Thursday, July 4, 2019

Review - Scarabus

The Scarabus is a new Islay single malt that has been recently released by the family owned independent bottling company and distiller of Hunter Laing & Co. The new whisky, which is an old Nordic word for 'rocky place', was initially previewed at the company's Ardnahoe distillery on Islay during the Feis Ile 2019 in May. The whisky, which comes from an un-named Islay distillery, is bottled at 46% ABV. Scarabus is available to buy and sample at the Ardnahoe visitor centre shop and selected specialist whisky retailers worldwide. A bottle will cost around £33.

Hunter Laing & Co. was founded in 2013 by Stewart Laing, who has been working in the whisky industry for 55 years. This was mostly in his father Frederick's independent bottling and blending business, which he started in 1949 and which Stewart joined in 1964. Hunter Laing also has a third generation of Laings in the form of Stewart's sons, Andrew and Scott, and brands include single cask bottlings under the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare Platinum amongst others.

"We are extremely proud of the Scarabus whisky and the Feis Ile Festival was the perfect place to release the first bottling. We aimed to produce an expression that showcases a traditional Islay whisky style."
Stewart Laing - Managing Director at Hunter Laing & Co.

Our tasting notes
The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose is packed with classic Islay whisky aromas - earthy and sweet peat smoke, bonfire ash, dried seaweed and coal tar soap. Underneath are further aromas of vanilla, honey and toasted oak with a hint of baking spices (think of cinnamon and all-spice especially) and white pepper.

On the palate this whisky has an immediate vibrancy and it is the sweet peat smoke that hits first. This has a warming and slightly feisty edge with a distinct peppery, almost green chilli, note prominent. This note is complimented by some lovely honey and vanilla characteristics, along with hints od golden syrup and dried apple. The smoke evolves to be more savoury with time - the dried seaweed and ash from the nose overtake the sweetness to give this impression. Late notes of warming wood spices, malted biscuits, something reminiscent of chamois leather and dried cigar leaf add pleasant depth, complexity and interest.

The finish is long and balanced. The sweet peat smoke lingers longest and turns slightly drier and ashy with time, before that green chilli reappears at the very end. The sweet honey and vanilla notes also last well.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely new whisky from Hunter Laing & Co. They have delivered everything that you would expect from an Islay whisky and at a very good price. £33 a bottle seems a steal to be honest.

Scarabus is clearly on the young side, which also helps to keep the price down, but has plenty of balance and complexity. This is an impressive single malt and a bit of a bargain given the quality. If you like smoky/peaty whiskies then you should definitely search this one out.

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