The Diageo Special Releases launch is always the best event in the calendar. It presents a fabulous opportunity to try some unique, and frankly, very special whiskies from the Diageo stocks. The class of 2015 is superb. It contains all of the usual suspects and mixes in some of the lesser know distilleries in the portfolio. Read on and enjoy some of the finest whiskies of 2015.
The Cally 40 | Distilled 1974 | 53.3% | 5060 bottles | £750
The first whisky of the tasting for me and what a start this was. A delicious grain whisky with a huge, yet well balanced feel. Magical. It is the oldest Caledonian ever released and is from refill American Oak Hogsheads
Nose: vibrant, oranges, stewed apples, very zesty with a touch of menthol
Palate: lots of oranges and vanilla, the wood is very well balanced, nutty
Finish: huge, dry and full of coffee grounds
Pittyvaich 25 | Distilled 1989 | 49.9% | 5922 bottles | £250
What a palate! A genuine wow moment upon tasting this whisky. The nose doesn’t give much away but the first taste was cracking, exploding into the mouth and filling it with sweet delights
Nose: light and delicate, cloves, orange peel
Palate: spicy, fizzy sherbets and bubblegum, sweet
Finish: more drying than the first taste suggested, coffee
Dalwhinnie 25 | Distilled 1989 | 48.8% | 5916 bottles | £325
I’ve really enjoyed the previous Dalwhinnie Special Release and this whisky certainly lived up to expectation. A fine, well aged, spirit
Nose: dusty vanilla, toffee, pancakes, fresh
Palate: initial notes of dark chocolate, red fruits, sweet, fruit salad sweets
Finish: long, sweet, vanilla
Dailuaine 34 | Distilled 1980 | 50.9% | 2952 bottles | £380
Probably the most recommended whisky in advance of the tasting and it is from my birth year which is always lovely to try. It is a cracking dram, well worth the hype. Beautiful. From refill American Oak.
Nose: sweet, vanilla, icing sugar, oranges
Palate: gorgeous, fresh, alive, marmalade, cinnamon, outstanding
Finish: very fresh, sweet, fruity
Clynelish Select Reserve | 56.1% | 2946 bottles | £550
One of the highlights of last years releases and in again this year with the waxiness dialled up through cask selection. I cannot emphasise how much I enjoyed it. Yes its NAS (although it does contain some Clynelish from the 80’s and the youngest spirit is 15 years old), yes its £550, but it is marvellous. The highlight of the evening; try it, buy it and open it. Fantastic!
Nose: beeswax, smoky, bonfire embers with a touch of peat, honey, lemons and camomile
Palate: floral, elegant, lots of heat, smoke, wood panelled study, smelting workshops, lemons
Finish: real depth, like walking past a working kiln
Brora 37 | Distilled 1977 | 59.4% | 2976 bottles | £1300
Brora. What else needs to be said. I have very few notes as it just blew me away. It is Brora, but its dialled down and it is beautiful. One to just enjoy; I’d love to take it up to the highlands and stand outside on a windswept and rainy evening and just absorb it.
Nose: chocolate, cocoa dust, coal houses, one to nose for hours
Palate: subtle yet intense, chocolate, epically gentle,
Finish: huge yet soft
Port Ellen 32| Distilled 1983 | 53.9% | 2964 bottles | £2400
If the Brora is turned down, then this Port Ellen is turned up all the way to 11. This is up there with some of the best that I have tried. Like being smacked in the face with a fresh salty Islay caught fish that has been smoked to perfection. Breathtaking. It is from the last year of production at the distillery and matured in refill European Oak butts.
Nose: pungent, powerful, full of salt and iodine, seaweed, Islay walks
Palate: salty, lively and robust, a full on Islay dram, beefy, summer beach barbecues
Finish: long, lots of sweetness and citrus peel
Caol Ila 17 | Distilled 1997 | 55.9% | £90
I have a real soft spot for Caol Ila and this whisky didn’t disappoint. The oldest release in the series to date, the first from American Oak ex-bourbon casks, and just brilliant. Affordable too – buy it.
Nose: menthol, barley, touch of residual smoke
Palate: Walkers salt and vinegar crisps (thanks Ben), menthol, lemons and chille, smoky bacon
Finish: spices, chillies and pepper
Lagavulin 12 | 56.8% | £80
Words sometimes fail me. An excellent Lagavulin, it stood up well to everything that went before it. Cracking.
Nose: from the first nosing you know it is Lagavulin; even after everything that has gone before it, smoke, warehouse tastings with Iain, this whisky has emotion
Palate: taking me straight back to Lagavulin pier, salt, spice, brooding smoke, could you ask for anything else?
Finish: long and smoky
Many many thanks to Diageo and StoryPR for the invite and for what was an exceptional evening in London. The whiskies will live long in the memory and I look forward to seeing how you can possibly top this next year.