Digital Dramming #4

Another Southport Whisky Club Lockdown session this time with Hunter Laing; held on the 14th May 2020 and hosted by Andrew Laing

A rather varied 6 dram line-up awaits. . .

For those who are new to Hunter Laing; they’re an independent bottler and distiller who were formed in 2013 by Stewart Laing and his sons Andrew and Scott; after Stewart and his brother Fred decided to part ways and take their respective whisky careers along different paths.
There’s quite a baffling array of Hunter Laing brands to work through and explore, including :

– Old Malt Cask. Acquired after the ‘original’ Douglas Laing company was divided by the brothers in 2013 and bottled at 50%
– Old and Rare. The ‘fancy’ end of the spectrum of the single malt bottlings from Hunter Laing; that come in a plush guinea pig coffin; and are usually over 25 years in age
-The First Editions. Single cask offerings that are presented at ‘Ralfy optimums’ of cask strength, no colour and non-chill filtered
-Hepburn’s Choice. Single cask again but generally younger than the First Editions, this time at 46% and named after a long since departed relative of the firms director
-Distiller’s Art. These are again, single cask and are for “showcasing the character of a region, or of a distillery”, this time at 48%
-The Sovereign. Well aged grain whisky between 25 and 50 years of age and presented at cask strength from a single cask
-Ardnahoe. The 9th distillery on Islay, developed with the help of Islay whisky legend Jim McEwan and founded in 2018

Not to mention Kill Devil Rum, several blended malt whisky brands and Scarabus mystery Islay single malt.

It’s therefore fair to say there’s alot going on at Hunter Laing; I think I’d struggle to keep up with what’s what if I had to remember all those brands! However; I don’t! And if the whisky is good then who am I to judge!?

Onto the drams of the evening. . .

No. 1
Tormore 7 year old Hepburn’s Choice 46% abv
A Speysider that’s rarely seen as a single malt from Pernod-Ricard as much of it ends up going into Chivas blends; it’s also my first experience with it. I’ve got to share this fabulous description of it with you from an old distillery guide book I found from the 1970’s . . .

It looks more the sort of salubrious edifice in which the ancient Romans might have taken their baths.”

John Wilson – Scotland’s Distilleries. 1975

So this 7 year old is from a refill bourbon hogshead and was our starter for the evening
Nose: Beeswax, pear and that really flowery garden smell
Palate: Little bit of spice from the wood, pear note from the nose is in there somewhere too
Finish: More wood, but this time with an oily texture sticking with it
A nice dram from a distillery that’s new to me; certainly interested to try more from them to see if that waxy nose note comes through to the palate with a few more years in the cask.

The ‘salubrious edifice’ that Mr Wilson refers to in his guidebook. . .

No. 2
Craigellachie 9yo Hepburn’s Choice 46% abv
This one was matured in a refill hogshead and is another Speyside distillery
Nose: Vegetables. Leafy vegetables like a veg patch in your garden; prickly spirit note too
Palate: Oaty syrup like a flapjack! But also flapjack sat on a bike tyre; there’s definitely a rubbery taste in there
Finish: Surprisingly dry considering how ‘gooey’ the palate was
Totally different side to Speyside whisky on show here.

No. 3
Croftengea 12yo Old Malt Cask 50% abv
So this is heavily peated single malt from the incredibly versatile distillery that is Loch Lomond; from distant memory of the virtual session I think Andrew said it’s pronounced ‘Croft-en-Gay’.
Nose: A musty old wooden shed, charcoal
Palate: Fresh pineapple, a soap-like note, like a bar of soap not that gel stuff. Little bit of peat smoke
Finish: A clean smoky-ness from the peat that lingers for a while
Nothing wrong with it, it’s nice enough but I felt it was stuck in a no mans land of not quite peaty enough but also with not quite enough cask influence either.

Port Dundas 29yo Sovereign 52.3%
An old grain whisky from what was once the biggest distillery in Scotland now long gone. This was matured in a refill hogshead
Nose: What I’ve come to know as the familiar nose from old grains; vanilla fudge and well aged dark rum, dark chocolate
Palate: Dark chocolate topped millionaires shortbread with a zip of toned down citrus fruit
Finish: Lovely and thick coating of the tongue, sweet and warming fruit and chocolate loveliness
No surprise here that I’ve enjoyed an older grain whisky.

No. 5
Blair Athol 24yo First Editions 55%
A well-aged sherry cask Blair Athol; it’s gotta be good right? I actually bought a bottle of the 23 year old version of this the year before
Nose: Still surprisingly tight; which I’ve found with a couple different indy Blair Athol releases. A bit of water is required to loosen things up. Just a few drops and now bitter chocolate and raisins and musty old book shelves
Palate: A warming good nip from the abv! The drops of water let it loosen up with some time in the glass too. This is a whisky to take your time with. Then you get your chocolate orange and malted milk biscuits and a good kick of wood spice
Finish: Comfortingly warm, citric, bitter and leathery
A cracking Blair Athol dram.

No. 6
Tullibardine 29yo Old & Rare
Presented in the fanciest Guinea Pig coffin that money can buy
Nose: Nail varnish; acetone; wood stain
Palate: Aniseed and fennel seeds; wood polish
Finish: More aniseed and fennel; but doesnt hang around for long
If you like aniseed you’ll love this; but I’m really not a fan of that flavour!

In conclusion. . .
I’m going to have to try some more Tormore, Hunter Laing do some great whisky (but have oh so many names for them all!) and unsurprisingly; I don’t like whisky that has an aniseed vibe going on.
Stand out dram for me was the Blair Athol; it made me work to get the best out of it; but it was definitely worth the patience. Twenty minutes of letting it breathe and experimenting with water isn’t much on top of the 24 years waiting for it to mature is it?!

Massive thanks again to Southport Whisky Club, Hunter Laing and of course Andrew Laing for hosting. Another great virtual session complete, onto the next!

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