Whisky Odyssey
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Breaking notes!
Strathearn: nostalgia whisky under Douglas Laing wings

The hottest talked-about bottle in recent weeks is the relaunch of Strathearn Highland single malt whisky from Perthshire, by the owners since 2019: Douglas Laing. If the name is still a bit unfamiliar to you, I cannot say that I don’t understand. Under the owners who actually established the small distillery with the little Hoga stills, the brand was not very visible. A few years ago there was a general bottle released (I actually reviewed it here) and quite an amount of private casks were available.

Douglas Laing is known to have a very solid reputation when it comes to releasing excellent whisky to the market, under various labels. They really struck gold when they started releasing the Regional Malts from all the corners of Scotland. I think at this point I have tasted at least one of each now, and must say I am highly impressed how they indeed manage to capture the characteristics of a good Lowland malt, or a Campbeltown mood. In fact, check back in tomorrow, when we dedicate our weekly Campbeltown Wednesday to a bottling of theirs.

Today we break into our normal blog releasing schedule to share our thoughts about the newcomer. So, back to the bottle on the table now. Of course, it is not the inaugural release of this distillery, but the first release clearly stating the name Douglas Laing on it. I guess the word “inaugural” also sends whisky people in a frenzy and creates a lot of buzz. Well, the buzz is justified when we look at the time and energy put into designing the new bottle. It is simply beautiful. But in the end, we are whisky drinkers, aren’t we? So let’s dive in!

Douglas Laing’s Strathearn Inaugural Bottling, bottled at 50 % abv

Makeup: Besides steaming marketing speak on the box (“destined for greatness”) there is also good information to be found. Strathearn is made with Maris Otter malt, an older strain that is not particularly common anymore in the industry, especially by those who prefer high yields. The core business of Strathearn however is not high yields. The fermentation took 144 hours (also way above industry duration standard), the wash slow distilled and the maturation for this batch took place in three types of casks: bourbon, virgin and sherry. Only 32 casks were used.

General impressions: The only thing we do not know, is exactly how long this spirit matured. (EDIT: I am told the whisky matured 6 to 8 eight years, TvE). At first glance, this does not seem to be a very young whisky. The triple variation of casks used makes for a balanced and stable mixture. Fresh highland notes of heather and grass, wet stone and creamy notes from milk fat. Like, milk straight from the source, moo! We are firmly situated in farm country here. More so than with the previous release I tasted, if feels like it is more conscious about what Strathearn is supposed to be. The only thing distracting me are the notes coming from the virgin wood. These so obvious pencil shavings. It is kept down by the bourbon and sherry influences, but it is there.

Next week, I will present you with tasting notes from Eden Mill distillery. That whisky is made in a very similar style. It makes for a nice and fatty mouthfeel. Where the Eden Mill (spoiler alert) is a much cleaner whisky, the Strathearn presents a challenge. It has a lot to offer, on the tongue as an experience, in various spices in the taste, and a gently creamy finish that lingers on as if it still sticks to your temple. Now, the impression is that the whisky is still quite young, but it matters not. The balance that the bourbon and sherry casks bring in sweetness, spice and woody notes is well done. I am not bothered by the virgin oak on sipping this whisky. With water you get a new set of flavours, more towards sour characteristics. I like drinking it even more with a drop or two.

Conclusion: Maris Otter barley, long fermentation, distillation in small stills and cut off based on taste… yes, the new Strathearn makes for a nostalgic drinking experience. If I was Douglas Laing, I would contact all societies doing re-enactments of historic Scottish battles and provide them with this bottle. I love these artisan producers trying to give us something different, not unlike Dornoch Distillery. Looking forward to future releases.

Score: 84 points
Disclaimer: taken from a self-bought bottle.

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