Last week saw the official global release of the 2019 Special Releases Collection from Diageo. The yearly release of special editions and curios is always the subject of much debate.
Lets talk pricing.
Yes, these are expensive. Yes, they have always been expensive. If you want them then you will need to decide for yourself if they are worth the money.
I would say that in terms of this years collection however the prices are on average a little lower. Prices range from £85 to £1500 with most of the 8 expressions coming in at the £110 – £130 range – albeit there are none of the big hitters (Port Ellen, Brora) this year.
Lets stop taking about pricing.
On with the drams…
These are my brief notes and quick impressions, noted during the launch event. In the future I hope to go back to some of these and take some more comprehensive notes.
The Singleton of Glen Ord 2000 (18yo), OB, 55%abv (RRP around £130)
Richly fruity and nicely spiced it is much as you would expect from an 18 year old cask strength version of Glen Ord. Matured in recharged American oak hogsheads. Fruity and light with some nice tropical notes. Fresh pastries and extra punchiness all round.
Cardhu 2004 (14yo), OB, 55%abv (RRP around £120)
I’ll admit that this one sparked my interest. I suppose that Cardhu is one malt that many whisky drinkers ‘leave behind’ as they move along their whisky journey. The chance to try a cask strength version of Cardhu intrigued me.
To be fair it didn’t disappoint. Typical Cardhu honey and subtle spice with a lovely rounded nature. Rich and with a great mouthfeel. This was matured in Amontillado seasoned sherry casks which lends a lovely, drying and warming nuttiness to proceedings.
Cragganmore 2006 (12yo), OB, 58.4%abv (RRP around £85)
A peated Cragganmore?? Indeed it is. Wood smoke and distant damp leaves mix with woody spice. The smoke gives way on the palate to a more fruity feeling. A pleasant surprise in general, well balanced and rather unique. Matured in refill American oak casks.
Dalwhinnie 1987/8 (30yo), OB, 54.7%, (RRP around £500)
Another distillery that many malt drinkers ‘leave behind’ this 30 year old expression was another I was excited to try and it didn’t disappoint. Sweet and floral on the nose initially but with some darker fruits and an elegant woodiness, theres an ever so slight dampness lingering within here too.
Waxy apples and pears in the mouth mix with spicy oak wrapped up in a malty creaminess.
Really delicate and quite something. Probably my favourite of the night.
Mortlach 1992, (26yo), OB, 53.3% abv, (RRP approx £1500)
The most expensive dram of the collection is this 26 year old Mortlach. Rich and inviting on the nose, leather and sherry mix with a rich fruitcake and a handful of coffee beans. The palate is chewy and thick, the Mortlach spirt standing up well to the first-fill oloroso and PX-seasoned casks used to mature it.
Typical sherried, beefy, chewy Mortlach goodness but feeling a touch deeper and darker with the extra muscle of being over 50% abv really pushing the flavours.
Pittyvaich 1989, (29yo), OB, 51.4%abv, (RRP around £330)
Always a pleasure to spend the with liquid from a closed distillery (technically its completely demolished, not just silent…)
Pretty fruity on the nose with a wisp of malt, broken biscuits and over ripened green apples. Faint sherry influence on the nose, not overpowering. Spirit shining through here…
The mouthfeel is wonderful, with a fair bit going on. Its nutty, sweet and almost cakey at times. Plenty of fruits and touches of berries here and there.
A few others who tried it thought it the weakest expression of the night but I was rather taken by its rough elegance, its balance and a nice mouthfeel.
Talisker 2002, (15yo), OB, 57.3%, (RRP around £110)
To be completely honest this expression will have to work really hard to come out of the shadow of last years magnificent Talisker 8 which was, for me, the highlight of last years collection and probably my favourite ever Talisker.
The nose is prickly and coastal with a peaty / malty interplay. Bonfire smoke fights with with vanilla and there are undertones of baked apples and a faint herby note.
The palate is surprisingly sweet, lots of vanilla and a few assorted pastries. the “Talisker Tang” of salt and smoke isn’t far behind, really filling the mouth.
Takes water well, in fact I’d say it benefits from it.
Solid stuff, but that 8 year old though…
Lagavulin 2006/7, (12yo), OB, 56.5%abv (RRP around £110)
The nose is clean and fresh, full of phenolic and ashy tang. Really balanced and has a nice sweet / savoury balance.
The palate is intensely smoked but not overbearing, fills the mouth and leaves touches of vanilla, some red berries and faint blast of sea spray.
An excellent Lagavulin, no surprises, just does its thing very well.
To round up this is the second year that there has been no Port Ellen or Brora, which I would argue hasn’t really weakened the collection, with some other distilleries allowed to take centre stage and the added benefit of bringing down the average costs significantly. Lagavulin is perhaps the only steady inclusion this year from previous collections.
It is however really sad to see that there was no representation for grain whisky this year at all after a few solid releases (Port Dundas and Carsebridge) over the last two years.
Perhaps that could go in the suggestion box for next year…
The entire Diageo Special Releases Collection is currently available (at the time of writing) from The Whisky Exchange.