Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New release - 'Scallywag' by Douglas Laing

The Scallywag is a new whisky that was launched in late 2013 by Douglas Laing & Co.  It is a vatted malt that is made in very small batches and only using Speyside single malts. Amongst those malts named are Glenrothes, Macallan and Mortlach, although more have been used. It is bottled at 46% ABV and is non-chill filtered and of natural colour. The Scallywag is available through specialist whisky retailers and should cost around the £40 mark.

Douglas Laing and Co. are a Glasgow based company that was founded by Frederick Douglas Laing in 1948. They are one of Scotland's largest independent bottlers. Until recently the company was run by Frederick's two sons, Fred and Stewart. Earlier this year the brothers decided to go their separate ways with Fred continuing with Douglas Laing and Stewart starting a new company called Hunter Laing. Douglas Laing release a number of ranges of single malt and single grain whiskies, as well as the highly popular Big Peat blended malt and the King of Scots blend.

The packaging has been inspired by the long line of Fox Terriers that have been owned by the Laing family. Sadly the most recent of these, named Binks, died just as the whisky was being launched.  The breed is known for being sweet and affectionate yet mischievous. The fun nature of the brand and packaging follows a similar line to the Scallywag's stablemate vatted malt of Big Peat, which sees the popular bearded character adorning the bottle and all manner of other related merchandise.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose has an instant rich and sweet aroma to it.  The initial aromas are of toffee, butterscotch and plump dried fruits (think of sultanas and raisins especially).  These remain prominent throughout, but slowly begin to allow other aromas through - malty cereals, dried apple, vanilla, cinnamon bark, orange bitters, earthy ginger root and the faintest whiff of peat smoke.

On the palate this feels soft, viscous and sugary.  It follows a similar route to the nose with the sweet notes are all present at the beginning - think of the toffee, butterscotch and sultanas again - and continue strongly throughout.  Beneath these notes are distinct malty cereals and these have a bittersweet edge.  There are also plenty of crumbly brown sugar, green apple, candied orange peel and cinnamon notes.  The cinnamon in particular adds depth and a pleasant dryness.  Late hints of ginger and a soft cigar-like smoke add further complexity, as does some even later vanilla.

The finish is reasonably long and again begins with the rich, sweet and dried fruit elements to the fore.  These slowly fade to leave the spicy and woody notes, that linger in the mouth and give a lovely drying quality.

What's the verdict?
The Scallywag is a lovely whisky and Douglas Laing have done very well with it.  However, it is very sweet and rich so may not appeal to all tastes.  This richness and sweetness mean that this whisky would be great as an after dinner drink or used creatively in a cocktail, where it would stand out from the other ingredients.

We like what Douglas Laing are doing here.  They are creating good whiskies, but ones that have a sense of fun and character to them.  They now have two such whiskies and they seem to be getting new consumers interested in whisky.  Our recent competition to win a bottle of Scallywag was evidence of this and saw us get our biggest ever response to a competition.  95% of the entries were from new readers and whisky newbies.  If Scallywag is anywhere near as successful as Big Peat, we won't be surprised to see other similar whiskies by Douglas Laing in the future ...

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