Diageo’s Special Releases Collection 2019 is all hit and no miss

The eagerly awaited annual collection focuses on coastal distilleries, and even summons some beloved ghosts.

By Demi Dalton 12/03/2019

They say all good things come in threes – but when it comes to whisky, Diageo figures 10 is better. Few would argue at this time of year, one of the most anticipated moments in the whisky-watching calendar, as Diageo unveils its annual Special Releases Collection. As has happened each year since 2001, Diageo’s Special Releases Collection features rare and unique expressions curated from a range of world renowned distilleries, right through to lesser-known and even ghost (discontinued) distilleries. The blending team ensures every variation encompasses a fragment of each of the distilleries’ personalities, honouring the craftsmanship that runs in the veins of Scotch whisky history. This year celebrates a number of firsts, including the debut of Inchgower 27-year-old, the oldest bottling ever produced by Caol Ila (35 years old), and the Singleton Glen Ord 14-year-old which is triple matured through a five cask process. The collection includes Cladach, a unique blending of six renowned coastal distilleries. This year’s blended bottling rings true to the nature of coastal whiskies, with notes of ocean air and leather starting on the nose and a subtle build of smoke following. Peat is of course the initial signal when running Cladach over the palate, and as a mix of salt and ground-pepper rises, so too a hint of waxed lemons arrives to complement the light to medium oily mouthfeel. Fans of anything that sings smoky, peaty and salty would be wise to get in on the very limited worldwide availability. One of the Diageo Special Releases Collection’s top-shelf, top-price bottlings this year comes from the Lowlands region. Carsebridge brings forward an exceptionally rare, 48-year-old grain whisky, with only 1000 bottles made available to the market at $1349.99 apiece. This year unfortunately brought none of the beloved Islay native Port Ellen or the cult icon, Highland’s Brora, its absence a first since the collection’s 2001 inception. However, fans of the distilleries can expect exciting times ahead, with Diageo giving the kiss of life to the ghost distilleries and promises future releases from these veteran producers. The classics have of course returned in the Lagavulin 12-year-old, Caol Ila Unpeated 15-year-old and Pittyvaich 28-year-old to complete the collection. All these are going to be available in Australia from April 2019 in specialist whisky retailers and venues. In the meantime, familiarise yourself with the full list below. CAOL ILA UNPEATED 15 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: Deep gold: mild nose, with the fruity sharpness of green apples and orange zest. Dense, firm and mild at first with a sweet, minty/salty taste, then a freezing heat and a long and warming finish. ABV 59.1% Region: Islay Cask: Refill & Rejuvenated American Oak Hogsheads and Ex-Bodega European Oak Butts Limited quantities worldwide. RRP: $179.99 CAOL ILA 35 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: Antique gold colour, floral and fruity on 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. ABV 58.1% Region: Islay Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads & Refill European Oak Butts Worldwide no of bottles: 3276 RRP: $1249.99 CARSEBRIDGE 48 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: A deep gold colour with the delicate, light and balanced nose of a very old grain, then a rich texture, voluptuous mouthfeel and a big, soft, sweet, then gently spicy taste. Long finish. ABV 43.2% Region: Lowlands Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads Worldwide No. of bottles: 1000 RRP: $1349.99 CLADACH Courtesy Diageo Notes: 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. ABV 57.1% Region: Coastal Cask: First Fill American Oak ex-Bourbon casks, Refill American Oak Hogsheads, Refill European Oak Butts, Ex Bodega European Oak Butts Limited availability worldwide RRP: $249.99 INCHGOWER 27 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: 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 27 years. ABV 55.3% Region: Speyside Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads Worldwide No of bottles: 8544 RRP: $499.99 LAGAVULIN 12 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: A vast palette of aromas and flavours awaits, wherever you look on the nose and the palate. Sweet, oily, and salty, then vinegar-dry and drying. ABV 57.8% Region: Islay Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads Limited quantities available worldwide RRP: $179.99 OBAN 21 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: 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. ABV 57.9% Region: Highlands Cask: Refill European Oak Butts Limited availability worldwide RRP: $824.99 PITTYVAICH 28 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: 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. ABV 52.1% Region: Speyside Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads Worldwide No of bottles: 4680 RRP: $499.99 THE SINGLETON GLEN ORD 14 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: A classic The Singleton Glen Ord with heightened signature aromas of baked apple and sweet orange fruit, beeswax and spice. Smooth and sumptuous too, on a palate rich in mature fruit notes. ABV 57.6% Region: Highlands Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads and Ex-Bodega European Oak butts followed by a unique maturation and marrying process Limited quantities available worldwide RRP: $179.99 TALISKER 8 year old Courtesy Diageo Notes: Detailed at natural strength, this fine Talisker is smooth, lengthy, integrated and precisely balanced throughout, with a sweet and youthful assuredness. ABV 59.4% Region: Isle of Skye Cask: First fill Ex-Bourbon American Oak Hogsheads Limited availability worldwide RRP: $129.99
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