Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Malaysia

Douglas Laing & Co. – Celebrating 75 Years

Douglas Laing & Co. – Celebrating 75 Years, Malaysia

Words: Han Sen Hau
Photos: Monica Tindall & Supplied

The journey to understanding how exclusive Douglas Laing is begins with an invitation to a private dinner and whisky-tasting event at Sabayon–you’d have to dress well for this. Its name is almost synonymous with independent Scotch bottlers (and now, distillers), so if you’re among the presence of whisky connoisseurs and in desperate need to throw a name just to remain au courant, Douglas Laing would definitely earn you some audible “oohs” and “aahs”.

Douglas Laing & Co. Tasting at Sabayon EQ Hotel KL
Douglas Laing & Co. Tasting at Sabayon EQ Hotel KL

Established in 1948 and having been proud blenders and bottlers since its inception, the brand finally added distiller to its titles in 2019 after acquiring the small yet mighty Strathearn Distillery in the Scottish Highlands. A shared love for whisky within the family has ensured the continued success of the company and its growing influence, especially in the Asia Pacific region under the leadership of Fred Laing Jr. Now, his daughter and third-generation family member Cara Laing leads the charge in taking the brand to heights unknown, arriving in Malaysia to enthral a lucky few with a taste of the Strathearn’s inaugural release along with the brand’s exceedingly exclusive “Diamond Collection”.

Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Malaysia
Cara Laing – Douglas Laing & Co.

75 Years of Douglas Laing & Co.

Upon arrival, we were buffeted by an impressively dressed cast and an equally impressive selection of whiskies by the brand, such as the aforementioned “Diamond Collection” single cask releases glistening within glass displays, beckoning the occasional snapshot as if they were the Crown Jewels. Also scattered throughout the 51st floor of EQ were the brand’s more familiar offerings, such as their accessible Remarkable Regional Malts (some of which were even distinctively brandished to appeal to a Malaysian audience) and mid-range Old Particulars. The first things to kiss our lips that evening were a trio of cocktails made with blended malts under the former range paired with incredibly addictive canapés from Sabayon’s kitchen.

We are not ashamed to reveal that we were stuffing our faces silly with the restaurant’s potato pavés.

Small Bites
Small Bites – Douglas Laing & Co. Dinner at EQ

Starting Easy with Cocktails

The first concoction was a Highball made with The Epicurean as its base and mixed with ginger ale, resulting in a sweet and bright palate bursting with floral and citrusy notes, though I would have preferred to savour this neat as the ginger ale often interfered with the more subtle flavours of the Lowland malt.

Moving up in intensity was an Old Fashioned fashioned from the Timorous Beastie, which has now become a personal favourite of yours truly, and a surprising one at that as this writer has never been a fan of an Old Fashioned. On the nose, there are layers of vanilla ice cream hiding under the obligatory spritz of citrus, and its treacly sweet entry, which may divide whisky lovers, was bursting with autumnal flavours that lingered until the end with a pecan pie finish. The dram was smooth, delightfully complex, and highly memorable.

Wrapping up the trio was a punchy Paloma assembled with the peaty Rock Island. While not as smoky as its strapping sibling Big Peat (as we discovered later), Rock Island enticed with a nose full of bacon and, interestingly, the sea. Its salty palate made it a wonderful pair to the Paloma’s tequila, and this thalassic powerhouse would serve as a robust prelude to the highlights of the evening …

A Range of Whisky from Douglas Laing
A Range of Whisky from Douglas Laing & Co.

Dining with Diamonds

It wouldn’t be dinner at Sabayon without a dinner by Sabayon, and we’re incredibly thankful for the opportunity to savour a medley of rare single-cask Scotch whiskies against a backdrop of glorious entrées from the kitchen.

Kicking off the list is a marriage of an Xtra Old Particular (“XOP”) and a blended Scallywag. Aged for 35 years and at 46.2% ABV, you can smell the sherry immediately, accompanied by hints of chocolate. The whisky flourished with an exquisite clarity for its age. Its palate was reminiscent of fruit cake bursting with black forest berries, coating the tongue with a velvety decadence that just left us licking the insides of our cheeks. I also thoroughly enjoyed the caramel and sweet barley finish, which complemented the lightly salted sourdough bread and seaweed butter served at the same time.

Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Malaysia
Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection

The subsequent 35-year-old XOP Macallan was a crowd favourite, with many clamouring for seconds. No surprise there as this bottle was also the most expensive, listed at £4,583.33 online and with only 334 bottles ever produced from a single cask. All eyes were drawn to the rich, amber-coloured eddies that seemed to reflect gold in the glass, and many were captivated by the redolent bouquet almost as thick as cologne. Flashes of crêpe Suzette dart by with every sip, ending with a spicy finish that only served to electrify the Kodawari Egg appetiser paired with this. Even more fascinatingly, the Macallan had a “sticky” palate evocative of dates, and it was almost impossible to part the lips from the glass before realising we needed a top-up.

Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Malaysia
Douglas Laing XOP – Celebrating 75 Years
Kodawari Egg
Kodawari Egg

As the follow-up to the Macallan, the 10-year-old commemorative Big Peat had a lot to prove and, boy, did it do so with ease. Like a jealous suitor, Big Peat made us momentarily forget our tryst with Macallan with a strong whiff of charred oak and peat, accompanied by a maritime palate that amplified the Japanese poached oysters on the table. Even Scott MacDonald, Global Sales Director for Douglas Laing & Co., had to caution us that this special edition was not for the faint of heart. We agree that it was most suitable for highly experienced whisky drinkers and collectors.

Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Malaysia
Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Tasting Malaysia

To give you an idea of how powerful Big Peat was, the turbot and wagyu mains served as palate cleansers for everyone before we moved on to the final dram of the quartet: the debuting Strathearn. Described as the gentler sibling to Big Peat, the Strathearn retained a slightly peaty palate but a wholesome malt finish. Honey, dried fruits, and cookie dough form a rich and pleasing palate tinged with just a hint of peaty smokiness, making the Strathearn the gateway dram to peaty whiskies and the perfect glass to end with confectionery. Eye-raisingly refined for its age, the Strathearn lived up to its maker’s focus on flavour over alcohol yield (though it’s worth noting that this had the highest ABV of the lot at 50%), and we are excited to find out how the distillery’s team will move forward with more matured offerings in the future.

Strathearn Whisky Kuala Lumpur
Strathearn Whisky Kuala Lumpur
Chocolate Dessert
Douglas Laing & Co. Dinner – Chocolate Dessert

Douglas Laing & Co. – Final Thoughts

The story of Douglas Laing & Co. is one of sheer ingenuity and perseverance in the face of intense competition, especially in a region where the whisky industry has blown up to the point where the common drinker could probably only name a couple of labels just because someone opened a bottle at a club somewhere (the ironic phenomenon of being overwhelmed by choice). Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the legacy the brand is keen on building, one that is only fuelled and defined by excessive hedonism.

Just watch one of their tasting videos, and you’ll immediately get a sense of how every sip feels like a celebration, a milestone, a little “hip hip hooray!” from the home that the Laing family is excited to share with the rest of the world. Even the flavour notes on all of their whiskies read more like a recipe for a Christmas fruit cake, exuding a certain homely charm that whispers thatched cottages and cast-iron hearths, warming you up in the coldest of winters.

A little hard to imagine that in tropical Malaysia, but you see my point.

Now fully capable of distilling its own spirit, Douglas Laing & Co. has finally broken free of the constraints of being just an “independent bottler”, and we’re keen to see how the brand will continue to grow and find its place among older, established giants.

Truly, from small acorns, great oaks grow.

Douglas Laing & Co. Diamond Collection Malaysia
Douglas Laing & Co.

Find more fine libations in Malaysia here, and stay updated with the latest gourmet and travel recommendations with The Yum List on Facebook here and The Yum List on Instagram here. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.