Day six brings us another change in style. In the past two days we went from Kentucky Bourbon to Single Cask Single Malt Scotch. Now, we enter the territory of Blended Malt Scotch with The Epicurean.
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 Hamilton Laing 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 Hamilton Laing’s first apprenticeship was at Whyte and Mackay starting in 1968, where he learned all parts of whisky production and business, including the art of blending. From there he moved to White Horse Distillers in 1969 to further enhance his blending knowledge. In 1972 he officially joined his Father, Fred Sr., at the family business of Douglas Laing. In 1982, Fred Jr’s daughter Cara was born.
Fred Sr., AKA Fred Douglas Laing, passed away in 1984 and it was then up to his sons to run the company.
Fred Jr. and Stewart, for some reason, are famous for not getting along. It could be familial, it could be ideological, perhaps it was Fred Jr’s curious choices made in the care and feeding of his mustache. Who knows. Probably a mixture of all three. They managed to run the company together for nearly 20 years after their father’s passing, but in 2013 the amicably split the company in two and went their separate ways.
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 of the company, The new Hunter Laing, which was set up by Stewart and joined by his two sons’ Andrew and Scott, retained the Old Malt Cask brand. Hunter Laing has since built it’s first distillery – Ardnahoe – which resides on Islay on the road towards Bunnahabhain Distillery.
Douglas Laing continued on, operating under Fred Jr’s stewardship to this day. They have 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 and her husband Chris Leggat at about the same time as the split.
The Douglas Laing company announced the acquisition its first distillery very recently, on October 24th of 2019. The Strathearn Distillery, founded in 2013, is located near Methven in Perthshire. Technically located in the Southern Highlands, it is near the lowlands region and about an hour and a half drive from Douglas Laing’s headquarters in Glasgow. Douglas Lain has ongoing plans to build another distiller within Glasgow along the River Clyde. It will be called the Clutha Distillery.
With his knowledge in blending and the brand King of Scots still in hand, Fred Douglas Jr. and Douglas Laing have kept a focus on Blends, introducing an entire line of regional blended malts over the past decade. The company has dubbed this lineup The Remarkable Regional Malts. Today’s bottle is one of the labels in this line.
First introduced in 2016, The Epicurean is a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky that focuses on the Lowlands both style-wise and for the component malts used. The Epicurean is a reference to the character on the bottle itself, which looks like some sort of amalgamated caricature of Rich Uncle Pennybags from the Monopoly board game, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from The Great Gatsby, and Fred Laing Jr and his carefully managed mustache itself.
According to Douglas Laing, this is what this character and the whisky are meant to exhibit:
Meet The Epicurean – our 1930s Glasgow man, a real cheeky character who was ever the life and soul of the party and a connoisseur of fine food and drink. A master of versatility, this fresh, zesty, grassy marriage of the finest Lowland malts is perfect for cocktail hour or simply for sipping.
Now it is up to us to determine whether that is all just fanciful writing on a nearly SMWS-ian scale or actually has merit. We shall do this by cracking open that mini and tasting it!
A Lowland Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, bottled at 46.2%. Presumably a marriage of Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie.
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Lemongrass and fruit cup syrup right up front, with the entire melange of cubed up delicacies just waiting to be forked. Bits of peach, pear, bisected grapes and grapefruit slices all in evidence along with the pointless bulk/filler go-tos for all fruit salads – cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
Palate: A touch of something herbaceous up front before that gives way to a dash pickled ginger and the the fruit salad makes itself known once more. The flavours of the cantaloupe and honeydew melon are still in there with the rest, but luckily their mealy and starchy texture is not.
Finish: Rich, round and creamy. The ginger note sticks around along with the fruit creating a soft and sweet tingle at the end.
Comments: Delicious and dangerously easy drinking stuff. This is not one dimensional, but it isn’t the most complex whisky in the world either. Whatever you want to deem it, I think it is jaunty and fun, just like that weirdo with the top hat and waxed mustache on the front of the label. Has anybody seen his monocle? It is his most prized possession, you see. He would hate to lose it after working so hard to win it off his second cousin in a rousing game of croquet. Watch where you step my good man, lest you accidentally crush it beneath your brutish size 11 sole!
It is great to see other companies join Compass Box in purposefully creating flavour-forward and quality-driven blends. It might even be worth exploring some of the other bottles in The Remarkable Regional Malts portfolio… The Big Peat Christmas 2019 Edition looks especially enticing!
See you on Day number seven tomorrow!
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