8 February 2024

127th Whisky Insiders Interview - Cara Laing

Douglas Laing & Co
Managing Director

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I’ve worked in the whisky industry for 18 years. I joined Whyte and Mackay on 1st March 2006 - working on their Jura single malt, then I moved to Morrison Bowmore in 2010, before joining my father in the family business in 2013.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Developing both our Scallywag Speyside malt alongside our Old Particular single cask series back in 2013 was a real highlight. Creating brands from scratch, developing the whiskies via endless sampling (approving and rejecting samples) and then finally seeing the products sitting on a shelf in a specialist retailer gives me a real buzz. 
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
 I recall being about 8 years old and my dad making me a Port Ellen infused hot toddy to rid me of a cold. That was not a positive experience (now it would be!). I would say my first proper dram was a Douglas Laing Jura single cask sample my dad gave me ahead of my interview at Whyte and Mackay. He excitedly talked me through the whisky trying to educate and enthuse me. I was interested but at the time was far more of a vodka aficionado!!   
What does whisky mean to you?
I love, live and breathe this industry and I regularly remind myself how lucky I am to work in it. From the production process to the people and history behind it but the part that most stands out is the end consumer. I don’t believe there is another industry with so many passionate consumers hungry for information and education. I regularly attend whisky shows around the world and am continuously amazed by the level of knowledge and enthusiasm of the whisky drinkers I meet – it’s wonderful and incredibly motivating!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
I look forward to the next five years, and beyond, in my role as Managing Director at Douglas Laing, continuing to build and grow the business to be the home of excellent Scotch whisky for generations to come.
What was your last dram?
My role involves tasting whisky most days but the last dram I selected and enjoyed purely for pleasure would have been a Speyside 55 Year Old from one of our Diamond Collection single cask bottlings released in 2024. It is such an exceptional Speysider - the dark fruits and molasses notes are ideal for a cold and windy winters’ evening.
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I believe the right whisky can be paired with any food, however one of my favourite combinations is to enjoy a Big Peat with barbecued food. My father, Fred is an avid barbecue connoisseur and enjoying the smoky, char of barbecued meat alongside a smoky, peaty Big Peat is a delight.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
We have a great bar that we’ve created at our offices at Douglas House in Glasgow, and we’ve had a few opportunities to have internal events here. It’s been great to be able to enjoy the space with the team, and enjoy a dram together. Whether it’s been toasting our 75th Anniversary last year, or celebrating a new release under our Remarkable Regional Malts.
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon? 
A growing understanding and appreciation of blended malts I think and hope is on the horizon - it’s been a long time coming. As a business we are invested in educating and engaging our trade customers and end consumers on the many merits of blended malts, and I believe as a growing number of consumers’ enter the whisky category and have an interest in understanding the world of Whisky there is a growing opportunity for blended malts.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Having the ability and privilege to enjoy the most magnificent drams neat, and as the distiller intended at high alcohol strength, I would struggle to select one dram I couldn’t live without. I do however have a whisky cocktail I couldn’t live without. My off duty guilty pleasure is a Whisky Pickleback. I love sipping and savouring the combination of our Timorous Beastie Highland malt alongside a pickle Juice! It’s so good - I’d highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Cara Laing. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!