Douglas Dragons at Dark

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Whether the headline confused you or grabbed your attention, we have to share the news of Douglas Laing’s interesting line-up of Year of the Dragon whiskies in their Old Particular range, which we were able to sample at Dark, one of our favourite hidden bars!

Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range of whiskies is renowned among whisky enthusiasts for its fine quality and diverse selection. Produced by the independent Scotch whisky bottler Douglas Laing & Co., the Old Particular series is noted for its distinctive character, intriguing flavour profiles, and limited-edition releases. Each whisky in the Old Particular range is carefully selected by Douglas Laing’s team of experts, who handpick casks from various distilleries across Scotland. These single cask expressions are bottled at natural cask strength, without chill filtration or added colouring, allowing the true essence of the whisky to shine through.

One of the defining features of the Old Particular range is its emphasis on showcasing the individual characteristics of each whisky and its distillery. Whether the bottle showcases a single malt or a single grain whisky, each expression offers a unique tasting experience, reflecting the influence of the cask, distillation process, and maturation period.

The Old Particular range encompasses a wide variety of whiskies, including those from well-known distilleries as well as hidden gems that may not be as widely recognised. This diversity appeals to whisky enthusiasts seeking both familiar favourites and adventurous new discoveries. Of course, personal preference plays a large role when it comes to single-cask whiskies, even more so than usual with standard whiskies. Whereas a ‘regular’ single malt Scotch whisky will include the married output from many casks at a single distillery, allowing the master blender to achieve a consistent and sought-after profile, a single cask leaves little to the experts beyond tasting it and saying, “Yep, the time is right to bottle this one.” Depending on the size of the cask and the amount of liquid inside (as whisky evaporates over time – the ‘angel’s share’), the outturn from a single cask can be as much as 450-550 bottles for a bigger cask down to less than 100 bottles in some instances, making them ‘particularly’ prized (pun slightly intended).

With that in mind, we recently attended a tasting event at Dark TTDI, featuring Douglas Laing’s Old Particular 2024 Elemental Dragon series, all courtesy of @dark.ttdi and @hrzbeverages. This range of Old Particular whiskies was crafted to celebrate the Year of the Dragon with each of the various elements represented by a different distillery. Two of the whiskies are single grains, while three are single malts, and all are high-ABV (alcohol by volume) cask-strength bottlings. Let’s explore!

 

EARTH DRAGON
PORT DUNDAS 2004 (19 years old)
(Single Grain, 53% ABV)

Douglas Laing Old Particular – Earth Dragon | Port Dundas

The nose presents slightly brazen, spicy aromas, characteristic of a single grain whisky, with some grassy undertones. On the palate, it was initially on the dry side, with a creamy midpalate, finishing with a slight funkiness and more of those sort of grassy notes. While decent, this one for us fell slightly short of our admittedly lofty expectations. As mentioned, because of their inherent unique character, single cask whiskies are always going to be extra prone to individual subjective opinion.

 

WOOD DRAGON
GIRVAN 2008 (15 years old)
(Single Grain, 59.4% ABV)

Douglas Laing Old Particular – Wood Dragon | Girvan

This single grain got us to really sit up and take notice! Its nose offers cereal and yeast notes, accompanied by toffee, stewed fruits, and plenty of brown sugar. The palate impresses with immediate toffee sweetness that carried through to the midpalate and finish, along with raisins and more cereal notes. A delightful single grain, with a powerful yet smooth ABV.

 

GOLD DRAGON
BENRINNES 2011 (12 years old)
(Single Malt, 59.8% ABV)

Douglas Laing Old Particular – Gold Dragon | Benrinnes

As the first sherry-matured malt of the evening, this whisky immediately showcases prominent sherry notes on the nose, exuding a fruity and pleasant aroma. Despite its soaring ABV, the palate offers a sweet lightness initially, followed by a spicy fruity note very characteristic of sherry-matured whiskies, culminating in the full-bodied richness of dry and rich fruitiness. The finish is long-lasting, offering baking spices and a nuanced, lingering sweetness.

 

FIRE DRAGON
ROYAL BRACKLA 2008 (15 years old)
(Single Malt, 53% ABV)

Douglas Laing Old Particular – Fire Dragon | Royal Brackla

This single malt is not only bottled on its own by the distillery, but is one of the core components of older expressions of Dewar’s, such as the 25 year old. Typical bright toffee and caramel bourbon notes dominate the nose. On the palate, fiery and spicy notes take centre stage, with a hint of almost vegetal grassiness (or perhaps hay), resulting in a bold whisky experience that got our attention, but felt a little one-dimensional. This is a fairly brash whisky – perhaps needed a couple of more years in the cask – and while flavourful, delivers a rather punchy, almost fiery sensation on the palate and throat during the finish… living up to its ‘Fire Dragon’ designation!

 

WATER DRAGON
DAILUAINE 2008 (14 years old)
(Single Malt, 57.2% ABV)

Douglas Laing Old Particular – Water Dragon | Dailuaine

Another sherry-forward offering, this sumptuous whisky stands out as the most approachable of the selection, and overall, we’d say it took its place as our favourite of the three single malts. The nose reveals baking spices and dried figs and berries, while the palate surprises with its sweeter-than-expected profile, complemented by sweet and spicy notes and again, those hints of dried fruits.

 

 

Beautiful artwork graces every bottle

 

So while there wasn’t always consensus for every whisky among our table of several experienced whisky tasters – no surprise there – overall, the Wood and the Water emerged as standouts. The Wood Dragon, a Girvan single grain, was a toffee bomb that just really soared on the nose and the palate, while the Water Dragon, a Dailuaine single malt, brought a balanced, sherry-aged approach to the fore, with everything expected, and plenty of it.

Special thanks to the chaps at Douglas Laing and to the team at Dark. We felt that this tasting presented an engaging range of whiskies, and it’s always a treat visiting Dark, one of the nicest ‘hidden bars’ around! The comparison between the two single grains highlighted the diverse nature of grain whiskies, while each of the three malts offered a unique expression representative of its distillery.

 

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