Douglas Laing

Fred Douglas Laing entered into the whisky business after WWII with some American army friends who owned the King of Scots blended whisky brand. Laing, who had previously worked in shipping and logistics on the Glasgow docks before joining the RAF, organised the bottling and export distribution of...

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Fred Douglas Laing entered into the whisky business after WWII with some American army friends who owned the King of Scots blended whisky brand. Laing, who had previously worked in shipping and logistics on the Glasgow docks before joining the RAF, organised the bottling and export distribution of the brand. A short time later, when stocks for the blend ran low, Laing bought the King of Scots brand from his partners and set himself up in Glasgow as a whisky blender.

The Douglas Laing Co. was incorporated in March 1950, although subsidiary Douglas McGibbon & Co was established in 1947.  Curiously, the company’s 60th anniversary bottlings have the dates as 1949-2009, although only a couple of years earlier the date of establishment on their website had been changed from 1950 to 1948. Douglas Laing's 70th anniversary was celebrated in 2018.

What’s certain is that Fred Laing Sr quickly built up a successful portfolio of proprietary blends, which by the 1970s included House of Peers, McGibbon’s, John Player Special and the Douglas blend as well as the flagship King of Scots. Key trading partnerships were established early on with Duty Free Shopping which gave the company significant penetration into Asian markets, where the McGibbon’s blend golf-themed ceramic decanters became a hit in the 1970s and 1980s.

Early in the firm’s life, Laing had established a widespread cask filling programme, securing deals with many distilleries to provide ongoing stock for his blend recipes. One of the key malts for King of Scots was Port Ellen, and before the distillery was closed in 1983 Laing purchased a very large number of casks to safeguard supply for his recipe. This turned out to be a highly providential move.

Fred Laing Sr died in 1984, leaving the company to his two sons, Stewart Laing and Fred Laing Jr. Having joined the family business after serving apprenticeships at other whisky companies the brothers were well-placed to develop the company further. By 1990 the McGibbon’s golf decanters were so successful that Douglas Laing was bestowed the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement.

In the late 1990s, however, with the eastern markets sagging and demand for single malt whisky embarking on a dramatic upswing, the company decided to expand their portfolio with a range of single malts. The Old Malt Cask range, bottled at a standard strength of 50% without chill-filtration, was launched in 1998 and was an immediate hit. The range utilised the star casks from the extensive stocks built up by Fred Laing Sr’s filling programme, with some early handshake deals from the 1950s and ‘60s still in place. 

The success of Old Malt Cask led quickly to further ranges, with the introduction in 2000 of the Provenance series of budget single malts under the company’s Douglas McGibbon subsidiary, and the super-premium Old & Rare Platinum series arriving the following year. Many of the greatest single malts bottled this century have appeared under the Old Malt Cask or Old & Rare Platinum labels, with legendary drams from Ardbeg, Brora and Port Ellen in particular.

In 2009 Douglas Laing introduced Big Peat, a blended Islay malt that famously includes some Port Ellen in the mix. A further cask strength prestige range called Douglas Laing Directors Cut followed in 2011.

In 2013, however, Fred and Stewart Laing divided Douglas Laing’s assets and parted company. Stewart Laing and his sons set up a new business, Hunter Laing, for the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare brands. More can be read about these ranges on our Hunter Laing page.

Following the split, Fred Laing retained the Douglas Laing company and the Directors Cut, McGibbon’s, King of Scots, Big Peat, Double Barrel, Premier Barrel and Clan Denny brands. At the same time Fred Laing's daughter Cara Laing and her husband Chris Leggatt joined the business from Morrison Bowmore. Leggatt is now the company’s CEO with Cara Laing the Director of Whisky and Fred Laing as Chairman. The company’s main ranges are now as follows.

Old Particular and Extra Old Particular (XOP)

A replacement was needed for the Old Malt Cask series, so the Old Particular range was introduced in 2013 and now serves as the main vehicle for the company’s bottlings. A prestige line, Douglas Laing’s Extra Old Particular (XOP), was introduced in 2014 to replace the Old & Rare Platinum series retained by Hunter Laing. Rather than keep the traditional 50% strength from Old Malt Cask, the Old Particular bottlings are released at 48.4% (the old 85 proof), 51.5% (90 proof) or at cask strength. Extra Old Particular bottlings are all bottled at cask strength.

Provenance Range

The McGibbon’s Provenance range was initially bottled at 43% with a few cask strength exceptions, but around 2003 the standard strength was upped to 46%. A large number of Port Ellen casks were bottled under this label, usually as small batches.  McGibbon’s Provenance was rebranded as Douglas Laing’s Provenance in 2015 and is now a series for younger single malts, with the vast majority of bottlings under 12 years old.

Private Stock

A high-prestige range of single malts and single grains aimed at connoisseurs, Douglas Laing’s Private Stock was introduced in 2018. Bottlings are relatively rare and tend to be long-aged and high strength although a 25 year old blend at 40% was also released.

Remarkable Regional Malts

Building on the success of Big Peat’s less formal packaging, Douglas Laing have gradually introduced a series of quirkily-branded regional blended malts including The Epicurean (Lowland), Timorous Beastie (Highland), The Scallywag (Speyside), Rock Island (Islands) and The Gauldrons (Campbeltown).

Miscellaneous Releases: there have been a handful of bottlings of some minor labels including Double Barrel, a series of blended malts from just two distilleries; and Single-Minded, another new label introduced in 2013 but now seemingly dormant. Clan Denny is a McGibbon's label bottling single malt, blended malt and single grain whisky. Premier Barrel bottles young single malts in ceramic flasks. Douglas Laing Directors Cut was phased out as it was superseded by the company’s new ranges.

Clutha and Strathearn

In 2017 Douglas Laing announced their intention to build a distillery at Pacific Quay in central Glasgow on the south bank of the river Clyde. The distillery, later named Clutha (the Gaelic word for Clyde) has yet to open at the time of writing (2021). In 2019 Douglas Laing further extended their distilling ambitions with the purchase of the Strathearn distillery in the southern highlands, which had been established in 2013. The first Douglas Laing bottling of Strathearn single malt appeared soon afterwards.

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