Monday 6 June 2022

Diageo Special Releases 2021 [Tasted #569 - 576]

Just like Christmas, the eagerly anticipated Diageo Special Releases Collection has arrived in Australia. Though it should be said that we do get things six months later than our Northern Hemisphere friends. The 2021 Diageo Special Releases Collection 2021 dubbed 'Legends Untold' features similar malt set to last year's collection and no, there's no sign of any ghost distillery malts such as Port Ellen or Brora. Those rare malts are now part of the Rare & Exceptional Collection.

The Diageo 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection feature:

  • The darkly robust and rich Mortlach 13yo from the Speyside Dufftown distillery
  • A briny, bold fire-breathing sea monster of malt with smoky undertones in the Talisker 8yo
  • A rare Highland expression of the Royal Lochnagar with a nimble springtime freshness
  • Two unique and enchanting expressions of the Lagavulin, ‘The King of Islay’: A fiercely intense, yet perfectly balanced sweet and salty 12yo and, 
  • The ultimate jewel in the set, a 26yo, finished in first-fill PX/Oloroso casks

I couldn't make the event that Diageo put together in Sydney but they did send the collection. I must say, when I received the package, I was blown away by the overall design and details. 

This year's collection takes inspiration from the fable world and is represented by the brilliant pop-culture designs by Digital Illustrator Ken Taylor. His striking signature style and interpretation of the mythical creatures take cues from his portfolio of pop culture artwork. The designs incorporate ancient fables and mythical creatures that are linked to Scotland's heartland. The 2021 ‘Legends Untold’ collection like all the previous Special Releases collections is there to represent the diversity of Diageo's malt portfolio.

Master Blender Dr Craig Wilson selected each of the whiskies and he commented:

“We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries for the ‘Legends Untold’ collection. Taking inspiration from this year’s mythical creatures, we have revealed new depths of flavour and embraced the essence of each whisky’s unique profile, unveiling the legend it brings to life. The 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection is just the very beginning of the story.”

What's also unique this year is the use of the QR code that is found on the bottle. On the sample kit, the QR code was printed on the box that also told the tale of the legends. Diageo is using the QR code to give people the ability to dive deeper into each of the releases and promises a multi-sensory experience as well as details behind the cask-strength Single Malts’ tale. All from the comfort of people's homes.

Mortlach 13yo (55.9%, Speyside, Scotland, A$243) 


Nose: Light, freshly cut grass, vanilla granolas, there's some orange marmalade, lemon and honey lozenges.

Palate: Creamy, floral, vanilla, there's some tannin, quite tarty followed by some sweet ginger heat.

Finish: Long remnants of tannin, chalky and the spices remain for a while. 

Rating: 91/100 

Lagavulin 12yo - The Lion's Fire (56.5%, Islay, Scotland, A$234) 


Nose: Iodine, sea salt with lemon zest. It's pleasant despite the slightly peaty, briny influence. There's a hint of vanilla and chocolate.

Palate: There's the smoke, bonfire smoke. The brine from the nose follows on the palate. There is lemon zest and seaweed. Simple pleasure, very Lagavulin.

Finish: Long, the smoke and lemon citrus notes lingers, as well as the brine note.

Rating: 94/100 

The Singleton of Glendullan 19yo - The Siren’s Song (54.6%, Speyside, Scotland, A$252)


Nose: The nose is fruity, with apples and licorice and currant

Palate: The palate is smooth, with peppermint, fresh mint, a hint of fresh malt, popping candies, sour cherries and quite herbaceous

Finish: The finish is sweet, light, 

Rating: 91/100 

Oban 12yo - The Tale of Twin Foxes (56.2%, Highlands, Scotland, A$189) 


Nose: The nose is herbaceous, sweet maple syrup, grassy, toffee apple, green apple, 

Palate: The palate is rich, elegant, and lightly spiced, oranges, warhead sour lollies, spices, and nutmeg hit the back of the palate

Finish: The finish is long zesty and salty (in a delicious way)

Rating: 94/100 

Cardhu 14yo - The Scarlet Blossoms of Black Rock (55.5%, Speyside, Scotland, A$216) 


Nose: Deliciously sweet, berries, strawberries and cream, plenty of dessert, icing sugar, caramelised apply to candy, vanilla and coconut shavings

Palate: The palate follows the nose, the sweet strawberries and cream, there are some fruit tingles, raspberry candy, slight sourness, popping candy perhaps?! but it's sweet through and through.

Finish: The popping and buzz from the popping candy remain along with the berry notes. Delicious.

Rating: 93/100 

Talisker 8yo — The Rogue Seafury (59.7%, Islay, Scotland, A$162) 


Nose: There's the Talisker, bold smoke with loads of unashamed peats. It's briny, there are sea salt remnants, and you can smell the ocean.

Palate: The bold peat and smoke follow through to the nose. It's charred and it hits you big time. There's some vanilla amongst the brine and ash.

Finish: Long, the smoke lingers for a while and there are some spices, peppery. The finish is also chalky with lots of tannins left behind. It's a delicious Talisker.

Rating: 92/100

Royal Lochnagar 16yo — The Spring Stallion (57.5%, Highland, Scotland, A$360) 


Nose: Fresh and fruity, honey, vanilla custard, subtle notes of mandarin.

Palate: Very surprising and different to the subtle notes. Creamy, orange and lemon zest, popping candy or is it orange juice. There are spices that develop gently, black pepper mixed with a drizzle of lemon.

Finish: Long with a chalky finish, the spices fizzle out first before leaving a sweet fruity finish.

Rating: 93/100

Lagavulin 26yo — The Lion's Jewel (44.2%, Islay, Scotland, A$2,971) 


The grandeur of the lot, the Lagavulin 26yo - dubbed the Lion's Jewel. The King of Islay guarded a gem of precious worth that has been won through decades of fire and ferocity. As the legends have it, this was truly a nice drop.

Nose: The smoke and ash hit you, in a nice way. There are raisins and stone fruits, and some berries. There is also some sweetness, honey glazed smoked ham?! 

Palate: Sweet at first but the smoke continues on the palate and continues to grow. There are ash notes that are mixed with dried fruits, and raisins. The smoke is followed by some spices, black pepper and oak spice. Overall, very creamy and complex.

Finish: Long, the peat lingers and the bonfire is still alive, you are yearning for more of that smoke. A beautiful Lagavulin rendition.

Rating: 95/100


Thank you to Diageo and Example for sending us the Diageo Special Releases 2021 Collection kit for us to spend some time with.

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