The first (official) single malt Scotch whisky release from a new distillery is always an exciting moment. Especially as in this case when it’s the first foray into distilling from Douglas Laing, the famous Glasgow-based independent bottlers.

It comes from Strathearn which vies for the crown of smallest whisky distillery in Scotland. The stills (made by Hoga in Spain) are tiny, a 1000 litre wash still and a 500 litre spirit still. Just for comparison, Highland Park has a 12,000 litre spirit still. The distillery was founded by Tony Reeman-Clark in 2013 and is located in Methven, near Crieff in Highland Perthshire, within a cluster of repurposed farm buildings. 

Cara Laing Douglas Laing

Cara Laing, Douglas Laing’s director of whisky

The Strathearn story

In 2019 Strathearn was acquired by Douglas Laing which whisky fans will know from their excellent range of single malts and blends such as Big Peat and Scallywag. The family firm was founded in 1948 but this is its first foray into distilling. The distillery has released some gin, rum, new make and a couple of distillery-only single malts bottlings. But this is the first that is widely available. 

Director of whisky Cara Laing commented: “This moment has been a long time coming, and one that we are extremely proud to share with the world. As the third generation at the helm of Douglas Laing, I am proud to be leading this move into this exciting new venture of distilling.”

Everything is on a human scale at Strathearn. As Laing explained: “Our Strathearn distillery team makes a barrel of spirit per shift or, simply speaking, a barrel a day. This may be a drop in the ocean compared to some distilleries, but for Strathearn, it’s a proudly hand-crafted drop that embodies the spirit of the distillery”. 

Cask at Strathearn Distillery

Tasting Strathearn single malt

They use only Maris Otter barley and fermentation times are long, 144 hours, whereas some distilleries have it over and done with in two days. This means there’s a lot of flavour for the distillers to work with. We’ve mentioned the tiny stills already. Maturation for this release took place in a selection of 32 bourbon, sherry, and virgin oak casks, combining older spirit inherited with the acquisition of the distillery, and a portion of younger spirit distilled under the new ownership, overseen by lead distiller Angela Brown. This is a non-age statement release bottled at a nice healthy 50% ABV.

Laing commented: “Strathearn is the epitome of quality over quantity. It is a part of our family history, but rest assured this is only the beginning for Douglas Laing Distilling.”

I was given a little sample to taste and the first things that jumps out of glass are Hobnob – there’s oat, toasted barley and lots and lots of honey. Seeing as Hobnobs are my favourite biscuits, I knew I was going to like this. The palate is sweet and smooth with that cereal note leading with citrus and stone fruits, and a little orange peel. The sweetness is beautifully balanced by the 50% ABV. It’s a very nice whisky, accessible but with depth, and no raw spirit. There’s no age statement but it doesn’t taste young.

Stock is extremely limited. We think this is likely to sell out very quickly. Do let us know what you think if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle. 

Strathearn Single Malt Scotch whisky is available from Master of Malt. Click on links for prices and to buy. 

Douglas Laing Strathearn RS 3

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Rich aromas of malted barley with cinnamon, stone fruit and spicy oak.

Palate: Honey and buttercream with baking spices, fresh peaches, dried apricots and oaty biscuits. 

Finish: Long finish, toasty and sweet.