strathearn highland single malt scotch review

Strathearn Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (2024)

Finally, Strathearn seems to have arrived properly. No, the new Strathearn Single Malt is far from the first whisky released by this small Perthshire distillery. But the distillery is now (em)powered by Douglas Laing. This inaugural release under the new owners certainly feels like a new dawn for Strathearn.

Strathearn has been on my radar for a while now. I even have a good few bottles stashed away somewhere, courtesy of a cask split. What I remember best of those whiskies is their supercharged nature. Maturation in 50-litre octave casks, which I believe was the standard under previous ownership, is risky and should be carefully done. If not, you’ll be chewing oak juice instead before you know it.

strathearn distillery

When talking to Douglas Laing’s Director of Whisky Cara Laing late last year, we (very) briefly discussed Strathearn. I mentioned my limited experience with the brand and my hesitancy towards the small casks used by the distillery. At the time, Cara was working on the then-upcoming, but now-just-released Strathearn Single Malt. She confirmed that the inherited smaller casks proved a challenge.

According to the press release, Douglas Laing’s Strathearn Single Malt was created from a selection of 32 casks. They used a combination of ex-bourbon, virgin and ex-sherry oak, some of which were inherited when Douglas Laing acquired Strathearn Distillery. There’s no mention of cask sizes though. The Strathearn Single Malt is six to eight years old.

Founded by Tony Reeman-Clark in 2013, Strathearn has always embraced a small-batch, craft approach. That philosophy is still in place now that Douglas Laing has stepped in. At 144 hours, the distillery’s fermentation is much longer than the industry standard. The distillery also remains committed to using Maris Otter barley, an older variety first introduced in the 1960s, primarily used in the brewing world.

strathearn single malt scotch douglas laing stylized

Strathearn Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (50%, OB, 2024)

Nose: Gentle oak with soft spices, faint floral notes, a whisper of barley husks, some draff and porridge. Almost farmy. Light fruits linger in the background, mainly apples but also a sliver of jammy apricots. Then butterscotch and gingerbread to round things out.
Taste: Wonderful viscosity. The syrupy mouthfeel supports a good amount of bread-y notes. I find the cereal backbone very attractive. Somewhat buttery at times, but also notes of golden syrup, a tinge of fennel and warming spices. The oak spices are present, but never detrimental.
Finish: Medium length. Spices, a tinge of chocolate and shortbread.

I'm impressed with how Douglas Laing managed to keep the oak influence in check. It's still there but not necessarily the dominant component. This is a weighty spirit with a lot of cereal elements, almost farmy at times, which is right in my wheelhouse. Now, the price? Not cheap. But also not entirely unreasonable considering the size and approach of this operation.

Sample provided by De Monnik Dranken

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