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Douglas Laing Acquires Strathearn Distillery

The Glasgow-based independent Scotch whisky firm has announced 100% ownership of Strathearn, a Perthshire micro-distillery
By Christopher Coates
Located close to Methven in Perthshire, Strathearn Distillery first began production in 2013 and was one of the early proponents of the ‘craft’ scene in Scotland, becoming known for its gin, rum, and experimental spirits such as ‘uisge beatha’ aged for short periods in exotic woods such as Mulberry and Chestnut. With a maximum capacity of just 100,000 lpa per annum (actual historic output has been far lower), Strathearn is outfitted with very small wash and spirit stills charged with just 800 litres and 450 litres respectively.

The distillery’s first single malt Scotch whisky, aged three years and one day, was released in August 2016. Bottles were auctioned by Whisky Auctioneer, Perth, with bottle number one selling for £4,150. Further releases followed in September 2017 and, in August 2019, batch one of a new single malt expression was unveiled and made available for sampling at Whisky Fringe in Edinburgh — however, it has yet to receive an official wider release.

The distillery’s founder, Tony Reeman-Clark, exited the business in July 2019, with ownership passing to then director Thomas James Burke, before it was acquired by the family-owned, Glasgow-based Douglas Laing & Co on 23 October. The distillery's existing non-Scotch brands – Dunedin Rum, Strathearn Heather Rose Gin, and Strathearn Scottish Gin – will remain on shelves under ownership of a separate company, The Whisky Garden Ltd, which remains under the control of Mr Burke.

Douglas Laing & Co, a respected blender and independent bottler, was founded in 1948 and is best known for its Exceptional Single Casks (Provenance, Premier Barrel, Old Particular, and Xtra Old Particular) and Remarkable Regional Malts (The Epicurean, Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, Gauldrons, Rock Island, and Big Peat) brands.

In July 2017, the company announced it planned to build its own distillery, named Clutha, on the banks of the River Clyde at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. However, the distillery is just one part of a mixed-used development, which also includes 60 housing units and restaurants, submitted by Drum Property Group, the developer that has prompted large-scale community protest in Edinburgh over its controversial Stead's Place development. The Pacific Quay project, under consideration since August 2018, has not yet received planning approval.

In the face of delays to their Clutha Distillery project, the purchase of Strathearn represents a resoundingly positive development for Douglas Laing & Co. and its next steps toward becoming a fully-fledged distiller of Scotch whisky.

On the acquisition of Strathearn Distillery, Cara Laing, director of whisky, said:

“Today marks a proud and historic landmark for Douglas Laing. For its first seven decades in the wonderful world of Whisky, our family firm has been renowned amongst the finest independent bottlers, celebrated for our Remarkable Regional Malts and Exceptional Single Casks brands. 2019, our 71st year in business, is the year we take a monumental leap, adding ‘distiller’ to our credentials and beginning a new chapter in our journey. A distillery very much in its infancy, Strathearn affords us the opportunity to create an extraordinary brand home for our family business and a global Single Malt brand steeped in our family firm’s history, heritage and passion”.

Chris Leggat, CEO, continued:

“Strathearn is a wonderful addition to our portfolio. The Distillery’s handcrafted and premium approach to Single Malt Scotch Whisky production is entirely aligned with our own values, with no attention to detail spared. The acquisition comes at a time when Douglas Laing & Co is truly thriving. We are particularly proud to report double digit growth for a 5th consecutive year, plus 9 new recruits to our team and several new markets opened recently for our core brands. Douglas Laing’s Strathearn Distillery allows us opportunity to now invest further in our team, whilst becoming masters of our own destiny in terms of Scotch Whisky distillation”.

Branding for Douglas Laing's Strathearn Distillery
Branding for Douglas Laing's Strathearn Distillery