Tuesday 7 February 2017

Tasted #343 - 348: Diageo Special Releases 2016 - Port Ellen, Brora, and others (#101drams)

My recent trip to Singapore's invitation-only Johnnie Walker House was special not only because it was a really impressive space, but also because at the end of my tour came a tasting...and not just any tasting - a tasting of 5 of Diageo's rarest 2016 Special Releases, and a stunning NAS Clynelish from 2014's Special Releases.

Port Ellen 37yo 1978 16th Edition (Special Releases 2016) (55.2% ABV, 37yo, OB, Islay, Scotland, Bottle #590 of 2,490, £2,083.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Perfumed. Light, elegant. No discernible peat. Leather, citrus and the slightest hints of lavender.

Palate: There's the peat smoke...but it's subtle, never imposing, never dominating. More barbecued meat smoke than coastal smoke. Lots of candied ginger, mint, mixed candied fruit peels and marmalade, and some herbacious seasoning. Think a smokey BBQ, sizzling a lovely rib eye, covered in rosemary and a sprinkling of paprika.

Finish: Long, sweet, honey-BBQ smoked.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. All-in, a very nice dram (and a #101drams dram too!) but not as memorable as the 12th Edition I tried a few years ago (the notes for which I just realised I never published). I did however find a few similar notes on the "Elements of Islay" PE5, which I gave the same score.

Brora 38yo 1977 (Special Releases 2016) (48.6% ABV, 38yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland, Bottle #1,507 of 2,984, £1,208.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Whole oranges. Citrus oil and lemon zest. Smooth, faint smoke.

Palate: Oak, earthy smoke, more citrus (a little lemon rind and orange peel now). Some stewed pears and apricots. There's a waxiness to the mouthfeel, and everything is in such perfect balance. Expertly made whisky, without a doubt.

Finish: Long, smooth caramel notes turning to more citrus (back to whole oranges, some grapefruit slices). Hints of pot pourri at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. Stunning.

Cambus 40yo (Special Releases 2016) (52.7% ABV, 40yo, OB, Lowlands, Scotland, Bottle #1,231 of 1,812, £737.83 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Golden sunset.

Nose: Grape!? Yes, lots. Wine gums, slightly acidic. You could tell me this was a Cognac, and I'd believe you.

Palate: More grape, only this time, it's Grape Hubba Bubba Bubblegum! There's a delightful freshness here - fresh laundry especially, but it's mostly about those vibrant grape characteristics, they really dominate, and it's wonderfully refreshing.

Finish: Medium in length, more wine gums and a perfumed lavender-like sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. This is an odd whisky, there's no doubt about it. It's so left-field, that even after spending a good 10 minutes with it blind, I wouldn't necessarily have pegged it as a whisky. But it's also beautiful. I'm always looking to be "surprised" when it comes to whisky, and this has plenty of surprised up its sleeve. Complement that with a wonderful nose and palate, and its earned its 95.

Linkwood 37yo 1978 (Special Releases 2016) (50.3% ABV, 37yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland, Bottle #1,378 of 6,114, £500 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Muted at first, before some vanilla and sponge cake notes come through, along with some Chardonnay-like notes and tropical fruit salad.

Palate: Sweet and tropical. Pawpaw and pineapple dominant fruit salad, glacé cherries, apricot jam and a fair whack of vanilla overseeing it all.

Finish: Medium to long, carrying similar notes from the palate right through to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Another well-made, enjoyable dram, not dissimilar to other well-made, well-aged Speysiders.

Clynelish Select Reserve (Special Releases 2014) (54.9% ABV, OB, Highlands, Scotland, Bottle #2,877 of 2,946, £412.50 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Vibrant Gold.

Nose: Waxy, butterscotch-drizzled oranges.

Palate: Spiced oranges, cloves, with an overarching caramel, mouthfilling waxy smoothness. Just absolutely delicious. Water brought about a bit more spice, and a little more oak. I'd guess there's some fairly old Clynelish in here.

Finish: Long, smooth, toffee-like with residual hints of warming spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. Just a brilliantly made whisy, even if it is a £400+ NAS.

Mannochmore 25yo 1990 (Special Releases 2016) (53.4% ABV, 25yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland, Bottle #2,424 of 3,954, £208.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Deep amber gold.

Nose: Rich caramel, sherry-soaked raisins, red berries (Acai? Some Strawberries too) and milk chocolate.

Palate: Every bit a sherried Speysider - and a clean one at that. Smooth, soft Christmas pudding, Christmas spices and some mince pies. Brazil nuts and a hint of well-aged leather.

Finish: Long and full of vanilla-laden spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

A huge thanks must again go to Diageo and Ketchum for their fantastic hospitality during my visit.


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