposing stately home than what most people would think of as a castle) which is situated in the Dumfries and Galloway town of Thornhill. They are all allegedly personally approved by the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury – it’s a hard job, but apparently someone has got to do it. Douglas of Drumlanrig expressions were originally exclusive to The Whisky Shop, but now you’ll see a wider variety of outlets stocking the single cask bottlings periodically.
Most Douglas of Drumlanrig whiskies are bottled at 46% ABV – but occasionally something a little punchier comes along. Today’s Laphroaig is one such example, being bottled at 56.8% having been matured in a refill sherry butt (LD11444) for 13 years. It was produced for the 2015 Feis Ile festival as an exclusive for Loch Fyne Whiskies.
Nose: Sweet meets peat. Sticky toffee pudding, baked apples and some slices of ginger are greeted by coastal peat – sharp, a touch salty, but not overly medicinal. The smoke is quite ashy and herbal – burning grass and hay with dried leaves and damp mosses. A few drops of dilution adds briny, stagnant water and hints of surface cleaner.
Taste: Oily, mouthcoating and moving closer to the hospital ward now. Charred wood, iodine, sharp citrus and smoked fish, rock pools and a kick of TCP – then, the sherry cask influence comes to the fore with stewed berries, chocolate, leathery touches and liquorice. In the back palate, earthiness arrives – burning soils, chalk and minerality. Water softened all the flavours, but to my palate did not provide any discernible enhancement.
Finish: Quite long and delivering a combination of coastal and herbal smoke with a scattering of berries and a final sprinkle of salt.
This Laphroaig has taken just enough of the sherry maturation to complement its underlying Islay flavour, without becoming too saccharine. Despite the high ABV of 56.8% I preferred this without the addition of water, which I found dampened the inherent well-defined fruit and smoke flavours. Less medicinal than some bottlings of a similar age, but exceedingly well-balanced and very tasty too.