Douglas Laing’s The Epicurean

Douglas Laing Epicurean 01Distillery: Blend
Region: Lowland
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.2%

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.

Douglas Laing Epicurean 02

Glenkinchie Distillers Edition

Glenkinchie Distiller's Edition ReviewDistillery: Glenkinchie
Region: Lowland
Age: Distilled in 2000, bottled in 2013
abv: 43%

Glenkinchie is one of only a handful of distilleries in the Lowlands. Situated just 15 miles from Edinburgh, it is a popular day trip for tourists wishing to visit a Scottish distillery. Part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range, Glenkinchie embodies the ‘typical’ Lowlands character of gentle, grassy whiskies. As with the other Classic Malts, Glenkinchie produces a Distillers Edition; a whisky that has received an extra maturation. For Glenkinchie, Amontillado sherry casks were chosen, giving the whisky a dry, fruity character. This version was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2013, meaning it is likely a few months older than Glenkinchie’s standard expression.

Colour: Honey

Nose: Dry. Raisins and citrus have the upper hand, but notes of heather and vanilla also shine through.

Palate: Gentle malt flavours open up into honeyed cereal. The initial sweetness is replaced by a drier, nuttier character, while the sherry influences add some much-needed complexity.

Finish: Short and delicate. The citric notes briefly make a comeback, then give way to a more vegetative nature. The aftertaste is faintly reminiscent of a hay barn.

Verdict: While Lowland whiskies tend to lack some depth, Glenkinchie Distillers Edition masks this nicely through the extra sherry maturation. This additional layer of complexity adds some elegance to an otherwise insipid dram. The result is an ultra- delicate whisky that stimulates the senses in a very different way. A good pick for those who prefer softer, smoother whiskies.

Glenkinchie Distiller's Edition Review