Douglas Laing launches its first Strathearn single malt

Douglas Laing launches its first Strathearn single malt

Family-owned Glasgow-based independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co took over the Strathearn Distillery, one of Scotland's original craft whisky producers, in 2019 — now, it's time to taste the whisky the team have been making

News | 15 Apr 2024 | By Gavin Smith

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The county of Perthshire has a rich whisky heritage, courtesy of the likes of Glenturret, Aberfeldy, Blair Athol, and Edradour distilleries and blending dynasties such as Bell’s and Dewar’s. Now, one much lower-profile Perthshire name is likely to become deservedly better known as it launches its most significant bottling to date.


The distillery in question is Strathearn, located some 10 miles west of Perth, and the significant bottling is Douglas Laing Strathearn Single Highland Malt Inaugural Release.


For a relatively unexposed whisky-making venture, Strathearn has been around for quite a while, being founded in 2013 as one of Scotland’s first ‘craft’ distilleries. Since 2019, Strathearn has been owned by third-generation Glasgow-based independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co. Managing director Cara Laing explains, “Acquiring Strathern was never part of our plan. It was more like fate.


“We visited not long after it had been established by Tony Reeman-Clark and David Lang and we really liked the ethos of the place — genuinely very small batch, hands-on, with high-strength bottlings. It wasn’t on our radar as an acquisition until mid-2019, when the owner approached us, asking if we’d be interested in buying it. We felt very enthusiastic about what it had to offer.”


One of Douglas Laing’s masterstrokes was taking on Angela Brown as a member of Strathearn’s tiny distilling team. With a brewing background, Angela arrived at Strathearn as a relatively novice whisky maker, but her abundant enthusiasm and passion for the place and its spirit saw her promoted to the role of lead distiller in just nine months.


She also won the Spirits Business’ 2022 Distiller of the Year award after fewer than 500 days in the industry. “Douglas Laing treat Strathearn as ‘my’ distillery, which is great,” she says, “and the team there has been so supportive and so trusting.”


Douglas Laing has also invested significantly in Strathearn, located in an old farm steading. It has made the distillery more efficient and doubled its capacity, with the team aiming to produce 59,000 litres this year.


A new boiler has been installed and an enclosed mash tun has replaced the previous open-topped vessel, while four new stainless steel fermenters take the total to eight. The original pair of distinctive 1,000-litre Hoga stills remain, but a second matching wash still has been added.

Angela Brown, distiller at Strathern. Credit: Douglas Laing & Co

Central to the Strathearn philosophy is the use of Maris Otter malted barley and 144-hour fermentations. Angela explains, “Maris Otter is primarily used in the brewing world. It gives a really nice creamy flavour and it’s the variety used since the distillery was established, but it gives a lower yield than distillers’ malt. The long fermentations make for a very fruity spirit.”


Previously, under the Douglas Laing regime, several single cask bottlings of Strathearn appeared, along with a 2019 release of 2,000 bottles of Batch 001, matured in new European oak and first-fill oloroso sherry casks. In 2022, the Heart new make spirit was launched, with Cara declaring that it to be the best new make she’s ever tasted. “In my previous roles with Whyte & Mackay and Morrison Bowmore Distillers I tried all their new makes. Of those, Glen Garioch was phenomenal, but Strathearn is out on its own. It’s creamy and moreish and we thought we should let consumers sample it. We’re also taking them on a journey, taking them on a Strathearn whisky journey.”


Angela adds, “It’s great for the distillery team as it’s our own work.”


The new Strathearn Inaugural Release contains whisky from six to eight years of age, matured in a mix of ex-bourbon, new oak, and sherry casks. Cara describes it as a “big, wholesome, hearty, robust whisky” with a real depth of flavour, mouthcoating texture, and notes of dried fruit and baking spices.


On the creation of the expression, she says, “We spent lots of time blending it, rather as we do with our series of regional malts. We sat with cask samples and created pilot blends. We built the bottling on our preferred style. Strathearn is genuinely hand crafted. We prioritise flavour over yield — the accountant is not calling the shots!”


In total, 1,700 six-bottle cases of the Inaugural Release will be available globally, using Douglas Laing’s extensive existing sales network. Cara says the company will look to develop a core range from Strathern, but that it will be done on an ongoing, small-batch basis. “The Inaugural Release will herald the core bottling going forward, and age statements, annual releases, and cask finishes are all possibilities for the future.”


Strathearn Single Malt (RRP £85) is available from 15 April at and from specialist retailers in the UK and Europe including Master of Malt and the Whisky Exchange. A launch in Asia and North America will follow in May.




50% ABV, natural colour, non-chill-filtered

Notes by Gavin Smith


Nose: American cream soda, soft caramel, new leather, porridge oats, and spicy orchard fruits.

Palate: Voluptuous, with malt, honey, orange marmalade, sultanas, and chilli heat.

Finish: Relatively long, with dark chocolate, black pepper, liquorice, and lingering dried fruits.

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