Producer: Douglas Laing
Age: No age statement
In 2009, Douglas Laing (an independent bottler from Glasgow) launched the Remarkable Regional Malts range, with the first release of the Big Peat. The concept is to take malt whisky from several distilleries and fuse these into a blended malt that is typical of a certain whisky producing region. Examples include Scallywag for Speyside and Timorous Beastie for the Highlands, but perhaps the best known example is the Big Peat from Islay. The Epicurean is the latest addition to the range, representing the Lowlands, and was launched in 2016.
The Remarkable Regional Malts are not blends in the traditional sense, as no grain whisky is used in their production. Instead, they are what would have previously been called a vatted malt, until the Scotch Whisky Association changed the rules in 2011. Although the Lowlands produce more whisky than any other region in Scotland, only a handful of malt distilleries remain. The vast majority of output comes from large, industrial grain distilleries, which form the heart of the blending industry that’s based in the Lowlands. Perhaps then it is only fitting to try to capture the true spirit of the Lowlands in a blend. Many of Douglas Laing’s whiskies have been nothing short of exceptional, so I’m very curious to see what The Epicurean has in store.
Colour: Extremely pale, like a Sauvignon blanc.
Nose: Light and grassy, as you’d expect from a Lowland whisky. Reminiscent of a freshly mowed lawn strewn with autumn leaves. Scents of butter and cream cheese give way to a pungent citric character. There is also a rather alcoholic quality to the nose, which does not integrate well with the delicate character of the other aromas.
Palate: Sweet and prickly, with notes of crushed almond and confectioners’ sugar. These are replaced by drier impressions of hay, herbs and breakfast cereal. Towards the finish, honeyed barley suffuses with new make spirit to create some rough edges. The silky smoothness so typical of Lowland whiskies is missing somewhat, and I question the wisdom of bottling The Epicurean at a higher alcohol percentage.
Finish: What this finish delivers in length and warmth, it lacks in flavour. The grassy profile returns, this time with a splash of lemon, but a rich bouquet of varied tastes never opens up.
Verdict: I really like the concept of the Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts range, and I have nothing particularly against blends. Unfortunately, much like the Big Peat, The Epicurean is simply not greater than the sum of its parts. For my money, I’d rather buy any of the Lowland single malts, which provide more character and more finesse than The Epicurean. A delicate whisky does not need to be dull, but here unfortunately it is. A bit of a misfire from Douglas Laing, but this won’t stop me from trying their other whiskies in the future.