BY GERALD GLAVOTA

I was fortunate to attend a Hunter Laing scotch tasting at the Waddington’s King Street East location in Toronto the other day. Conducting the tasting was Scott Laing from Hunter Laing, an Independent Bottler that has Hepburn’s Choice, Old Malt Cask, First Editions, Old and Rare, and Sovereign in its whisky line.

The Laing family has been in the whisky business for around 70 years, and Scott and his brother Andrew are part of the third generation of the business with their father Stewart. An independent bottler does not produce whisky, rather it purchases whisky from a distillery.

Related: Whisky 101: The basics of the most popular spirit sold in Canada, as told by a Master Blender

They’ll usually provide their own barrels to be filled with un-aged distillate and mature it at the distillery or take full possession and let them mature at their own warehouse. Hunter Laing specializes in releasing Single Cask releases at cask strength. This means that whatever is bottled from the barrel, there is no mixing (blending) of other barrels and nothing else is added to the whisky.

The barrel, which is said to contribute anywhere from 60-80% of the flavour, together with maturing the whisky to an “optimal” age, results in up to a few hundred bottles matured to a flavour profile that is selected by the Master Blender.

The downside: once it’s gone, it’s gone. The next release that’s from a particular distillery (that Hunter Laing may choose to bottle) could be at a different age statement and/or at another alcohol percentage, but still pretty good. So you’re trying something unique every year.

Scott Laing took us through a tasting of four whiskies that are being released in Ontario in June. Note that these (and six others including a Caol Ila and a Deanston) are available for pre-order. Please contact us at info@reluxe.ca for an order form.

The whiskies we tried were:

Old Malt Cask Tamdhu 200118 YO, 50%, 384 bottles produced. $299.99

Aged in a Bourbon Cask, you get a nose of vanilla, apples and ripe plums with a taste of toffee, orange, pepper and honey.

First Editions Ben Nevis 23 YO, 51.5%, 420 bottles produced. $379.99

Aged in a Sherry Cask, you get a nose of chocolate, banana and what Scott referred to as green foliage, with a taste of raspberry, notes of fudge, mint and light spice.

Sovereign North British Single Grain 31 YO, 52.4%, 198 bottles produced. $429.99

Grain has been used as the main component in blended whiskies such as Johnnie Walker. Over the last number of years, single grain whisky has become quite popular amongst whisky drinkers who appreciate the taste and the ability to buy an older whisky with a relatively lower price as compared to a single malt. The North British Single Grain is a great example of why they are so popular.

Aged in a Bourbon Cask you get a floral nose with soft fruits, then when you taste it you have sweetness with notes of plums, honey and chocolate.

Old Malt Cask Tomatin 26 YO, 49.3%, 468 bottles produced. $789.99

Aged in a Sherry Cask there’s a nose of prunes and dark chocolate, with a fruity taste of plums, berries and hint of nuts.

Once these whiskies are gone you can look forward to releases from these other distilleries and taste your way through Scotland. To end on a good note, Hunter Laing has opened its own distillery (named Ardnahoe) on Islay and will also be releasing their own line whisky when it has aged to the master distillers criteria.

Looking forward to sharing more with you soon. Cheers!