Hunter Laing

Hunter Laing was established in 2013 as an independent bottler of Scotch whisky when founder Stewart Laing left the family business Douglas Laing Co. after almost fifty years. Laing founded the Hunter Laing business with his two sons Scott and Andrew after the split, in...

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Hunter Laing was established in 2013 as an independent bottler of Scotch whisky when founder Stewart Laing left the family business Douglas Laing Co. after almost fifty years. Laing founded the Hunter Laing business with his two sons Scott and Andrew after the split, in which he and his brother Fred Laing Jr divided the Douglas Laing company’s assets.

Hunter Laing took over the Old Malt Cask and Old and Rare Platinum Selection single malt whisky ranges from Douglas Laing, as well as merging with Andrew and Scott’s previously established Edition Spirits company. Hunter Laing also retained the Douglas Laing House of Peers blended whisky and has since introduced several new proprietary whisky brands and different ranges of single malts and blended whiskies, arranged as follows.

Old Malt Cask

The Old Malt Cask range was first created by Douglas Laing back in 1998 as their flagship range of single cask bottlings and the core principles of the range have remained unchanged. All OMC bottlings are single cask releases and are bottled at 50% abv unless the natural cask strength has fallen below this mark. All whiskies are non-chill-filtered and bottled without the addition of caramel colouring.

There have been some remarkable whiskies bottled in this range over the years. Early glories such as the 1952 Glenlochy, 1960 Bunnahabhains and later bottlings of 1971 Clynelish and 1969 Port Ellen at great ages are all highly sought after and now very difficult to find.

There have been spectacular examples from numerous distilleries including 1971 Brora, 1967 Ardbeg - and a multitude of other terrific Ardbeg single casks from the 1970s - and Port Ellen has also featured strongly in the range over the years.

Today there are still forgotten gems appearing, bottlings such as 1970 Glen Ord and 1966 Banff which don’t show up very often but are very popular when they do. The Old Malt Cask range remains popular and continues to bottle excellent single cask malt whiskies at the very quaffable strength of 50%.

Old & Rare Platinum Selection

The Old & Rare Platinum Selection was originally launched just after the millennium by independent whisky bottlers Douglas Laing. The original concept of the series was to showcase some of the rarest and oldest casks (literally: old and rare) in the company’s archives.

The series has featured many legendary and now very scarce and expensive bottlings over the years since it was first introduced. Incredible bottlings such as the 1970 and 1972 Broras, 1967 Glen Garioch, numerous 1970s Ardbegs, 1962 Dailuaine and many terrific Port Ellens have graced the range over the years - and now command serious prices at auction.

Today the range continues to release what the company considers to be the very best casks in its stocks. Bottlings are always at natural strength, unfiltered and without additional colouring.

First Editions

Scott and Andrew Laing’s Edition Spirits, which was founded in 2010, had already bottled dozens of single malts in their First Editions range before becoming part of Hunter Laing in 2013. 

First Editions bottlings are all released without added colouring or chill-filtration. Until 2016 all of First Editions bottlings were cask strength; since then some 46% versions have been released as well. In 2014 the First Editions Authors Series was launched, an ongoing prestige range of long-aged cask strength single malts handsomely-packaged with labels featuring portraits of classic authors.

Langside Distillers

Hunter Laing’s Langside Distillers subsidiary covers several ranges of whiskies as well as being the home of the former Douglas Laing heritage blended whisky brand John Player Special, plus some minor or export labels like B&B, Glen Drumm and Langside. 

2014 saw the launch of the Hepburn’s Choice range, showcasing mostly younger single malts in single casks or small batches, usually bottled at 46% but with some cask strength exceptions. The Distiller’s Art range was released the same year, a selection of single casks bottled at 48%, again with occasional full strength bottlings.

Both Distiller’s Art and Hepburn’s Choice, like Old Malt Cask, are bottled without colouring or chill-filtration. At the time of writing Distiller’s Art has been dormant since 2019. Langside Distillers also used to bottle Douglas of Drumlanrig whiskies with the endorsement of the Duke of Buccleuch but these are also now dormant since 2016 following a specious trademark lawsuit against the brand that was dismissed.

The Sovereign

The Sovereign range started life in 2011 as a Douglas Laing brand under the Hunter Hamilton subsidiary and was one of the assets transferred to Hunter Laing after the split from Douglas Laing Co.

The Sovereign lives a bit of a double life - ostensibly it’s a range of full strength single cask single grain whiskies bottled in dumpy Old & Rare-style bottles, but it also moonlights in tall bottles as a label for licensed one-off bottlings of single malts for international retailers, often with quirky contemporary label designs.

Journey Range

Highland Journey is a Hunter Laing blended malt hinted to contain Blair Athol, Glen Garioch and Clynelish. It first appeared in 2014 and is bottled at 46.2%. In 2019 Islay Journey joined the range, another vatted malt bottled at 46%. 

Scarabus

In 2019 Hunter Laing launched Scarabus, a mystery no-age-statement Islay single malt bottled at 46%. The Scarabus range was expanded in 2020 to include a 10-year-old also at 46% and a Batch Strength iteration bottled at 57%.

Ardnahoe Distillery

In 2016 Hunter Laing acquired planning permission for a new distillery to be built in the northeast of Islay between Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. Construction of the Ardnahoe distillery began in early 2017 with Islay legend Jim McEwan on board as production director and was completed in 2018 with the first spirit running in October of that year.

Ardnahoe represents the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition for Stewart Laing, who cut his teeth at Bruichladdich in the 1960s before entering the family business. Ardnahoe is in a beautiful location overlooking the Paps of Jura and the distillery is impressive and interesting.

Ardnahoe’s equipment and process includes a 1920s Boby mill, clear wort, a longish fermentation, slow distillation in lantern stills with 24ft lyne arms purported to be the longest in Scotland, and two external wooden worm tubs - the only ones on Islay. The spirit is peated to around 40ppm and is filled into 70% ex-bourbon casks, with the remainder being matured in sherry and other wine casks.

Each year since 2017 a series of special bottlings of cask strength Islay malt (and a couple of Highland Parks) have been available from Ardnahoe during the Islay Festival (Feis Ile). The Kinship series’ first three years’ releases were selected by Jim McEwan, with Andrew Laing doing the honours for 2020’s Covid-affected schedule.

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