Monday 5 April 2021

Diageo Special Releases 2020

The Diageo Special Releases 2020 have now arrived in Australia.

This year's series is made up of eight whiskies including Cardhu 11yo, Cragganmore 20yo, Dalwhinnie 30yo, Lagavulin 12yo, Mortlach 21yo, The Singleton of Dufftown 17yo, a Caribbean Rum cask finished Talisker 8yo and another release from the ghost distillery Pittyvaich 30yo.

The annual collection once again explores different age points, experimental maturation techniques and introduces the first-ever release finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks. This was an interesting one. The theme of 'Rare by Nature' alludes to the relationship between nature that surrounds each distillery and also in the illustrations used on the bottles.

Dr Craig Wilson, Diageo Master Blender, says, “I’ve created this year’s Special Releases Collection, from some of my favourite distilleries across Scotland, with whisky enthusiasts in mind.  For those who enjoy spicy flavours, my recommendation would be to try our Cardhu, and for those who favour rich, intense and smooth flavours my choice would be Mortlach 21 year old. If you are curious about discovering something very rare, the Pittyvaich - the single ghost distillery in our Special Releases Collection this year is an unforgettable dram.”

For those curious to discover the very last drops from unique casks or get a little taste of history, the collection includes: Pittyvaich, from the Speyside ghost distillery, finished in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, a rare Highland expression of Dalwhinnie matured in refill hogshead casks filled in 1989, the best of Isle of Skye, Talisker, finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks, and the stalwart Lagavulin, a perfect expression of this Islay distillery’s character.

I was lucky enough to have had the pleasure to sit down through the eight releases. I've noted my notes on the different releases below but I'll do a write up on each one over the next few weeks:

Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old (51.9% ABV, 30yo, Highlands, Scotland, A$970.00) Clean and elegant, matured in refill hogsheads filled in 1989. The nose smells of leather, floral, sweet honey and peaches. The palate is peppery-spicy and warm on the tongue with a good mixture of oak and citrus and an elegant and smooth (yet short) finish.

The Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old (55.1% ABV, 17yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$209.99) Mellow and mild. A first-ever release matured only in refill American oak hogshead instead of the usual combo of European oak/ex-sherry cask and American oak/ex-bourbon cask. The taste intense and sweet overall with honey, marshmallow, I'm in a candy shop with lots of creamy candy. The palate is also quite viscous and soft with some citrus and ginger snap. The finish is both drying and slightly coating.

Cardhu 11 Year Old (56% ABV, 11yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$159.99) A small-batch distilled in 2008 and combined from three distinct casks refill, new and ex-bourbon American oak. The nose is floral and sweet, with a hint of apples and stone fruits. On the palate, it's sweet, juicy, creamy with a delicious vanilla slice within. The finish is long and peppery.

Cragganmore 20 Year Old (55.8% ABV, 20yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$239.99) An age never before released from the distillery, matured in refill and new fresh-charred casks. The texture is creamy-smooth, while the taste is ladened with citrus, sour warhead notes; it's both rich and sweet. The finish is mellow with charred notes, ginger spice and some lingering apple note.

Pittyvaich 30 Year Old (50.8% ABV, 30yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$690.00) A 1989 ghost, the first release ever to be finished in first fill ex-bourbon casks. The taste is rich, oily and creamy vanilla-sweet. There are also some dry notes from non-ripe banana. Overall, there's a balance between the sweetness, lemon/citrus notes, orange peel to some peppercorns. The finish is clean and drying with a gentle spice at the end.

Mortlach 21 Year Old (56.9% ABV, 21yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$1,100) Rich and smooth, breakfast on the nose with dried fruit, warm croissants and mild, malty rich golden syrup. The intensity comes from a small batch finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso-seasoned casks. The palate is both savoury and fruity, there are melons, lemon and some resinous leather. The finish is nice and long and warming.

Talisker 8 Year Old (57.9% ABV, 8yo, Islay, Scotland, A$169.99) A big taste, the first-ever release of Talisker finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks. A soft, smooth texture and a big taste; salty and lightly sweet, before the full-on Talisker pepperiness takes over.

Lagavulin 12 Year Old (56.4% ABV, 12yo, Islay, Scotland) Soaring and intense, lots of tar and iodine/medicinal notes. The Lagavulin 12 is a small batch of single vintage Lagavulin matured in refill American oak casks. A clean, fresh Lagavulin that is very lightly drying mid-palate. The finish is relatively long, coated with the char and spices from the palate.


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