Sunday, 10 March 2019

Diageo Special Releases 2018/2019 (Tasted #440 - #445)

The Diageo Special Releases 2018/2019 have finally cleared customs and have arrived on Australian shores. Notably missing from the series this year is the Port Ellen and Brora combo, which will now receive their own separate annual releases. Having sampled some of the releases at the launch event this week - I don't believe the absence of Port Ellen and Brora have detracted from the appeal.

This year's series is made up of ten "impeccable, meticulously crafted, limited edition" whiskies including Inchgower 27yo, Caol Ila 35yo, The Singleton of Glen Ord 14yo, Carsebridge 48yo, Talisker 8yo, Oban 21yo, Lagavulin 12yo, Caol Ila Unpeated 15yo as well as the bottle from the ghost distillery Pittyvaich 28yo and the final release, The Cladach (a blend).

The launch, held at Hotel Centennial in Woolahra, Sydney saw three rooms transformed into the respective Diageo Special Releases categories including (in order) Highlands & Speyside, Ghost Distilleries, Coastal and Islay. The Diageo team led by Simon McGoram previewed the releases in the individual rooms.

In the same order as above, we first tasted The Singleton of Glen Ord, followed by Inchgower at the Highland & Speyside station that was led by Simon.

This was followed by the tasting of Pittyvaich, a rarely seen and a distillery famous for cask age that is older than its years of distillery operation (between 1975 and 1993). The Carsebridge 48yo (the oldest Carsebridge thus far) was not available though the Pittyvaich did garner lots of interest from the crowd.

The wrap up was the most interesting in terms of line ups and flavour profile. The "coastal" journey started with the Oban 21yo followed by Cladach, a 'coastal' blended malt that marries whiskies from Caol Ila, Clyenish, Inchgower, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker and carries a name that means shoreline in Gaelic. The Cladach was certainly unique and surprised many with its flavour profile.

The last set focused on Islay with the Caol Ila 35yo on pour. The staple Caol Ila Unpeated (15yo), the moderately aged Lagavulin 12yo and Talisker 8yo were not available for tasting though the 35yo certainly did make up for their absence.
Here are my notes on some of the releases which were available for tasting on the night (in no particular order).

Highland & Speyside

The Singleton Glen Ord 700mL (57.6% ABV, 14yo, Highlands, Scotland, A$179.99)
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A classic The Singleton Glen Ord matured in Refill American Oak Hogsheads and Ex-Bodega European Oak butts followed by a unique maturation and marrying process. The maturation process is slightly unique though did lead to a fine tasting whisky.

Colour: Champagne
Nose: Fruity with lots of apples, baked apple pie, vanilla, a tinge of peppercorn
Palate: The palate is mouth coating, subtly tannic, nutty, orange zest is thrown in for fun, peanut brittles, creamy, transforms into peppermint spice, cloves, honey, caramel
Finish:  The finish is long, warming tannic dry and leaves spices remnants

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100

Inchgower 700mL (55.3% ABV, 27yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$499.99)
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Full yellow gold, a complex and surprising malt from a little known yet historic distillery that has retained the distillery character well; nutty and spicy, it is vivacious for its twenty-seven years. Cask: Refill American Oak. 8,544 bottles available worldwide.

Nose: Big spices and furniture varnish hit you quite hard then fizzles out to a light, floral note mixed with peppercorn, nutty cereal
Palate: The peppermint or is it fruit excites the palate. The mouthfeel is buttery, there is a hint of cucumber, fresh gentle vanilla, a bit of oak, more tasting like nutmeg spice
Finish:  The finish is spiced, that nutmeg continues and then some more peppermint, lingering mint

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 92/100


Ghost Distilleries

Pittyvaich 700mL (52.1% ABV, 28yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$499.99)
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It takes time to appreciate the full impact of this appetisingly pithy, charred, occasionally sweet Pittyvaich, which is at one and the same time straightforward, yet also full- flavoured and forceful, with a long finish and a late, drying, bracing quality. Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads. 4,680 bottles.

Colour: Light gold
Nose: Fruity and floral with  a hint of buttery creme brulle,  peanut brittles
Palate: More peanut brittles before the light fruits come out followed by spices yet in the background the wax is growing before leaving the palate with a waxy and tannic note.
Finish:  The finish is medium, extremely tannic though remains fruity and salty (sweet and salty?!)

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100


Coastal

Oban 21yo 700mL (57.9% ABV, 21yo, Highlands, Scotland, A$824.99)
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My pick from the series with its dramatic, brooding and compressed, the nose spans a whole range of senses as it shows malt, fruit, oak, peat and sea- air. The taste is intense and sweet, with some saltiness. Cask: Refill European Oak Butts.

Colour: Light gold
Nose: Sweet sticky pudding that is pleasant to smell, that sweetness hits you, with some fruits. There's also the notable caramel, briny
Palate: The palate is interesting, it is coastal, briny, creamy, floral with stone fruits before the spices develop
Finish:  The finish is rather beautiful, sweet, brine water remains for a long time

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 95/100

The Cladach 700mL (57.1% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, A$249.99)
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Full gold, with a series of coastal aromas that a dash of water brings together superbly; the palate and finish are equally flawless. A whisky that is the very essence of a coastal malt. Cask: First Fill American Oak ex-Bourbon casks, Refill American Oak Hogsheads, Refill European Oak Butts, Ex Bodega European Oak Butts. A beautiful blend kudos to Keith Law, Diageo's veteran member of the blending team.

Nose: Then nose is creamy and briny, there's an orange citrus note with a vanilla undertone
Palate: The peat and smoke have arrived loud and clear at the start though there's the bonfire continuing before the palate becomes creamy, fruity yet with a lingering brine
Finish:  The finish is long with fizzling smoke

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 94/100


Islay

Caol Ila 35yo 700mL (58.1% ABV, 35yo, Islay, Scotland, A$1249.99)
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The oldest Caol Ila yet with its antique gold colour, floral and fruity notes with a fresh-clean, smoky base. Cooling and fluid, with a smooth texture. Starts sweetly and soon dries, with a rising peaty pungency and a spicy-sweet finish. Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads & Refill European Oak Butts. 3,276 bottles.

Colour: Old unpolished gold
Nose: The nose is rich and buttery, the iodine and smoke are still highly active even after all these years. Overall it is clean, crisp, with a subtle hint of bonfire. The smoke is very delicate.
Palate: Spiced with some chilli and ginger, delicate peat bonfire, there's that smoke by the beach. Spice increases towards the end with plenty of red chilli, cloves, ginger bread (?).
Finish:  The finish is long and warming before becoming sweet, fruity, tannic and drying. There is the lingering smoke.

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 94/100


Thanks to Diageo, Lea Nguyen and Coco Stephens of We Are Example and Sweet and Chili Drinks Agency for having us at the Special Release Launch.

Cheers
Hendy.



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