With their Remarkable Regional Malts series, the team at Douglas Laing have now produced a premium blended malt whisky range for each of the 6 traditional whisky producing regions of Scotland:
- Campbeltown – The Gauldrons
- Islay – Big Peat
- The Highlands – Timorous Beastie
- The Islands – Rock Oyster
- The Lowlands – The Epicurean
- Speyside – Scallywag
As you can see, each region is represented by a rather unique name and with each comes its own brand, packaging and distinct identity. Each of the series is characterised by a no-age-statement release, which acts as the flagship exponent of their respective region’s traditional flavour profiles and characteristics (see our first experiences with them here). Within each range there have then been special or limited releases of blends from within the particular region, which build on those flavour profiles, which include small batch and minimum age statement releases.
As the title suggests, the focus of this article is to look at their Highland blended malt whiskies within the Timorous Beastie range, which get their name and associated branding from Robert Burns‘ poem To A Mouse (included at the bottom of this post).
Whilst the exact quantities and contents are not published per release, Douglas Laing state that these regional malts include whiskies from such Highlands distilleries as Dalmore, Glen Garioch and Glengoyne, so you know that there should be quality ingredients within these blends.
Being a Triple Tipple article, we have therefore put together the individual tasting notes for 3 of the whiskies within this range and have then performed a compare and contrast exercise. All three of the whiskies (and indeed all entrants into the Remarkable Regional Malts canon) have been bottled at (the very exact) 46.8% ABV.
Nose There’s a distinct lemon freshness at first whiff. Lots of fruits in there actually – juicy oranges and those little dried papaya pieces from fancy muesli. Beyond the fruit then it is back to the original ingredients and influences with a good amount of white oak and quite a bit of grist.
Taste An instant sherbet tingle in the mouth. That lemon flavour is refreshing and there is a nice and light floral note to it now too. Just really light in body. There’s a little bit of fire from the booze to keep it interesting and let the alcohol’s presence be known. That gristy note really shows itself towards the end of the taste too with a good bit of malt to it too.
Finish Pretty quick, fresh and zingy. Like a lemon-based dessert or limoncello finish. The whiskies’ barrels leave a nice little spice behind – it kinda has a pastry feel to it too.
Verdict I could drink a lot of this. It is light, fresh, fruity and all of the flavours just seem to keep developing. The sweetness makes it quite a more-ish dram too, with a gentle lip smack finish that just invites another sip. What I find quite surprising about this whisky is that, despite it being a blend of an unknown number of Highland malts, the tastes of the original malted barley still remain present amongst the numerous barrel influences. The alcohol percentage strikes a good balance between delivering a healthy punch, without compromising the delicate flavours from the grains and barrels.
Timorous Beastie 10 Years Old
Nose Wow. This has a very, very light and sweet smell to it. It reminds me of Danish pastry and creamy vanilla (a quick search online informs me that it is “crème pâtissière”) – combined together I guess they are just like the breakfast pastry with the custard in the middle. Very little alcohol tingle to it.
Taste There’s quite a bit of tingle and oak spice coming through here that the nose didn’t really let on. Still got quite a creamy taste to it which cancels that oak spice note out.
Finish Slightly oily texture and the creamy taste makes for an ice cream type sensation as it coats the throat on the way down but all of the time that oak spice really lingers too.
Verdict Well this is a very nice little sipper. The barrel makes more and more of an appearance as you drink it. Almost all of the tasting notes here remind of some form of dessert or pudding. That vanilla note throughout is complemented by the soft texture and is almost like the aftertaste of a vanilla ice cream. It is very easy going and would go very well after a meal – not to say that it needs to be served with some sort of food as it is very good in it s own right, and it needn’t be just the one measure that you’re pouring yourself!.
Timorous Beastie 18 Years Old
Nose There’s a good, strong smell of pastry and cinnamon at play, followed by quite a dense smell of oak. Once that subsides there’s a light vanilla and sticky sweetness that lingers.
Taste As soon as this hits the lips there’s a good old thwack of oak spice amongst the vanilla sweetness. Amongst the sweetness there is a little bit of orange fruitiness to it, but the oak is certainly king here.
Finish Quite a bit of barrel forms this whisky’s backbone, delivering a strong and lingering peppery spice. Again, there’s a good amount of sweetness to this whisky once the barrel takes a side step out of the limelight towards the end – and quite a pure white sugary sweetness at that.
Verdict Now it may just be my palate playing up, but I find it a bit strange that it is quite a strong tasting whisky but has left me with very few distinct tasting notes. That is not to say however, that it was not an enjoyable whisky, and it seems to me that this dram is not about being complex and delivering reams and reams of notes but in fact it is about demonstrating those good, simple, original ingredients and the benefit of plenty of time in a barrel to display that oak influence.
Nose Despite each of these three whiskies having the same alcohol percentage, there is quite a diverse series of sensations at play between them, with the 10yo nose proving to be the lightest and the 18yo thickest, heaviest and booziest. Whether or not it is the distinctive traditional flavour profile of the Highlands whiskies, each of these 3 have a distinct smell of vanilla and pastry throughout – I guess that make them breakfast whiskies? There’s a distinct custard-based pastry flavour within the 10yo and then a cinnamon-based pastry in the 18yo, and they are all very fresh with the standard bottling sitting right in the middle with the benefit of both.
Taste The 18yo has quite a thick texture and the flavours seemed to take longer to come out and reveal themselves. The predominant flavour when in the mouth is vanilla throughout. The 10yo is by far the sweetest of the 3 (like custard) whilst the 18yo is the stronger tasting via its longer exposure to the barrel, the delicate vanilla flavour is still there, and again, the standard TB sits comfortably in the middle of the two age statement releases. What I found particularly notable was that despite the 18yo being (presumably) the oldest whisky, and therefore its components having spent the longest amount of time within the barrel, it also delivered the biggest hit of barley, having that original ingredient at the heart of it. Interestingly, the standard release had the more fruity elements on display compared to aged siblings.
Finish All 3 drams have the same features that punctuate the journey from the nose, taste and finish, which demonstrate a balance between sweet and spicy finishes. The discerning factor seems to then be the age of the barrel, whereby the longer the exposure to the barrels seems to further spice up the initial sugary sensations.
Verdict These whiskies have been so interesting to try side by side. Given the similarities between the whiskies, I guess that those lighter flavours, and the vanilla profile in particular, are the characteristics that Douglas Laing were aiming for when they compiled the Timorous Beastie blend and brand. Given the differences between the 3 however, it does beg the question as to whether or not Douglas Laing simply name these whiskies by theme/region and then work on a target recipe? The vanilla is present in all 3, and the pastry flavour is there too (which is a fairly unique tasting note and certainly not one that I thought would continue throughout the range). When it then comes to expanding the range and releasing new expressions, do the Douglas Laing team have a profile that they build on, or is it simply determined by the casks available from the those regions? Particularly so, when there have previously been runs of a 21 year old expression and even a 40 year old expression of the blended Highland malt expression – particularly when the ‘Highlands’ region does have the largest geographical coverage of all! Given the fact that they do not reveal all of their resources, I’d be keen to know just how much Dalmore, Glengoyne, and Glen Garioch feature within the whiskies, and which other whiskies make it into the mix. Questions aside, all of the 3 whiskies tried here are all very drinkable and very balanced, with no single element overpowering the other, and all ending with a nice little, lip smack that leaves you wanting more. On the day, I preferred the 10yo expression to the others, purely for its delicate flavours and easy sipping nature, but with the standard release’s extra fruity flavours bringing it into a close second. The 18yo’s stronger barrel-infused spice did work well with and complemented the delicate flavours, and whilst delicious, just trailed behind the ease of the others, but, overall, best demonstrated the range’s name, because whilst gentle and timorous, still managed to pack a beastie-like punch of flavours.
Sample disclosure: The samples used to create this feature were sent directly to Whisky Unplugged by Douglas Laing & Co in response to a previous article posted by us, looking at a compare and contrast of their regular and cask strength releases of the Remarkable Regional Malts’ Speyside brand Scallywag (click here). All notes above are honest and unbiased reviews of the whiskies, and we wish to thank Douglas Laing & Co for the opportunity.
To A Mouse by Robert Burns
Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave ‘S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!