Islay's Iconic Crusader, Big Peat Distillery

Established in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing, it is one of the few whisky companies in Scotland which is still family-owned, in its third generation of business. Fred Douglas Laing or FDL, as he is affectionately referred to in the industry, started his business almost 70 years ago. Today, the Big Peat Distillery is one of the world’s leading independent Scotch whisky specialist-manufacturer.

 

Your Journey is Your History

Legend has it that Sandy Grant, the great-grandson of William Grant had offered to exchange his Bruichladdich Distillery for ‘Wee Freddie’, the son of FDL Senior when he was born! Later when he grew up, FDL Junior was taken out of school to accompany his father on his business tours to Central and South America. No school is greater than the ‘University of Life’ held his wise father. To learn the ropes, FDL Junior joined an apprenticeship program at Whyte & Mackay Distillers. He worked in all departments the old-fashioned way and deepened his knowledge of blending skills. When he ultimately joined his family business, he had hands-on experience and was ready for the job. His daughter, Cara Laing was also encouraged to earn her stripes elsewhere in the interest of tradition, before joining the family business.

 

Handsome Is What Handsome Does

Big Peat Distillery was honoured with The Queen’s Award for Export in 1990 when Fred Laing met Her Majesty. It was and remains a nailed-on winner for its remarkable production line.

Meet the Big Peat. It is the Island of Islay in a bottle. There are eight functioning distilleries here. This big-bodied blended malt from the Island of Islay, without any colouring or chill-filtration, has a high alcohol strength. It contains spirits from Caol IIa, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen distilleries. There are, of course, a few blender’s secrets which go into its making. Secrets such that they never spill even after a few swigs of the precious Big Peat! It tastes of the sea at first, salty and clean and finishes with notes of bonfire ashes and tangy liquorice. 

Apart from Big Peat, its signature blended malt whisky, this distillery also prides itself in its repertoire of other Regional Malts, Single Casks, ‘Vatted Malt’ whiskies, Single Grain Scotch whiskies and Single Malt Scotch whiskies. The Regional Malts carry the characteristics of the region they are sourced from. Noteworthy among them are Scallywag and Timorous Beastie. The former was inspired by the Laing family’s long line of fox terriers and the latter by Robert Burn’s Scot poem ‘To a Mouse’. When there is a story behind your drink, it makes for a very special experience.

The Single Casks are a class apart. It is the marriage of a million little idiosyncrasies with whisky from a single cask. The time-honoured crafts and the staves of each cask make the final product truly unique and remarkable.

The ‘Vatted Malt’ whisky is the blend of one Malt Whisky from more than one distillery. Though the Scotch Whisky Association holds the term ‘Vatted Malt’ to be redundant, the Laing family continues to use it. It is traditional and useful, and there is no arguing against useful traditions.

When you experience the Single Malt Scotch Whisky, you will find that it is sourced from a majority of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Distilleries. Douglas Laing proudly bottles them as the distiller intended, with focus on alcohol strength and without colouring or chill-filtration. The award-winning XOP, Old Particular and Provenance deserve special mention too. The Single Grain Whiskies which emerge from Douglas Laing & Co are prepared in very small batches. They are prepared from grain cereals and water from single distilleries in Scotland as the company holds impressive stocks in the finest grain distilleries of the country.

If the Queen of England bestowed her blessings on the brand, the Rolling Stones were not to be left far behind. On their Black & Blue Tour, they were introduced to Fred Laing at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow. Backstage good spirits flowed and the band was gifted with bottles of King of Scots.

The story so far speaks of honourable achievements and unparalleled satisfaction. From its humble beginnings, it has always remained focused on one goal, offering a unique Scotch whisky experience to all whisky lovers. And, in the honour the distillery, let’s raise a glass!

Addicted to Pleasure: Whisky (2012)