The 2016 Special Releases are available for Pre-Order now and we tasted them all last night, including the oldest ever Port Ellen!
When it comes to whisky releases, Diageo’s aptly named annual Special Releases always attract plenty of excitement each year. This year’s selection including whiskies from Port Ellen, Brora, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Glenkinchie, Cragganmore, Linkwood, Auchroisk, Mannochmore and Cambus distilleries, all of which (at the time of writing) are available to Pre-Order!
One thing you may notice, is that we’re not going to be doing our lotteries or charity auctions for any of these, as we have for some other exciting releases this year, and there’s a simple reason for that. Unlike the situation we had with the Yamazaki Sherry Cask, for example (or will have shortly with a certain collection of American whiskeys), Diageo have endeavoured to price the rarer releases at their ‘market value’. That’s why the prices went up so quickly a couple of years back as they bridged the gap before more or less levelling out (this year’s Port Ellen, from ever-depleting supplies, is £100 more than last year, an increase of around 4%, whereas there had been increases of 100% in recent years).
On to the whiskies themselves though. We sent Jake up to the launch event last night to taste all ten releases, ranging in price from £80 to £2,500. Here are his notes…
Tasting Note for Port Ellen 37 Year Old 1978 – 16th Release (Special Release 2016):
Nose: A soft smoke-driven expression, slightly sooty with a touch of brown paper bag, presumably used to serve the beetroot that’s developing. Just a hint of classic chamois leather with subtle bilberry and mandarin sauce notes adding complexity.
Palate: More ash now with scorched earth or petrichor character, more of those bilberries and a touch of liquorice. A little vanilla hints at the finish to come.
Finish: Brown sugar and toasty oak, redolent of the crispy caramelised top of a crème brûlée.
Tasting Note for Brora 38 Year Old 1977 (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Subtle smoke slowly builds with initial oiliness and farmyard character too. Honeyed ash develops with fresh lemon peels.
Palate: Smoke is established now, offering a nutty edge, but doesn’t take over, instead the evocative citrus becomes the star of the show. Lemon peel (think fresh from a canelle cutter) moving toward grapefruit on the late palate. First class.
Finish: Hints of the coast now, with more grapefruit combining with sea salt and lingering spice.
Tasting Note for Auchroisk 25 Year Old 1990 (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Inviting, with notes of white peach, soft raisins, orange cream, vanilla and fresh linen. A fantastic nose.
Palate: Some cereal gristiness on the palate, but well-integrated and still light with floral touches. Fresh apricots and fondant fancies.
Finish: Mint choc chip ice cream. Every word is important there.
Tasting Note for Cambus 40 Year Old 1975 (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Rich fudge pieces with an aromatic edge reminiscent of fabric softener. Fruit soon develops with gooseberries in cream and a little pear drop.
Palate: Baked pears now, in pastry, with hints of cinnamon, fresh flowers, cloves and lemon thyme.
Finish: Pow! Peach melba and a touch of pot pourri, fragrant and delicious.
Tasting Note for Caol Ila 15 Year Old 2000 Unpeated (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Very creamy with milk bottle sweets, subtle citrus and hints of butterscotch.
Palate: Warming and a little more toffee’d now with hedgerow greenery and fruit.
Finish: Milk chocolate and soft oak provide a clean finish.
Tasting Note for Cragganmore Limited Release (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Thick and fruity from the off with Liquorice Allsorts and pineapple turkish delight dancing above vanilla and hints of sandalwood.
Palate: Spicy rhubarb and other stewed fruits, clove, a touch of treacle, cocoa and winter spices.
Finish: Long with more of the same thick fruit as well as some fresh cardamom.
Tasting Note for Glenkinchie 24 Year Old 1991 (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Star fruit and a slight saltiness from the Sherry casks, perhaps some lime pickle. Golden sultanas emerge and take centre stage, supporting by bracken and kindling.
Palate: Less fruity and more oak-driven with some Sherried apples and vanilla sugar.
Finish: Medium with peppery oak.
Tasting Note for Lagavulin 12 Year Old 200th Anniversary (Special Release 2016):
Nose: Classic Laga smoke, if a little sweeter, with pungent peat, green chilli and bitter lemon.
Palate: Caramel notes star on the palate, similar in this respect to the 2015 release, but with the smoke is sweeter and less sooty. Instead, there’s more evocative seaweed-covered harbour wall notes.
Finish: Long, smoky and satisfying.
Tasting Note for Linkwood 37 Year Old 1978 (Special Release 2016):
Nose: A little meaty with apple core and a handful of malted barley. Vanilla soon makes itself known alongside hints of tropical fruit and floral notes.
Palate: Yum yums or doughnuts initially with fruit developing. Especially freeze-dried strawberries, which come to the fore.
Finish: Oak emerges now with a sprinkling of cocoa or some grated milk chocolate.
Tasting Note for Mannochmore 25 Year Old 1990 (Special Release 2016):
Nose: More subtle at first than you may expect from its hue, cherry bakewell arrives first soon becoming bourbon-soaked cherries, vanilla and the excellent combination of raspberries and black pepper.
Palate: More pepper on the palate with red rope liquorice at first, although by the tail you’re chewing on Pontefract Cakes. Excellent.
Finish: Sweet oak and a little more fruit with hints of clove and nougat.
The Chaps at Master of Malt