Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary Tasting

by Evan

Old Malt Cask turned 20 this year. The brand, owned by Hunter Laing, has an interesting history because it is linked to the history of the Hunter Laing Company itself. In fact – the OMC brand actually predates the birth of the Hunter Laing Company itself as it was originally started by Douglas Laing.

Douglas Laing is an independent bottler that was founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing after he acquired the rights for the King Of Scots Blend. Fred and his wife had two sons. Fred Jr. was born in 1950. Stewart Hunter Laing was born in 1947 or 1948. Both brothers eventually joined their father, working at Douglas Laing. Before that though, they both had apprenticeships at other Scotch Whisky companies, something that seems to be a hallmark of families who make Scotch Whisky their trade.

Fred Douglas Laing passed away in 1984 and it was then up to his sons to run the company.

Old Malt Cask was first introduced in 1999. It separated itself from other indie labels by not typically releasing bottles at cask strength, or watering things down to oblivion at 40 or 43% either. Instead, most OMC bottlings are cut to 50% ABV – in a sweet spot that is approachable but robust and typically less expensive than other single casks around.

Hunter Laing is the result of a split of the Douglas Laing Company and its assets between brothers Fred and Stewart in 2013. Apparently, the had a long history of not getting along with each other. In the dividing on the company, The new Hunter Laing, which was set up by Stewart and joined by his two sons’ Andrew and Scott, retained Old Malt Cask. Douglas Laing continued on with a few less brands, but has created some new labels since, focusing more on the Blends and Blended Malt side of things than Hunter Laing typically does. Fred Laing was joined by his daughter Cara at about the same time as the split. But I digress…

We are here to take a look at those retro-style OMC green bottles with emblazoned with the title in gold foil. There are two other OMC offerings added in, just for fun. Lets see how they all stack up:

THE LINEUP

Mortlach 2007 KWM – 11 Year $11.99 (50mL mini bottles available only)
Our first ever exclusive single cask of Mortlach was bottled for us by Hunter Laing, and it is a steal. Bottled at 50% after 11 years maturing in a Refill Hogshead, Ref: HL14889, it was a steal for just $95! Featured on Day 4 of KWM’s 2018 Whisky Advent Calendar.

Mortlach 2007 – 11 Year $105
We bottled a sister cask to this whisky, it was so popular, that we jumped at the opportunity to grab just under 100 bottles of this Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary bottling. Bottled at 50%, the whisky was filled into a Refill Butt Sherry Butt in 2007, where it matured 11 years. One of 442 bottles released worldwide, exclusive to KWM for Canada.

Mortlach is a very sought after single malt, both by blenders and whisky-lovers alike. The distillery was founded in 1823 and is owned by the alcohol giant Diageo. Known for its 2.81 times distillation process which involves a convoluted use of a number of stills, including one dubbed the Wee Witchie. The reason Mortlach is held in high esteem is its, rich, weighty, and meaty distillate which both blends and ages exceptionally well, especially when sherry casks are involved.

Craigellachie 2006 – 11 Year $115
This 20th Anniversary Old Malt Cask bottling of Craigellachie was distilled in 2006 and aged in a sherry butt Ref #17092 for 12 years. One of 894 bottles.

Probably one of the more understandably mispronounced distillery names, at least by Canadians, is Craigellachie. This is due to the fact that the town named such in British Columbia is pronounced in a much different manner than its Scottish town and distillery counterpart. In Canada, we tend to use ‘latch’ when saying it, whereas the Scots apparently say something closer to ‘smart-alecky’ themselves. I tend to side with the smart alecks myself.

Founded in 1891 and now owned by John Dewar & Sons / Bacardi and known for its prime-number-inspired aged stated releases, (13, 17, 19, 23, 31, etc), the Craigellachie distillery is known for its rich and fragrant malt profile and is used in the White Horse Blend.

Teaninich 1999 – 19 Year $160
One of the Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary releases, distilled in 1999, it was bottled after 19 years in a Refill Hogshead at 50% ABV.

Teaninich Distillery has been around since 1817 and is one of a handful of single malt distilleries in Scotland that can boast about being able to produce more than 10 million litres of alcohol per year. This is made all the more impressive when you consider how unknown it is.

Owned by the behemoth of the Scotch Whisky industry known as Diageo, Teaninich is not a household name when it comes to Single Malt Scotch even though it is the company’s third-largest malt distillery. That is mostly down to the fact that most of its production is set aside for use in blends such as Johnnie Walker, Vat 69 and Haig.

Arran 1997 – 21 Year $235
Exclusive to KWM, this 21-year-old Arran is one of the oldest independent bottlings from this distillery, which only opened in 1995. A 1997 Arran, matured in a Refill Sherry Butt. One of 636 bottles.

Inchgower 1997 – 20 Year $164
One of the 20th Anniversary Old Malt Cask releases, this 1998 Inchgower was matured in a Refill Hogshead and bottled after 20 years at 50%.

Inchgower distillery is owned by Diageo and was founded in 1871. Mostly a staple in Blended Scotch such as Bell’s, it currently has no regular releases on this side of the pond when it comes to official bottlings. You can find the occasional single casks from independent bottlers, such as Hunter Laing with this OMC.

Tamdhu 1998 – 20 Year $175
Exclusive to KWM, just 30 bottles available. Matured in a Refill Hogshead DL Ref HL11956, bottled at 50%. 1998 vintage.

Tamdhu Distillery has been around since 1897. Owned by Ian Macleod Distillers since 2011, it is currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance as the new owners focus on promoting it as a single malt scotch producer with a rich, fruity, and sherry-driven style. Previous owner Edrington Group had neglected the distillery, preferring to focus on its Macallan, Highland Park and Famous Grouse Brands.

Laphroaig 2006 – 12 Year $210
Distilled in 2006 and bottled after 12 years in 2018, this Laphroaig is from Single cask refl #17094. Bottled at 50% ABV, as is typical for the OMC lineup.

Founded in 1815, Laphroaig is one of nine operating distilleries on Islay at the moment. It is one of only a handful of distilleries in Scotland that operates its own malting floor, which produces about 20% of the malt needed for distillation annually.

Single casks of Laphroaig are getting hard to find as Beam Suntory – the owners of the distillery – announced a few years ago that they were no longer selling or trading casks of this sought after Islay Single Malt, preferring to keep them for release themselves. This has pushed up the prices on casks of Laphroaig that are still available through brokers, blenders, and independent bottlers.


This was one hell of a lineup. I am partial to green bottles in whisky tastings, but even given that, the quality of all seven bottles in this tasting was astounding. When it came to taking votes for the favourite, the younger three bottles were left in the dust, but not because they were of lesser quality in my opinion. The other four bottles were just incredible. Here are the top three as voted on by those in attendance:

3. Laphroaig 2006 – 12 Year
2. Teaninich 1999 – 19 Year
1. Arran 1997 – 21 Year

As I mentioned – there were no bad bottles in the group. The Tamdhu and Inchgower are worth checking out as well.

Thank you to everybody that attended the tasting, and thanks to Peasant Cheese for preparing the small bites!

Cheers,
Evan
evan@kensingtonwinemarket.com

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