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Blair Athol 1990 (Douglas Laing) Review

“Bell (‘s) Bottom Blues”

Whisky Review # 622

Country: Scotland
Region: South-Eastern Highlands
Brand: Blair Athol (Douglas Laing - Old Malt Cask Series)
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50%
Maturation: Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: Around US$ 100 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😄 Positive. The best Blair Athol I have tasted so far.

Colour: Pale Gold/Chardonnay (Natural Colour)

Nose: Certainly not overwhelming but quite pleasant and well-matured. Malt, Fruit and Vanilla are the main drivers. The Oak and Alcohol are there but they remain nicely in the background. I find Malted Barley, Buttered Toast, Fresh Pastry, Wax, Vanilla, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Salted Nuts, Grass, Dusty Straw, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Pear, Apple, Plums, Pineapple, Cherries, Fresh Herbs, Oak and light Spices like Cinnamon and Ginger.

Visit May 2014

Palate: Sweet, Creamy, Fruity and Spicy wit some Herbal - and Salty notes as well. I find Toasted Barley, Fresh Pastry, Fruit Cake, Honey, Syrup, Vanilla, Oak, Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Banana, Chocolate, Salted Nuts, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Fresh Herbs, light Licorice, light Menthol and Herbal Tea.  

Finish: Middle-Long, Sweet, Creamy and Spicy with Bitter - and Herbal tones in the end. I find Toasted Cereals, Fresh Pastry, Honey, Vanilla, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Salted Nuts, Plums, Milk Chocolate, White Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Licorice, Herbal Tea, Oak and light Menthol.

Visit May 2014

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose the Fruity - and Malty notes seem to develop even further. Palate and Finish become more Spicy and Herbal with developing Menthol and Licorice. You can certainly experiment with a few drops of Water in this case. I liked it both ways.  

Rating: 86.5      

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21.5

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery, the Bottlers and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in Pitlochry (Pertshire) in 1798 by John Stewart and Robert Robertson, initially under the name Aldour. Only in 1825 did it receive its current name. It was mothballed in 1932 and bought by Arthur Bell & Sons, a family owned Blender. Production restarted in 1949 and from then on and until today Blair Athol became the heart of Bell's Blended Whisky. Eventually, the distillery, via take-overs, became part of Diageo. Only very few Single Malts are launched from time to time by Blair Athol so we mostly depend on independent bottlers in this respect.

Douglas Laing & Co is an independent Whisky bottler that was founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing in Glasgow. Today they are mostly known for their Exceptional Single Casks series as well as the Remarkable Regional Malts Series that includes well-known blended Malt whiskies Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, Rock Oyster and Big Peat. In 1999, the company released the Old Malt Cask Series. Their current directors are Fred Hamilton Laing and his daughter Cara. In 2013, Hunter Laing & Co was founded by Stewart Laing, the other son of Fred. The assets of the old Douglas Laing & Co were split up between Fred Hamilton and Stewart. The Old Malt Cask Series went to Hunter Laing & Co.

The Blair Athol 1990 I am tasting today was distilled in August 1990 and was bottled in August 2011. Only 268 bottles were drawn from the cask but you can still find some on the Internet. 

🍷  The Spirit 

Blair Athol currently produces around 2 million litres of Alcohol using two pairs of pear-shaped Stills with Lyne arms that point downwards creating an aromatic Nutty and Malty type of Spirit. The Water is sourced from the Allt Dour Burn. 

🌲  The Wood:

The Spirit matured for 21 Years in an Ex-Bourbon Refill Hogshead with cask # 7561. This cask wasn't extremely active in my opinion but it did give sufficient Aromas and Flavours to the Spirit while maintaining some of the characteristics of the distillery. Good cask management. 
Visit May 2014

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. 


This is the best Blair Athol I have tasted so far. It certainly holds it ground as a Single Malt in this case. Which proves, as so often, that good casks do produce good Whisky. The Blair Athol 1990 by Douglas Laing is not at all heavy but well-balanced, Fruity and Malty with enough Herbal and Spicy notes for balance. A nice Malt to sip on a sunny Summer Afternoon. I know that Bell's is a popular Blend but it kinda hurts to know that almost all Blair Athol Spirit is matured for a short time in indifferent Refill Ex-Bourbon casks to guarantee Malt supply for this Blend. Because Douglas Laing shows here that Blair Athol could be so much more when given the time and a good cask. I understand it from a commercial point of view but it's a pity nevertheless.

Jan van den Ende                                                                         July 6, 2017

Visit May  2014

Timorous Beastie Review

“Modest Mouse”

Country: Scotland 
Region: Western Highlands
Brand: Timorous Beastie (Small Batch)
Bottled by/for: Douglas Laing, Glasgow
Type: Blended Malt Whisky
Age: NAS 
ABV: 46.8%

Colour: White Wine (Natural Colour)

Nose: There were certainly some Refill Ex-Sherry casks used in the maturation of the Malts used for this Blend. I even get a distant hint of Sulphur but it's not strong enough to spoil the Nosing Fun. The Nose reminds me a bit of the Bell's Blended Whisky so it could well be that a reasonable amount of Blair Athol was used for the Timorous Beastie. There's not a lot going on in this Department I'm afraid. I get Sugared Cereals, Toast and Margarine, Heather Honey, Dried Fruits, Berries, Unripe Apple, White Wine, Citrus, Toffee, Caramel, Straw, Refill Oak, a little Pepper and Salt and traces of Nuts and Dusty Leather. It's all a bit Young and Edgy and the Alcohol is not fully integrated.

Palate: Quite Sweet and a bit Thin despite the good ABV. Some Spice and a light Bitterness towards the end. I find Sweet Cereals, Demerara Sugar, light Vanilla, Heather Honey, Syrup, Dried Fruits and Nuts, slightly Sour Green Apples, Oak, Citrus Peel, Chilli Pepper, Salt, Ginger, Cinnamon, light Aniseed, light Licorice and hints of Dairy and Leather. The Alcohol is ever present.  

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet, Herbal and Spicy with Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Toffee, Dried Fruits and Nuts, Sugared Orange Peel, Dried Herbs, Oak, Chilli Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger Ale, Menthol and hints of Aniseed and Licorice.

The Timorous Beastie does not improve with added Water. 

Rating: 81.5

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks: The name of this Blended Malt was inspired by a Mouse that appeared in a poem called "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns. In the poem, the Mouse is a tiny timid creature but in reality, this Blend is supposed to be the opposite. It's part of a series of four called Remarkable Regional Malts that covers the Highlands (Timorous Beastie), Speyside (Scallywag), Islay (Big Peat) and the Islands (Rock Oyster). Timorous Beastie is not Chill-Filtered and contains Single Malt from Glengoyne, Dalmore, Blair Athol, Glen Garioch and possibly other distilleries. It probably matured in a mix of Refill Ex-Bourbon and Refill Ex-Sherry casks. It sells at an average 55 US Dollars (November 2015).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good 

Conclusion: The Timorous Beastie is certainly not a timid Blend. And it does show some Highland characteristics. It's Sweet but the Spices and Herbs make sure there is sufficient balance. On the other hand there's a Young, Edgy and almost "Grainy" feel to this Blend and the Alcohol is very present. These issues prevent me from giving the Timorous Beastie a higher score. The packaging and presentation are nicely done and the Price/Quality ratio is not too bad. But I would advise you to try a sample first before considering buying a full bottle. Better safe than sorry! 

Jan van den Ende                                                             November 16, 2015