Independent Bottlers Douglas Laing & Co. caught my attention when I tried Big Peat Christmas Edition back in January and was pleasantly surprised by just how skillfully they captured the peaty spirit of Islay in a blended malt. I’ve since learned that Big Peat is now part of a series of blended malts, dubbed “Remarkable Regional Malts.” Currently, this series includes (In addition to Big Peat), Scallywag, a Speyside blend, Rock Oyster, an Island blend, and Timorous Beastie, a Highland blend.
After enjoying Big Peat, I decided to check out the others in the series by snagging samples from Master of Malt’s Drinks By the Dram. I’ll be honest, Timorous Beastie initially appealed to me for it’s adorable name and cute mouse logo (I mean, just look at that guy!), but I’m pleased to say that the whisky inside is darn good stuff!
The whisky takes its unusual name from a line in the Robert Burns poem To a Mouse, but one whiff or taste of this whisky will quickly reaffirm that there’s at least a bit of sarcasm in that moniker. In fact, this is a bold, unabashed malt! Usually, I think “peaty” when I think of powerful whiskies, but this one packs a punch with lots of intense aromas and flavors, without so much as a drop of peat. It’s also incredibly complex and intriguing. with an absolute ton going on in the glass.
Like all of Laing’s Regional Malts, Timorous Beastie is uncolored and non-chill filtered, and I really appreciate the natural presentation, which lets the complex character of the spirit shine through. This is easily a whisky I could come back to again and again, probably finding new elements each time. Even better, it’s quite reasonably priced, at less than $46 on Master of Malt. With my little sample drained, I think I’ll be reordering a full bottle very soon.
Strength: 46.8% ABV. It may not be cask strength, but there’s plenty of flavor to be found in here regardless.
Nose: Powerful! The first impression is extremely sweet and full-bodied, with overripe berries (strawberries and blackberries), peaches, vanilla caramel, roasted grapes, honey, and pickled ginger. It’s a little overwhelming at first whiff, but I kept going back for more. A few drops of water dials back the sweetness a bit, and although the berries remain, more ginger, some tropical fruits (mango and papaya) and honeydew melon emerge, along with a hint of white balsamic vinegar.
Taste: Woah, it’s not at all what I expected from the nose! It’s just as intense as the aroma promised, but not nearly as sweet on the arrival as I thought it would be. I get lots of darkly toasted wheat bread, astringent toasted oak, espresso, extremely dark bittersweet cocoa. A bit of crystallized ginger floats in the middle, with bitter notes of chocolate and coffee returning for a long, surprisingly dry finish. With a few drops of water, it gets a bit “juicier” and less astringent, with green apples and more candied ginger and a dose of cinnamon. It also gains a spicy edge, with cinnamon red hot candies and black peppercorns, as well as a touch of cayenne hitting the tongue and then fading into a mild vanilla sweetness. The coffee and chocolate finish remains, but with some ginger and cinnamon heat mingled in with the baseline bitterness.
With every sip, I found something new and unexpected, making for a very enjoyable, if rather demanding experience. I was quite disappointed when my glass was suddenly empty, and I’m looking forward to a future visit with this not-so-mild-mannered mouse.
Question of the Day: Have you tried any of Laing’s regional blends? Which is your favorite?