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Issue 19 - Star performers

Whisky Magazine Issue 19
November 2001


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Star performers

Tom Bruce-Gardyne talks to Fred and Stewart Laing, the independent bottlers who are not only brothers and business partners but a potentially successful cabaret duo as well

Douglas Laing & Company of Glasgow may not be the oldest bottler of single malts on the planet, but as Stewart Laing is at pains to point out: “We're no johnnie-come-latelys either.”

Stewart is a part of a well-known double-act, along with his brother Fred, on the blended Scotch whisky circuit where the two have been plying their trade round the Pacific Rim for decades. The firm was built up by their father, Douglas, in the early 1950s on a solid foundation of premium aged blends – notably the King of Scots. Mention of which leads Fred into a tale of one of their more notorious customers.

“Idi Amin was very fond of Scotland, thanks to a Scottish Sergeant-Major who had imbued in him a love of the country. At the time [the mid-1970s] the British Foreign Secretary, Callaghan, was out in Uganda trying to sought out a crisis when Amin decreed that everyone coming to his country required a visa except if they were Scottish. He then proclaimed that he was King of Scotland. At which stage we wrote to him and said ‘if you're the King of Scotland then there's absolutely no doubt you should be drinking the King of Scots Scotch whisky. A month later we received a cheque and an order for 200 cases.”

It was the start of what was known as the whisky run whereby Ugandan Airway's fleet of DC8s would divert to Stansted airport to load up with liquor.

Fred Laing was not only born into a whisky business he was almost swapped for one: a friend of his father longed for a son and o...

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