Big Peat 33 | 47.2% ABV | Bottled 2019

I seem to keep coming across Douglas Laing’s blends. I don’t mind though, they usually are a masterclass in blending. Big Peat is their Islay version of a regional malt, usually being made up of Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen. There’s nothing wrong with the regular release, but I was blown away with the 26 year old expression I tasted last year at the Ghent International Whisky Festival. When I saw they were releasing a 33 year old variant, I had to get my hands, nose and palate on it. This one was finished in ex-cognac and sherry casks, it’s interesting, but at the same time I’m wondering if it was really necessary to finish a whisky this age…

Colour: Gold

Nose: It’s called Big Peat so I suppose it’s no surprise to find peat here. It’s not a sharp, focused peat but rather round and mature. The age is already showing here. There’s some menthol, but otherwise we’re dealing with quite a sweet nose with elements of raisins, red grapes and prunes. I was rather sceptical about finishing a 33 year old whisky, but it seems to have worked.

Palate: Very well rounded and integrated, yet it still comes across as heavy and robust, in the best possible way. Quite salty, sweet tar and some of the fruits from the nose. Just like the nose, I find the cognac casks have imparted more influence than the sherry casks. That’s a good thing though, because of the somewhat unusual casks, we also get an interesting concoction of flavour.

Finish: A nice and long finish with lingering smoke. A touch of lavender, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s a decent amount of Bowmore in here. At the very tail end, there’s a little coffee bean to reduce the sweet notes on your palate, preparing it for the next sip.

Beautiful combination of mature peat, sweet fruits and the interplay between them. Thank you Carl for the sample.

90/100

Douglas Laing Scallywag Chocolate Edition #2 | 48% ABV | Bottled 2019

The Scallywag has been the Speyside representative in Douglas Laing’s “Remarkable Regional Malts” series. While I haven’t yet had a chance to taste the core version, I did get myself a bottle of the Chocolate Edition. It’s made up of both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, with a higher percentage of the former.

It was bottled for World Chocolate Day 2019 and is limited to 500 bottles. It’s vintage 2009, so about 10 years old.

Colour: Amber

Nose: Quite a bit going on in the nose here. Orange zest and cherry liqueur. Sultana’s. I’m also getting a fruit jam sweetness, makes me think there could be some PX in here. Dark chocolate (of course) and some light bourbony notes like honey keep it from being a bit dull and dusty.

Palate: The chocolate takes the main stage here, with both milk and dark chocolate coating the palate. Also some aniseeds and coffee beans.

Finish: Quite a long finish with the chocolate sticking to the taste buds, a hint of sweetness is there as well.

It does what it says on the bottle, and I’m happy for it. Excellent blend for it’s price!

87/100

Rock Island

Douglas Laing’s blends, namely the Remarkable Regional Malts, seem to be working out for them quite well. These blends are composed of whisky from one specific region, Islay’s Big Peat being the most well known.

After introducing the Rock Oyster in 2015, Douglas Laing has now renamed their Island region blend to Rock Island. Currently the line consists of a NAS and 10 year old version, with a limited 21 year old being released as well. These blends all contain whisky from this isles of Arran, Jura, Orkney and Islay.

Rock Island | 46.8% ABV | Bottled 2019

Colour: White wine.

Nose: A very coastal feel. A salty seabreeze, fresh fish being brought into the harbour. There’s some earthy peatsmoke too but it’s quite gentle. Some hints of lemon. Also there’s a creamy and flowery note which I often find in Arran whisky.

Palate: Quite an oily mouthfeel. It’s salty but not overly so. A slight pepper and some hints of seafood coming through.

Finish: Short to medium long finish. Oily but drying towards the end because of the salty notes. The lemons return from the nose and the smoke gently lingers.

Great start. The nose and palate are quite consistent and it does give that maritime feeling it’s designed to deliver.

83/100

Rock Island 10 | 46% ABV | Bottled 2019

Colour: White wine.

Nose: It’s just like the NAS version but everything is more pronounced and driven. The peat comes through a bit more here. There’s still that maritime feel with the salt, but there’s a sweeter side as well. Pineapple, vanilla and some soft honey. The creamy note is still present too.

Palate: Again, Douglas Laing managed to have a great continuation between the nose and palate. Something other whisky sometimes struggle with. Quite a gentle arrival with some peppercorn. Then the earthy smoke comes in along with notes of pineapple and vanilla.

Finish: Medium long finish with the smoke lingering and a touch of ham.

Nice blend. A good balance between approachable and engaging.

86/100

Rock Island 21| 46.8% ABV | Bottled 2019

Colour: Gold.

Nose: We get a much more pronounced peat here. Quite earthy again with also notes of moss, hay and grass. There’s some ginger too. The seafood comes out more, mussels and clams. There’s also a hint of dust, showing the age of the components. With time there’s some more creamy vanilla notes.

Palate: Earthy peatsmoke engulfs the palate. It’s quite an engaging experience because of it. There’s lemons and dark honey too. Also a nice flowery note (think Arran, not 80’s Bowmore).

Finish: The smoke remains and turns salty. Langoustines. A long finish with a drying mouthfeel.

Excellent stuff. I love how the quality of the whisky noticeably improves as we go towards the older/more expensive stuff. That’s not always the case these days.

88/100