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The Untamed Drams of Duncan Taylor: Bottling the Wild Spirit of Scotland's Whiskies.

If you’re even remotely interested in whisky, especially the finer end of the spectrum, chances are you’ve encountered the craft of Duncan Taylor.

For the past eight decades, this distinguished entity has been channeling its alchemy into blending, bottling, and maturing whiskies, pioneering new, expertly curated expressions that range from blends to single malts and grain whiskies.

One of the first Duncan Taylor variants I had the pleasure of tasting was their accolade-decorated Black Bull. The premise behind the Black Bull blend is to preserve the true characteristics of the source whiskies, allowing them to unveil the full depth of their flavours.

Black Bull 12

The entry-level Black Bull 12 is a blend of malt and grain whisky. On the nose, it combines the best features of both: a sweet, lemony nuttiness accented by toffee, and spicy and fruity highlights.

A nicely textured creamy thickness tickles the top of the mouth, unfolding the promised flavors with pronounced fruity and vanilla nuttiness that seamlessly transitions to a sweet, lingering finish.

Clocking in at a moderately high ABV of 50%, the maturation in sherry casks shines through, creating a smooth, moreish drop.

The Big Smoke

Next, let's dial things up a notch with a telling and not exactly the most subtle nomenclature, i.e. The Big Smoke.

The origin, as the telling name suggests, is the island of Islay. The variant I tried is the tamer 46% ABV one, which on the nose lives up to its name: woody smoke tickles the nostrils before giving way to oaky, syrupy, saline, and nutty notes.

On the palate, things get interesting as peat takes on a prominent role, framed by meaty, briny, and oak undertones, with sweet and spicy counterpoints shining through.

The finish marries Islay’s maritime climate with woody, oaky ash notes, making it a nice sipper but also having me long for the cask strength version.

The Dimensions Collection

Just when I thought I had reached the pinnacle of lip-smacking goodness, I was offered a glimpse into the much-fabled Dimensions Collection from Duncan Taylor.

This collection focuses on the curation and selection of casks they matured in, with each expression bottled at cask strength.

Being a lifelong Laphroaig tragic, I was over the moon when offered the opportunity to sample the light golden 16-Year-Old, bottled at a cask strength of 52.9%.

What tickles the nostrils are the the complex aromas of maple syrup mix with Laphroaig’s trademark antiseptic, band-aid notes, eliciting a Pavlovian response.

On the top of the mouth, saline, seaweed peatiness marries with salty ashiness, culminating in a warm, elongated leathery finish.

This little number is testament to Duncan Taylor’s craft, providing an experience akin to sampling nearly two-decade-old Laphroaig straight from the cask.

The Octave Series

The Octave series, of which The Whisky List has recently secured a small parcel for the Australian market, sees the DT team experimenting with maturing whiskies in smaller Octave casks (about an eighth of the size of a regular butt cask), allowing for more wood interaction and enhancing the whisky’s flavor profile.

My first exposure to the Octave series was via a sample of a Beldorney expression. After aging for twenty-three years in oak, it underwent Duncan Taylor’s “Octivation” process for six months.

With a dark amber hue, the nose is greeted by an avalanche of fruity aromas—pear, apple-cidery notes transitioning into raspberry and tropical territory, pierced by zesty orangery, vanilla, and cinnamon highlights.

On the palate, the honey, lemon, and delicate waxiness sit on a backbone of resinous oak, counterpointed by a soft peppery-spicy climax that is solidly sitting on a warming backbone of an ABV of 53%.

The elongated finish culminates in a reverberating, immensely moreish beeswaxy, vanilla crescendo, further accentuated by an oaky earthiness and a hint of nutmeg.


Words by AW.

Photos courtesy of Duncan Taylor.


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