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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Diageo Special Releases

The Nightcap: 28 May

It’s time to welcome the long weekend with a dram and all the latest from the world of booze. 125-year-old Port, 185 years of Glenfarclas, and someone’s been overdoing it…

It’s time to welcome the long weekend with a dram and all the latest from the world of booze. 125-year-old Port, 185 years of Glenfarclas, and someone’s been overdoing it on the fantasy at Diageo, it’s all in the Nightcap: 28 May edition!

It’s the weekend folks and boy is it a good one. Not only is it longer for British readers, thanks to the Spring Bank Holiday, but it’s also the first weekend of the Islay Festival! You might have seen that we’ve already got some features on our blog regarding the event, but be sure to look out for our daily deals too, and check out this delightful Spotify playlist which should help you get in the spirit of things. Just because we can’t be on Islay itself, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the wonderful whisky it produces and celebrate this amazing island.

Elsewhere on our blog, we launched one of the most incredible Father’s Day competitions you’ll ever see with Drinks by the Dram. Did someone say a year’s worth of whisky/rum as a prize? No, really. Get entering now. If you’re still stuck for ideas we have plenty of options. We also learned the story behind a very famous blend, found out how gin brands can stand out in such a crowded market, and got the inside scoop on pairing whisky and ice cream. There was even time to enjoy a party drink associated with Tom Cruise and some delicious apple brandy.

And be sure to join us this week on the Clubhouse App as we’ll have lots to talk about what with the small matter of the Islay Festival for us and our guests – Kristiane Sherry, Dave Worthington, and Richard Legg – to discuss!

Lagavulin 12 year old 2021 Special Releases

Flaming Aslan’s mane!

Diageo’s latest Special Releases labels are literally fantastic 

We got quite a surprise in our inbox this morning with a sneak preview of the labels for this year’s Diageo Special Releases. Our in-house filmmaker Ken Evans described them very accurately as “someone’s been on the fantasy novels over lockdown and had a ‘brilliant idea’.” Lagavulin has a flaming lion and Talisker is being marauded by a sea monster, while there’s all kinds of new age woo woo going on at the Singleton of Glendullan. They are wild. The labels which had been submitted for approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the US were shown on the American Whiskyart blog. As well as the quite literally fantastic graphics, there’s a high level of information on the labels about these limited releases. The line-up consists of a Lagavulin 12-year-old aged entirely in refill casks, a Talisker 8 “from a selection of our smokiest reserves”,  a 19-year-old Singleton of Glendullan finished in Cognac casks, Cardhu 14 finished in red wine casks, Royal Lochnagar 16 from refill casks, Oban 12 from ex-bourbon and refill casks, a 13-year-old Mortlach aged in refill and virgin casks, and a mighty Lagavulin 26-year-old aged in first-fill Oloroso and PX casks. They’re all bottled at cask strength. All we can say is if the whiskies are as wild as the labels, we’re in for a treat.

 

The Three Drinkers

And then there were two

Colin Hampden-White leaves Amazon Prime show The Three Drinkers

In a move that some in the industry are comparing to Robbie leaving Take That, it was announced yesterday that Colin Hampden-White has left the Three Drinkers. Hampden-White was the spirit expert of the trio whose superpower was wearing blindingly loud shirts. The other two drinkers, Aidy Smith and Helena Nicklin, will continue the team’s myriad activities including an Amazon Prime programme, online magazine and Bring a Bottle podcast. The third spot will be kept for a “revolving range of guests” with the emphasis on “diversity”. It’s not clear how much this is Hampden White’s decision or whether he didn’t fit in with the group’s future plans. The press release, which only sports a photo of Nicklin and Smith, states that Hampden-White “plans to concentrate more on his international whisky pursuits” but also that he is “stepping down… to allow a broader range of talent to be represented.” Hampden-White himself commented: “I hope this leaves room for new faces and new ideas to further the diversity in all things for The Three Drinkers.” Smith echoed the ambiguous tone of the release saying “while we are sad to be saying ‘au revoir’ to Colin, what this change will allow us to do now is very positive. We’ve listened to what the drinks world needs right now and that is a much needed diversity push….” So did Colin get the push?

The Nightcap: 28 May

There aren’t many of these Dunnage tasting packs so get them while you can!

Glen Scotia reveals line up for 2021 virtual festival

Glen Scotia has revealed the schedule for this year’s virtual malts festival which will go live on 7 June. Whisky fans the world over will soon be able to access a range of different events and content by visiting www.glenscotia.com/festival. Master distiller Iain McAlister will be joined by a host of famous faces in a packed programme that features the likes of Charlie MacLean, Neil Ridley, Joel Harrison. Festival-goers can expect an interactive virtual tour of the distillery, a virtual tasting of this year’s festival edition, historic tales from the once whisky capital of the world as well as the keenly anticipated dunnage tasting. This year the tasting will explore the influence of casks on the final liquid, with a particular focus on bourbon, refill American oak, and European oak finishes. There’s not going to be many Dunnage Tasting Boxes so get them from www.glenscotia.com while you can.  The annual Campbeltown Malts Festival is a tremendous celebration and a great opportunity to talk about Scotland’s fifth and smallest malt-producing region and its whisky-making heritage. We highly recommend you get involved if you’re a whisky enthusiast.

The Nightcap: 28 May

Will Liam Hirt’s new program make the splash he hopes?

Still In Cask to revolutionise whisky? 

Every now again we get an email in our inbox from a brand that claims it’s going to change the industry. They almost never do, but we like the optimism. This week’s bold newcomer is Still In Cask, a global platform that says it will give consumers the opportunity to buy shares in a cask of spirit directly from a distillery, from as little as £20 a Cask Share. The self-described “innovative business” has been developed to “democratise the ownership of cask spirits and assure consumer ownership using a public blockchain”. You’ll forgive us for being a little sceptical, but the cask market appears to be the boomiest part of whisky at the moment and the amount of investment and new brands we’re seeing gives us a slight cause for alarm. However, it’s comforting to know then that the brain behind this is Liam Hirt, as in the founder of Psychopomp Microdistillery and Circumstance Distillery, which means it’s at least being run from someone who knows whisky and not just some folks who made a few quid in the city and want to diversify their portfolio. Kicking off this start-up, which is now live to the public, are some  impressive names: Nc’Nean, Circumstance, Cotswolds, Mackmyra, and Connacht Distillery, which is also promising. Hirt says that cask ownership is usually reserved “for those that can afford an entire cask or those that can form a syndicate of like-minded individuals” which leads many enthusiasts to be excluded. He also says cask purchases are “historically complex and investment focused making it even harder to get involved”. Whether he has the solution or not will remain to be seen. For more info or to register your interest, head to StillInCask.com.    

The Nightcap: 28 May

We tasted this range and are big fans

Belvedere launches Organic Infusions range

As a brand that has spent a fair amount of time and money ensuring people understand how much it values its raw materials, it’s shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that Belvedere has entered the organic category with a new range of flavoured vodkas. There are three expressions, the first being Blackberry, Lemongrass with a hint of Sage, the second is Lemon, Basil with a touch of Elderflower and the final bottling is Pear, Ginger with a drop of Linden Honey. Each is made with organic Polish rye vodka, fruits, and botanicals which are farmed with no artificial pesticides, additives, or chemicals. We were fortunate enough to taste each at a virtual launch hosted by global brand ambassador Mike Foster, who says “the time is right and the demand is there” for organic, flavoured products. He added that the new range, coupled with the brand’s Made with Nature campaign, demonstrates that “Belvedere is dedicated to evolving the vodka category into one more rich in substance, more comfortable with the natural approach and more in tune with well-being and responsible lifestyle choices.” It’s a process that has paid dividends, in our opinion. They’re beautifully made spirits, each one is elegant, flavourful, and versatile that make tremendous Vodka Sodas and we can see people having tremendous fun whipping up all kinds of cocktails. Which you’ll be able to do soon as the range will be available from Master of Malt in the near future…

The Nightcap: 28 May

Well these don’t look similar at all…

Lidl lands in hot water for ‘Hendrick’s lookalike’ gin 

Anybody who shops in Lidl or Aldi will know the discount supermarkets love to create slightly cheeky imitations of established products. Just ask Colin the Caterpillar. Once again this approach has landed them in hot water, however, after Lidl was told it must stop selling a redesigned bottle of its Hampstead Gin. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Clark awarded an interim interdict to the makers of Hendrick’s Gin, ruling Lid’s brand breached the established brand’s trademarks. The temporary order stops Lidl from selling the redesigned bottles in Scotland following William Grant & Sons’ claim that the supermarket remodeled the Hampstead gin bottle to resemble the “apothecary-style bottle” used by its gin brand. Which, honestly, is not an unfair suggestion. They look pretty identical. Same dark bottle. Same diamond-shaped label. Similar fonts. The Hampstead gin bottle even has cucumbers on it, which feels like a line crossed (Hendrick’s is famously infused with cucumber). In an amazing turn of events, during an earlier court hearing, social media comments about the redesign were read out, which included gems such as “Hmmm…Reminds me of another gin, but I just can’t put my finger on it… ” and “Looks a lot like another bottle of gin😉”.Lidl said it was disappointed by the ruling, naturally. Maybe the folks over there can console themselves with a drop of Jameson’s. Sorry, we mean Dundalgan Blended Irish Whiskey.

The Nightcap: 28 May

How else would Glenfarclas mark the occassion?

Glenfarclas marks 185 years with whisky

The great thing about being a famous distillery is that whenever you have an occasion to celebrate you already have the perfect thing for it: whisky! So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Speyside distillery Glenfarclas has released a limited-edition single malt whisky to celebrate its 185th anniversary. The producer, who began legally distilling in May 1836, is launching just 6,000 bottles of the Glenfarclas 185th Anniversary Edition in the UK priced at £120. The whisky was made the way all Glenfarclas whisky is, with spring water that emerges from granite under the slopes of Ben Rinnes which is combined with malted barley and double distilled in direct-fired copper pot stills. For the 185th Anniversary Edition, two-thirds of the liquid was filled in sherry casks and the remaining booze into ex-bourbon casks. Oh, and those casks used to make the whisky span six decades, don’t y’know? The whole thing was then bottled up at 46% ABV and slapped with a celebratory label and tin. “Due to my grandfather’s foresight, here at Glenfarclas we are very fortunate to have casks in our dunnage warehouses from seven different decades, from the 1950s to the 2020s,” says George Grant, sixth-generation family member, and current sales director. “To mark 185 legal years we have selected some of our finest casks from across the decades and put together a whisky with old, rich, sherried flavours that remain fresh and vibrant in your glass.” And our very own Ian Buxton has produced an up-dated 185th anniversary edition of his history of Glenfarclas – available only from the distillery

The Nightcap: 28 May

They’ve been through, well, not a lot to be honest, but something.

One Eyed Spirits kills Ron de Jeremy brand and relaunches

You may be aware that about a decade ago a spirits brand decided to create a rum named after “the most famous Ron in the world” as the Spanish word for rum is ron. One Eyed Spirits chose Ron Jeremy, who at the time was known as a the porn film star who became part of mainstream culture. In the last few years, however, numerous allegations have been leveled against Jeremy and he now faces serious jail time after being arrested on charges of rape, sexual assault, and more by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. As you can imagine, One Eyed Spirits terminated its commercial agreement in August 2020, commenting that continuing with the brand was “not a morally sustainable option” and that “the joke is over”. But the brand is determined to stay in the rum world and has created a new range called Hell or High Water. There’s not much info on the rums themselves, all we know is that there will be an XO expression, the “smooth and dry Hell or High Water Reserva” and the “rich, deep and spicy Hell or High Water Spiced. Most of the press release was instead dedicated to outlining that One Eyed Spirits has overcome obstacles and backstabbing, naming its rums after the expression, “come hell or high water”, as a reference to them being willing to do whatever it takes to overcome difficulties or obstacles. It’s laid on a little thick, to be honest, and it’s worth remembering that One Eyed Spirits are far from the true victims of Ron Jeremy’s alleged actions.

Taylor's Single Harvest 1896

Compared with some whiskies, this £4k Port is a steal

We taste Taylor’s 125-year-old Port

Taylor’s has made a thing in recent years of releasing exceptionally old Ports of superb quality. And this latest release from 1896 is no exception. It’s billed as a ‘single harvest’ Port rather than a ‘vintage’ as it was aged in cask rather than bottle. For 125 years! But it’s actually a comparative youngster compared with some Taylor’s releases such as the 1863 and the 1855. Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s managing director commented: “The launch of a wine as old, valuable and unique as this one occurs only a handful of times in a generation. It is by its nature, a historic event in its own right, which Taylor’s is proud to share with wine collectors and connoisseurs of rare wines.” He added: “Savouring such a wine is a once in a lifetime experience.” Only 1,700 bottles have been filled and they will cost around £3950. It’s a lot of money but compared with say, Brora’s recent £30,000 Triptych release, it’s actually a bargain. Our tiny sample bottle filled the room with a heady aroma when we opened it. The wine is almost impossibly complex with strawberries, balsamic vinegar, furniture polish, and Brazil nuts on the nose while to taste you’d never guess it was 125 years old. It’s fresh and vital with a finish you can measure in weeks. What an extraordinary Port.

Charles-MacLean tastes El Dorado

The moment when Charlie MacLean winces is priceless

And finally… Charlie MacLean tastes tonic wine on camera

Eldorado Tonic wine has produced a series of videos with Charlie MacLean and they are hilarious. We’re sure MacLean will need no introduction to Master of Malt readers but Eldorado might. It’s a rival product to the infamous Buckfast, known as LD in Glasgow, it’s extremely popular in Scotland, hence roping in whisky expert MacLean who doesn’t even pretend to know anything about the brand. “I’m not actually sure what a tonic wine is,” he says in the first film. Nor does he pretend to enjoy it. The best bit of the video is when after coming up with some serving suggestions, he gamely sips it out of a coupe. Then at 1.14 winces visibly and says “mmmm, it’s a swanky drink”, before presumably reaching for a bottle of Lagavulin to take away the taste.

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2020 Diageo Special Releases masterclass videos

The fabulous MoM film crew headed up to Scotch at The Balmoral in Edinburgh to capture the joy of three whisky experts tasting the 2020 Diageo Special Releases, once again…

The fabulous MoM film crew headed up to Scotch at The Balmoral in Edinburgh to capture the joy of three whisky experts tasting the 2020 Diageo Special Releases, once again themed ‘Rare by Nature’. 

Cast your minds back to August 2020, when Diageo released its eagerly-awaited annual Special Releases. The collection of cask strength Scotch whiskies didn’t disappoint – it brought back the ‘Rare by Nature’ theme, which first appeared in the 2019 collection, with the same distilleries making an appearance, too. The liquid was all new, however, so there were surprises among the familiarity. We were lucky enough to have Diageo whisky brand ambassador TJ Littlejohn, bar manager at The Balmoral Cameron Ewen, and bar manager at The Devil’s Advocate Stefanie Anderson on hand to sip us through five of these stellar expressions. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020 - group image bottles

Some tasty drams here!

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Cardhu 11 Year Old with Cameron Ewen

Here’s what we said about it:

On the nose, this is a pretty juicy, wood-forward wonder, rounded out with loads of green fruit (mouth-watering apple especially), and some boiled sweets – pear drops and rhubarb and custard. On the palate, it’s creamy, buttery and lifted by a smidge of pepper. The finish is long, lingering and warming.

Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old with TJ

Here’s what we said about it:

A mega-aged Dalwhinnie, often thought of as the gentle dram. And this continues its reputation! The nose is soft, herbal and shortbread-led, while the palate comes through with soft sweet spices – a smidge of cinnamon with a helping of orchard fruit. The finish plays up on the spices.

Lagavulin 12 Year Old with Stefanie Anderson

Here’s what we said about it:

An earthy delight! This packs an ashy punch, with pronounced smoky notes, but with lashings of boiled sweets, too. It’s lively, packed full of sweet spices, and there’s a vanilla ice cream cone note in with all the medicinal qualities. The finish is super long, with waft after waft of smoke.

Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old with TJ

Here’s what we said about it:

A more chilled out expression, but still all-around delicious. The nose is waxy with honeycomb and magnolia vibes, while on the palate there’s a cream soda suggestion, along with British orchard fruits. The medium finish has hints of ginger, too.

Talisker 8 Year Old with Stefanie Anderson

Here’s what we said about it:

The expression of Special Releases 2020 for us. And the first from the distillery to be matured in ex-pot still Caribbean rum casks! It’s aromatic and smoke-led, but with pear drop, seaweed and even a meatiness on the nose, too. The palate adds in tropical fruit hints and peppery spices, while the finish blends in chilli pepper, too.

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Diageo Special Releases 2020: Details are in!

It’s that time of year again – Diageo has just released the details of its Special Releases 2020 haul and we’ve had a taste! Here’s everything you need to know….

It’s that time of year again – Diageo has just released the details of its Special Releases 2020 haul and we’ve had a taste! Here’s everything you need to know.

It’s always a big day in the whisky calendar when the embargo lifts for Diageo Special Releases. A collection of unusual and generally pretty rare cask-strength single malt Scotch whiskies (no grain this year – obsessives of that style collectively stifle a sob), Special Releases celebrate distillery character, notable firsts, and often, pleasing quirks. 2020’s haul is no different!

The Rare by Nature theme returns, which is a deliberate throwback to 2019. And the eagle-eyed among us will note that the distillery line-up is a repeat from last year, too. The liquid, however, is all new. 

“The first selection we did of Rare by Nature was really well received,” explained Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, when he introduced the Special Releases 2020 line-up on a Zoom call. “People liked that they were all related to each other, the spread of piece points.” 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Eight delicious whiskies, the highlight of which for our money is that young Talisker…

Stand-out highlights? The first pot still Jamaican rum-finished Talisker expression – hello! – and a 20-year-old Cragganmore, the first release of that age from the distillery. It was also an absolute treat to get to sample a 30-year-old Pittyvaich, liquid from the ghost distillery. 

“For those who enjoy spicy flavours, my recommendation would be to try our Cardhu,” Dr Craig Wilson, Diageo’s master blender, who curated the collection, said in a statement. “For those who favour rich, intense and smooth flavours my choice would be Mortlach 21-year-old.”

But enough of the recommendations! Here’s the glorious line-up in full, complete with our tasting notes.

Cardhu 11 Year Old

ABV: 56.0%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From refill, new, and ex-bourbon American oak

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £85

On the nose, this is a pretty juicy, wood-forward wonder, rounded out with loads of green fruit (mouth-watering apple especially), and some boiled sweets – pear drops and rhubarb and custard. On the palate, it’s creamy, buttery and lifted by a smidge of pepper. The finish is long, lingering and warming.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Cragganmore 20 Year Old

ABV: 55.8%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From refill casks and new fresh-charred casks.

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £130

A pretty relaxed dram for the ABV, with banana, pear and vanilla pods on the nose, along with a cedar wood quality. The palate is more savoury than you might think with toasted bread, black pepper and some pecan nuttiness. On the finish, there’s sweet chilli and more toast.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old

ABV: 51.9%

Region: Highland

Cask: From refill hogsheads 

Availability: No. bottles available: 6,978

RRSP: £550

A mega-aged Dalwhinnie, often thought of as the gentle dram. And this continues its reputation! The nose is soft, herbal and shortbread-led, while the palate comes through with soft sweet spices – a smidge of cinnamon with a helping of orchard fruit. The finish plays up on the spices.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.4%

Region: Islay

Cask: From refill American oak casks

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide  

RRSP: £125

An earthy delight! This packs an ashy punch, with pronounced smoky notes, but with lashings of boiled sweets, too. It’s lively, packed full of sweet spices, and there’s a vanilla ice cream cone note in with all the medicinal qualities. The finish is super long, with waft after waft of smoke. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Mortlach 21 Year Old

ABV: 56.9%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From Pedro Ximenez & Oloroso Sherry seasoned casks

Availability: No. bottles available: 7,692 

RRSP: £575

According to Dr. Wilson, this is “the Beast of Dufftown tamed”. But fear not – if you like robust whiskies, this still more than stands up. The PX and Oloroso casks preserve the meatiness, while on the palate there are loads of tannins to make the mouth water. The finish is bursting with savoury notes. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Pittyvaich 30 Year Old

ABV: 50.8%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From first-fill ex-bourbon casks

Availability: No. bottles available: 7,056

RRSP: £400

An absolute gem, overflowing with tropical fruits on the nose, plus a linseed oil quality and forest-floor leaves. The palate holds up fruit-wise, with peppery vanilla and a mouth-filling oiliness keeping it complex. While the finish is on the shorter side, it gives a surprisingly spicy warmth. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Talisker 8 Year Old

ABV: 57.9%

Region: Isle of Skye 

Cask: From pot-still Caribbean rum casks. 

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £90

The expression of Special Releases 2020 for us. And the first from the distillery to be matured in ex-pot still Caribbean rum casks! It’s aromatic and smoke-led, but with pear drop, seaweed and even a meatiness on the nose, too. The palate adds in tropical fruit hints and peppery spices, while the finish blends in chilli pepper, too. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

The Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old

ABV: 55.1%

Region: Highland

Cask: Matured only in refill American oak hogsheads.

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide  

RRSP: £110

A more chilled out expression, but still all-around delicious. The nose is waxy with honeycomb and magnolia vibes, while on the palate there’s a cream soda suggestion, along with British orchard fruits. The medium finish has hints of ginger, too.

What’s on your shopping list? Any expressions you can’t wait to try? Let us know in the comments – and keep an eye on the New Arrivals feed for availability!

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2019 Diageo Special Releases masterclass videos

Earlier this year when the sun was shining, we spent a very jolly day tasting through the 2019 Diageo Special Releases with brand ambassadors TJ Littlejohn and Colin Dunn, with…

Earlier this year when the sun was shining, we spent a very jolly day tasting through the 2019 Diageo Special Releases with brand ambassadors TJ Littlejohn and Colin Dunn, with the MoM film crew there to record everything for posterity.

The arrival of the Diageo Special Releases is one of the highlights of the whisky lover’s calendar. Every year we are knocked out by this series of rare and unusual single malts (and sometimes grains) from some of Scotland’s greatest distilleries. We think this year’s crop, titled ‘Rare by Nature’ and bottled at cask strength, tasted superb, but we have to admit that they tasted even better in the company of a couple of Diageo’s finest brand ambassadors. Newcomer TJ and veteran Colin Dunn have their own unique way of talking about whisky, and both really brought these expressions to life.

Diageo Special Releases 2019

The full line-up of the Diageo Special Releases 2019

 

Without any further ado, here are our 2019 Diageo Special Releases videos:

Cardhu 14 Years Old:

Cragganmore 12 Years Old:

Dalwhinnie 30 Years Old:

Lagavulin 8 Years Old:

Mortlach 26 Years Old:

Pittyvaich 29 Years Old:

The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Years Old:

Talisker 15 Years Old:

 

 

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Team MoM tastes Diageo Special Releases 2019!

MoM Towers received a very important delivery yesterday: The Diageo Special Releases 2019! Naturally, we had a taste of the Rare by Nature-themed collection… There are certain annual releases of…

MoM Towers received a very important delivery yesterday: The Diageo Special Releases 2019! Naturally, we had a taste of the Rare by Nature-themed collection…

There are certain annual releases of whisky that makes everybody stand up and pay attention, like a dram-thirsty meerkat. The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. The Midleton Very Rare series. The Master of Malt Single Cask Series (ahem). The Diageo Special Releases is certainly one of those stellar collections.

This year, the theme is ‘Rare by Nature’, a concept inspired by the surroundings of each distillery, the distillers and blenders who made them, and “the whisky lovers who will enjoy them.” The line-up includes bottlings from Mortlach, The Singleton of Glen Ord, Cragganmore, Cardhu, Lagavulin, Talisker, Pittyvaich and Dalwhinnie. Noticeably, there’s no Port Ellen, no Brora, no single grain of any kind, and no new creation like Cladach or Collectivum XXVIII. There is, however, eight different, but delicious cask-strength Scotch whiskies to enjoy.

And in that spirit of sharing, we decided to divvy up the drams among Team MoM. That means there’s eight different reviews from a variety of people within our office badass tower. Now, let’s see what the Diageo Special Releases 2019 has to offer!

The dram: Cardhu 14 Years Old

ABV 55.0%
Region: Speyside
Cask: Double matured in ex-Amontillado hogsheads
No of bottles: 4,860
RRSP £120

Diageo Special Releases 2019

Look, it’s Mariella!

Tasted by: Mariella Salerno, PR Manager

When I first nosed it, it seemed very mild and sweet, but then it started to open up, becoming floral and somehow crisp. Its deep golden appearance brings some richness, which adds to the elegant experience. It feels autumnal with the softly spiced orchard fruits. A treat!

Appearance: Clear and deep gold

Nose: Clean – initially sweet fruity aromas – after adding water it becomes more flowery

Palate: Medium – smooth – pear orchard – hint of vanilla

Finish: Medium with some complexity – very good to outstanding

The dram: Cragganmore 12 Years Old

ABV 58.4%
Region: Speyside
Cask: From medium peated, refill American oak casks
Limited quantities worldwide
RRSP £85

Diageo Special Releases 2019

Say hi to Adam!

Tasted by: Adam O’Connell, Writer

Cragganmore is often regrettably overlooked but there’s simply no excuse not to indulge in this expression. There’s heaps of distillery character here, from the lightly peated malt to the complex blend of citrus, orchard fruit and dry spice. It’s quintessentially Cragganmore, and all the better for it.

Appearance: Light gold.

Nose: Lemon peel, Conference pear and rhubarb and custard sweets lead, with tanned leather, sandalwood and a hint of earthy peat in support. With water, there’s grilled pineapple, marmalade, soft toffee and a hint of green cardamom add depth.

Palate: More orchard fruit, some drying spice and a little honey initially, then water reveals a savory hint of gamey meat is followed by a note of peppery oak and then a sweet layer of vanilla sugar.

Finish: A beautiful balance of sweetness, smokiness and spice lingers, with a faintly tart citrus element underneath.

The dram: Dalwhinnie 30 Years Old

ABV 54.7%
Region: Highland
Cask: From refill hogsheads and butts
No of bottles: 7,586
RRSP £500

Diageo Special Releases 2019

Here’s Jess!

Tasted by: Jess Williamson, Content Assistant

At first nosing, I thought it would be creamier and slightly sweeter than it was on the palate! Then, taking the first sip, the hit of spice just gets you right on the tongue, and it just builds and builds. It’s creamy, mouth-filling and subtly fruity, with a really interesting smoky hint. My tongue was literally left tingling for minutes after the last sip. A fresh, sweet and thoroughly warming dram!

Appearance: Golden, like clear honey, with a very subtle amber tint.

Nose: Fairly spicy, with root ginger, clover honey, a slight mineral hint and subtle smoky, ashy notes, a touch of Lotus biscuits and a buttery caramel undertone. With water, it’s much more creamy, with sweet malt, condensed milk, vanilla cheesecake and prominent floral honey this time, and a very subtle grassy note.

Palate: A huge hit of spice straight off, with peppery oak, a continued flinty mineral note, set honey and just a hint of tinned pear. With water, it’s all cream soda, fresh hay and just a hint of sea salt, with the spice more tempered this time, and dried apple.

Finish: A mineral finish, with white pepper, dried apricot, waxy vanilla and a gentle lingering smoke…

The dram: Lagavulin 12 Years Old

ABV 56.5%
Region: Islay
Cask: From refill American oak casks of high peating levels
Limited quantities worldwide
RRSP £110

Diageo Special Releases 2019

Chris enjoyed a warming dram

Tasted by: Chris Wood, Spirit Buyer

A classic in the line-up, and much loved every year. And I was not disappointed at all! If you like Lagavulin, you’ll love this expression.

Appearance: Light gold.

Nose: Everything you would expect from the annual Lagavulin 12 Year Old. Sweet peat smoke like a recently extinguished bonfire accompanied by memories of sparklers on 5th November. Salty sea breeze, shellfish and seaweed. Tangy fruity aroma, like Bramley Apples ready for a homemade apple pie. Add a little water and you get freshly cut wet grass and autumn leaves after a downpour.

Palate: Citrusy, spicy and smoky. Like taking a drag on your Grandad’s cigar. Intense ashes to start, smooth in texture with a warm finish. Being at natural strength allows the water to not diminish the character.

Finish: A nice warming sweet smoke with lemony tones. A dash of salt through the smoke.

The dram: Mortlach 26 Years Old

ABV 53.3%
Region: Speyside
Cask: From fresh-toasted first-fill Pedro Ximenez & Oloroso Sherry seasoned casks
No. of bottles: 3,883
RRSP £1,500

Diageo Special Releases 2019

That’s Henry and a hint of office!

Tasted by: Henry Jeffreys, Features Editor

One look at the colour and you know you’re in for a treat. And it doesn’t disappoint on the nose. Pow! Chocolate, walnuts, tobacco, they’re all here but there’s also more delicate notes of apple and orange peel. In the mouth, it’s absolutely sumptuous, full and creamy, lovely texture full of sweet sherried notes with classic clubland aromas of cigars and leather. Sweet fudge and chocolate finish goes on for a good 15 minutes

Appearance: Look at the deep copper colour on that! They don’t call it the Beast of Dufftown for nothing. What a beast!

Nose: Leather, polished wood and furniture polish, it’s like an antique shop in here. There’s also walnuts, cooked peaches, dried apricots and dates. Water brings out more aromatic notes like tobacco as well as cooked and fresh apple notes.

Palate: Full creamy texture, oily even, with savoury notes of leather and tobacco, joined after some time with sweeter fudge, chocolate and vanilla with a touch of wood tannin and some dark cherry fruit. Water does tame the beast to some extent, highlighting the fruit and sweeter elements.

Finish: Very long; to begin with its pepper and orange peel but the lingering taste is sweeter, chocolate and salted caramel note that goes on and on.

The dram: Pittyvaich 29 Years Old

ABV 51.4%
Region: Speyside
Cask: Double matured in Pedro Ximenez & Oloroso sherry seasoned bodega casks
No of bottles: 4,976
RRP £330

Diageo Special Releases 2019

Say hello to Avi!

Tasted by: Avi Karia, PPC Executive

This is a beaut of a whisky from a closed distillery! When first nosing all I could pick up was baked apples, after a brief moment I found myself discovering more tannic notes of tea along with dried flowers. The palate is sweet, but not cloying, dried fruits first with potpourri at the back. The finish is wonderful and spicy; it just goes on and on. A whisky I could sit and drink over hours. Truly wonderful!

Appearance: Clear – golden amber.

Nose: Clean, light-medium intensity. wonderful fresh malt, followed by cooked apples, hints of sultanas, light fruit, a little spicy ginger, dried flowers, searching further I find buttered sponge. With water, the flowers are very apparent, more toffee.

Palate: Dry, warm and mouth-filling, very smooth, more sultanas on the palate, a little toffee, followed by a hint of black tea. With water, a little more delicate now, more toffee notes

Finish: Long and smooth, quiet complex now with woody notes more apparent, more spicy ginger, baked apple in a puff pastry with a dusting of powdered sugar. With water, it’s still long and complex, but perhaps a little smoother.

The dram: Talisker 15 Years Old

ABV 57.3%
Region: Skye
Cask: From freshly charred American oak hogsheads
Limited quantities worldwide
RRSP £110

Diageo Special Releases 2019

It’s Kristiane, everyone!

Tasted by: Kristiane Sherry, Editor

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside! And this dram is the embodiment of that. It’s got sea-breeze freshness, but also a depth and warmth that comes with a sunny day on the coast. It’s richly textured too, with lovely sweet spice notes adding interest throughout. And don’t forget that signature Talisker smoke! A treat indeed.

Appearance: Bright gold

Nose: A seaweed iodine note is the first to spring from the glass – but it’s sunny and inviting, not industrial and heavy. Kelloggs Cornflakes, honey-roasted cashews, tangy cinnamon, warm nutmeg, and caramel notes build on the sense of sunshine, while an undercurrent of peat smoke brings depth. Water rounds it all out a bit and gives more of a velvety impression.

Palate: The rush of sweetness is a real surprise – on the front of the palate there are peach notes, raisin and perhaps red cherry. Then it’s all about that rich spice, along with the peat – a delicious abutment of pepper heat, bright allspice and rolling smoke. With water, it gets even sweeter and a little quieter, but still really tasty and mouth-filling.

Finish: Long and rich, but with a happy lightness, too.

The dram: The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Years Old

ABV 55.0%
Region: Highlands
Cask: From fresh charred American oak hogsheads
Limited quantities worldwide
RRSP £130

Diageo Special Releases 2019

And last, but not least, Charlotte!

Tasted by: Charlotte Gorzelak, Email and Social Marketing Assistant

The Singleton of Glen Ord has a nice gold colour, and it is perfect for sipping. Pretty smooth but still warming which is good for autumn. Adding a bit of water brings out the underlying flavours and gives it more body.

Appearance: Bright gold.

Nose: orange peel and berry fruits. Post water is more fruity with more orange coming through.

Palate: warming orange with a prickle of spice. Smooth mouthfeel and long finish. Chocolate and caramel notes. Post water is sweeter and smoother and first dip is still quite warming. Still spice but more orange and berry fruits.

Finish: long finish, warming taste. Drying mouth feel. But in a good way. Post water still a long finish, smooth and spicy on the tongue.

The Diageo Special Releases 2019 will be available from MoM Towers soon…

Which dram appeals most to you? Let us know in the comments below or on social!

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Diageo Special Releases 2019 details are here!

Diageo has just this moment released early details of its Special Releases 2019 collection – eight cask-strength Scotch whiskies under a ‘Rare by Nature’ theme. We’re excited! While pricing, full tasting…

Diageo has just this moment released early details of its Special Releases 2019 collection – eight cask-strength Scotch whiskies under a ‘Rare by Nature’ theme. We’re excited!

While pricing, full tasting notes and availability have yet to be disclosed, the octet features liquid from Mortlach, The Singleton of Glen Ord, Cragganmore, Cardhu, Lagavulin, Talisker, Pittyvaich and Dalwhinnie. So no Port Ellen, and no single grain this time round.

The ‘Rare by Nature’ theme refers to the surroundings of each distillery, as well as the distillers and blenders who made them, and “the whisky lovers who will enjoy them”.

So. What’s in the line-up?

Cardhu 14 Years Old

Said to be a “supremely elegant” expression of the “warm-hearted” Speyside Scotch.

Cragganmore 12 Years Old

A “complex and intriguing” bottling, bringing together Speyside character with “a touch of spice and smoke”.

Dalwhinnie 30 Years Old

And “extra matured and unusual” one, with an “undeniably” gentle character.

Lagavulin 12 Years Old

“Truly spirited yet youthful” – one from the classic Islay distillery.

Mortlach 26 Years Old

The Beast of Dufftown apparently at its “most impressive”.

Pittyvaich 29 Years Old

A “rare sighting” from the closed distillery.

Talisker 15 Years Old

“Sweet yet deep and spicy”. Delicious.

The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Years Old

“Different and delicious” expression, said to never have been previously bottled.

We know they’re only skeleton details, but which of the Special Releases 2019 expressions are you most excited to taste? Let us know on social or in the comments below!

Diageo Special Releases 2019

Such mystery

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Meet Cladach, the blended malt that completes Diageo Special Releases 2018

Last month we joined Diageo to taste the Special Releases 2018 cohort – but there was one expression we were asked to keep under wraps. Until now. The mysterious 10th…

Last month we joined Diageo to taste the Special Releases 2018 cohort – but there was one expression we were asked to keep under wraps. Until now. The mysterious 10th Scotch whisky expression is… Cladach!

‘What IS Cladach?’, we hear you cry. No, it is not the first release from a secret new distillery (although like many new releases it doesn’t carry an age statement). It is a blended malt from six coastal distilleries: Caol Ila, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Oban, Inchgower and Talisker. And it’s delicious.

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We tasted Diageo Special Releases 2018 and (almost) all the deets are here!

Last night we were treated to a highly classified tasting of Diageo’s Special Releases 2018 line-up. Yes, we felt like secret agents – and yes, the whole thing was GOOOOOOOOD….

Last night we were treated to a highly classified tasting of Diageo’s Special Releases 2018 line-up. Yes, we felt like secret agents – and yes, the whole thing was GOOOOOOOOD. We’ve got the lowdown on [most of] the whiskies for you, right here, right now.

First up… We’re publishing this post a little sooner than expected. We pinky-promised to keep all the Special Releases secrets shtumn until 12 September, i.e. the official press launch date. But! This afternoon we were alerted that not every drinks writer is as good as keeping secrets as we are. Boo. But it DOES mean we can now bring you some details of how the Special Releases 2018 line-up actually tastes!

Every year the Special Releases collection gets tongues (and taste buds) wagging. The [usually] 10-strong collection of Scotch whiskies from an array of Diageo distilleries is a showcase of cask-strength deliciousness, a celebration of flavour, and there’s often one of two unusual bottlings thrown in for good measure… This year was no exception.

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Modern blended whiskies you’ll want to boast about

Blended whisky gets a seriously bad rap – call time on single malt snobbery, and stock your home bar with these modern blended whiskies (and blended malts) that equal far…

Blended whisky gets a seriously bad rap – call time on single malt snobbery, and stock your home bar with these modern blended whiskies (and blended malts) that equal far more than the sum of their parts…

In the age of the single malt, you’ll be hard pushed to find anyone who would freely admit that their favourite sipper is of the blended variety. For all intents and purposes, it’s the equivalent of wearing a Status Quo t-shirt to a Sex Pistols gig.

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Diageo introduces (most of) the 2018 Special Releases

Diageo has unveiled 9 out of 10 of the always hotly-anticipated Special Releases bottlings for 2018, due to be hitting shelves in autumn – with one whisky’s identity remaining a…

Diageo has unveiled 9 out of 10 of the always hotly-anticipated Special Releases bottlings for 2018, due to be hitting shelves in autumn – with one whisky’s identity remaining a secret until later this year. 2018 will be the first year the Special Releases won’t feature a Port Ellen or Brora since the series launched.

Diageo has given us a tantalising peek at most of the Special Releases expressions due to be launched in autumn. These bottlings never fail to fascinate the whisky enthusiasts of the world, and once again a good few of them have us raising our eyebrows in excitement.

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