Today a fearsome whisky has arrived at Master of Malt. It’s a blended malt from Douglas Laing, a special ex-bourbon cask 54.9% ABV monster called Timorous Beastie: Meet The Beast.
If you don’t think there’s an art to blending whisky, have a go at it yourself. Mix different whiskies together and you can very quickly end up with something that’s more dog’s dinner than Copper Dog. I know because I’ve done it.
When blends go wrong
Many people involved in the drinks business keep a running blend going made up of samples. There’s now a term for this, infinity bottles, but for most of us, it’s just a way to keep the house tidy. The other choice is either to drink the whole sample, which for buyers who have to taste dozens a day would be dangerous. Or the house begins to fill up with tiny little bottles, and wives, daughters, husbands, parents, or housemates start to complain.
So into the vat they go though obviously we don’t do this with samples of 1977 Brora. Those we drink.
Currently, I have two whisky blends on the go: a Scotch (and Scotch-style) blend, and an Irish. The latter is currently tasting fabulous. Sadly, I ruined the Scotch blend by adding a particular sample of single malt. Tasted neat, it had a very pleasant and distinctive lavender note but it did something unholy when mixed with smoke. It’s a complete disaster. I really need some sweet grain to smooth the whole thing out.
Anyway, all this preamble is just to say that blending whisky is not easy. Blenders not only have to make something delicious and harmonious but do it at a certain price in large batches with an ever changing cast of whisky because no two casks are the same.
Imagine doing it on the scale of Jim Beveridge and team at Johnnie Walker. The mind boggles. Even doing things on a smaller scale, like Douglas Laing does with its blends, requires a superb palate, an eye for details, and access to high quality whisky.
A mighty mouse
This Glasgow-based business has been producing independent bottlings and in-house blends for over 70 years. It was founded by Fred Douglas Laing in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. His son Fred Hamilton Laing joined the business in 1972 and now his daughter Cara Laing has the title of director of whisky while her husband Chris Leggat is the CEO.
The blends are particularly interesting and show a mastery of melding something harmonious out of distinctive single malts. There a smoky island blend called Big Peat, Scallywag a sherry-led Speyside vatting containing Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, and Timorous Beastie, a blended malt made entirely of Highland whiskies from distilleries such as Dalmore, Glen Garioch, Glengoyne and others.
The name is, of course, inspired by Robert Burns’s poem, To a Mouse: “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”. A little in-joke as there’s nothing mouse-like about this mighty dram.
But now there’s an even mightier mouse on the loose about the house. Called Timorous Beastie: Meet the Beast, it’s a limited edition (only 3600 bottles have been filled) matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at a mighty 54.9% ABV.
The result is crammed full of fruit, oak and spice. We’re fortunate to get our hands on a few bottles. Whatever you do, don’t tip it into your infinity bottle. Leave the blending to the masters.
Tasting notes from the Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Red apples, slightly toasted barley, pain au chocolat, walnuts, mahogany.
Palate: Cinnamon and nutmeg, followed by pancakes with maple syrup, spun sugar, anise, and cedar.
Finish: A touch of oaky spice lingers on the finish, balanced by sweet popcorn.
Timorous Beastie: Meet the Beast is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.