Interview: Cara Laing takes the reins at independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co

Interview: Cara Laing takes the reins at independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co

The new managing director of Douglas Laing, and the third generation of her family to lead the Scotch whisky business, is keen to use the lessons she has learned in her Scotch career so far to drive the company forward

News | 26 Feb 2024 | By Bethany Brown

  • Share to:

The new managing director of Scotch whisky company Douglas Laing & Co has expressed her desire to keep delivering “consistently exceptional” whiskies, and her pride at helping to address the gender imbalance in whisky’s highest offices.

 

Cara Laing officially took up the top job on 31 January 2024, becoming the third generation of her family to lead the business since it was founded by her grandfather Fred Douglas Laing in 1948.

 

After stints with Whyte & Mackay and Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Laing had the opportunity to return to the family firm, which she said felt like a “natural next step”. Prior to her promotion to managing director, she was the company’s director of whisky.

 

“I’m so grateful to have learnt from some of the best over the course of my career… I will be taking all of this knowledge forward in my new role,” she said.

 

“As well as on a family level, I’m proud that my appointment promotes greater representation of women in whisky and being part of the significant shift towards diversity and inclusivity in a traditionally male-dominated industry.”

Cara Laing in the sample room. Credit: Douglas Laing & Co

In her new role, Laing will oversee every part of the business from operations and production through to the selection of its independent bottlings. These include its Remarkable Regional Malts range of blended malts — including the Big Peat, Scallywag, Timorous Beastie, and Rock Island brands — and its single cask whiskies, including the Exceptional Single Casks and Old Particular ranges.

 

Like other Scottish independent bottlers, Douglas Laing has extended its operations into production in recent years with the acquisition of Highland distillery Strathern in 2019; its first bottling of Strathern whisky is due to be released in spring 2024. However, it has not yet taken the step of developing its own distillery, a move already taken by Gordon & MacPhail (the Cairn in Speyside), Hunter Laing (Ardnahoe on Islay), and A D Rattray (Clydeside in Glasgow).

 

“We are always looking at opportunities to grow the business, and moving into production is a natural step towards this,” Laing said. “We have previously spoken about our desire to have our own distillery in Glasgow, and we are still working towards that.”

 

One motivation for this move into production is clear: there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from established independent bottlers, in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, that sourcing quality casks and spirit is getting increasingly difficult. This shifting landscape led Gordon & MacPhail to announce that it would stop purchasing stock for independent bottlings in 2024. But Laing is confident that Douglas Laing is well equipped to face the challenges.

 

“Being around for 76 years, we have built strong relationships with suppliers over many years of doing business and as managing director I will strive to ensure these agreements remain in place for years to come,” she said, adding that the company was continuing to invest in its independent bottling ranges and in education for consumers about blended malts to support the category and its own brands.

The Diamond Series, released to celebrate Douglas Laing & Co's 75th anniversary

One of the company’s latest launches exemplifies the heights that independent bottlings can reach: the Diamond Series, released to mark Douglas Laing & Co’s 75th anniversary. It includes a number of exceptional single cask releases, such as a 45-year-old single grain whisky from Cameronbridge Distillery and a 40-year-old malt from the soon-to-reopened Port Ellen Distillery, as well as a King of Scots 50 Years Old limited edition, a homage to the first brand in Douglas Laing’s portfolio. “It formed the basis of our early blending skills and opened us up to markets globally,” Laing said. “To now see a limited and special release of a 50 Years Old blend makes us really proud.”

 

While Laing has huge appreciation for remarkable releases such as the Diamond Series, when pressed for her favourite in the Douglas Laing portfolio, her choice is a little more down-to-earth. “I would have to say Big Peat,” she said. “We’re celebrating Big Peat’s 15th anniversary this year — a huge milestone for our leading Remarkable Regional Malts brand.”

 

For more information about Douglas Laing & Co, go to douglaslaing.com.

Magazine Archive

From the archive

Select an issue

Subscribe Now

Subscriptions for
Whisky Magazine are available
in print, digital or as a
complete package

The Benefits

8 print editions a year

Enjoy the convenience of home delivery

Full access to every digital edition via desktop, iOS or Android device

Latest Issue Subscribe Now

The Whisky Encyclopedia - Coming Soon 2024

Discover the world of whisky with our comprehensive encyclopedia
Featuring companies, distilleries, brands, glossaries, and cocktails

Join The Community

Sign up to the Whisky Magazine
newsletter letter and get access to the latest
in all things whisky

paragraph publishing ltd.   Copyright © 2024 all rights reserved.   Website by Acora One