Although I met Douglas Laing’s Global Brand Ambassador Jan Beckers quite a few times in the last years, I never got to attend one of his tastings. So when I saw that he would not only man the booth of the company’s German importer Bremer Spirituosen Contor at this year’s Hanse Spirit, but also host an event called “Douglas Laing’s Best Bottlings” on Friday evening, I did not have to think twice about which master class to book. A good decision, as it turned out, because seeing Jan in action with all his enthusiasm, knowledge, wit and experience from two decades in the industry was really something!
The first of the four whiskies he had prepared for his guests was the recently released 10-year-old edition of Douglas Laing’s lovable Highlands brand Timorous Beastie. Fresh and frisky in the nose and on the tongue, I found it to be quite a bit fruitier than its no-age-statement sibling. Besides good doses of vanilla and barley, green fruits like apples, pears and gooseberries were all over the place. According to Jan, this wonderful fruitiness derives from the fact that Glengoyne is the dominant whisky in the recipe, which – by the way – does also include some whiskies from undisclosed distilleries that are not part of the regular Beastie mixture.
To make us a bit more familiar with the whisky at the heart of Timorous Beastie 10yo, Jan then treated us to a 20-year-old Glengoyne from the Old Particular series. Bottled at 45 per cent ABV and drawn from a single refill hogshead, no more than 237 bottles of this precious pour (which is exclusively available on the German market) exist. In regard to its character, it was surprisingly light and fresh for a distillate that spent two full decades in the cask. But it also had a very full and creamy feel to it. The most prominent aromas and flavors included lemon peel, sugar crystals, vanilla pods and rich fruits. Or, as Jan put it, Dr. Oetker pudding with fruit salad on top.
While the Old Particular series shows the beautiful effect that many years of maturation can have on a whisky, the Provenance range proves that young whiskies can be just as good as old ones. We tried a 10 years old Speysider by Glentauchers next, which originated from a single sherry butt that got filled into 441 bottles in May of last year. It opened with notes of ripe banana coated with molten milk chocolate. Later, manifold spices followed and created a lush and grant mouth feel. If you are looking for a sherry-matured Scotch that is niftily accentuated rather than completely blanketed by the cask, you might want to give this wonderful ‘Tauchers a try!
We ended the tasting, during which Jan also gave us a ton of first-hand insight into the history, philosophy, vision and soul of the company he works for, on a peaty note… but not with a Big Peat expression! Instead, we savored a dram of Rock Oyster Sherry Edition. Although I had this sturdy whisky many times before, its immense smokiness always surprises me anew. Towards the end of Jan’s masterclass I finally learned the secret of this in-your-face Island malt’s fuliginuous oomph: At the core of its mixture lies a heavily peated, fully sherry-matured whisky from Islay!
Timorous Beastie 10yo (Blended Malt / 10yo / Highlands / Small batch / 46.8% / 36 Euro)
Glengoyne 20yo Old Particular (Single Malt / 20yo / Highlands / 237 bottles / 45% / 135 Euro)
Glentauchers 10yo Provenance (Single Malt / 20yo / Speyside / 441 bottles / 46% / 45 Euro)
Rock Oyster Sherry Edition (Blended Malt / NAS / Islands / Small batch / 46.8% / 45 Euro)