The Special Releases from Diageo is often marketed as ‘highly anticipated’, and rightly so. Every year during autumn, the spirits company brings to market a selection of some of their rarest liquids that are highly drinkable, and very investible. Furthermore, getting the bottlings straight from the source means that you don’t have to worry about authenticity.
This year, Diageo has curated a line-up of seven bottlings for Singapore. Highlights include a blended malt, a rare official bottling from one of their closed distilleries as well as expressions from Brora and Port Ellen.
The concept behind the COLLECTIVUMXXVIII is rather straightforward. This blended malt, the first ever released as part of the Special Releases Collection, is made up of liquid from Diageo’s 28 working distilleries. This is a non-age statement expression bottled at 57.3%, put together by Diageo Master Blender Keith Law. The COLLECTIVUMXXVIII certainly packed a punch and unsurprisingly, offered layers of complexity. We had plenty of pepper and ginger both on the nose and palate. Salt, and peat emerged after a short while, so did caramel and honey. The finish is clean and the spice left a slightly tingling sensation on the lips. With a splash of water, the sweet, fruity notes became more prominent. “Scotland in a glass,” suggested Adam Brewer, Diageo’s Head of Prestige and our host for the afternoon. And we agree.
Some of our older readers may be familiar with Bell’s. This blended whisky’s signature malt is from Blair Athol. Prior to this year’s Special Release, Blair Athol only had one official bottling (the Flora and Fauna 12 Year Old), which makes this 24-year-old cask strength expression quite collectible. As the Blair Athol 24 Year Old was matured in ex-Sherry European Oak Butts, you can expect Christmas cake, raisins and candied fruits, but not too much, thankfully. On the palate, the restrained fruity richness was very inviting. Honey, and slightly citrusy notes at the end.
Like Blair Athol, liquid from the Convalmore was used mainly for blending (mostly for the Black & White blend), which again explains the reason why you can’t find many official bottlings from the distillery. Like many distilleries in that era, Convalmore was closed in 1985, upping this bottle’s investibility. This Convalmore 32 Year Old was surprisingly, our favourite bottling from this year’s Special Release. Tropical fruits on the nose, such as bananas and pineapples, coupled with floral notes and some nuttiness. On the palate, cream, honey and some slight bitterness reminiscent of gingko nuts. A creamy, vanilla finish. A bit waxy too, which we read is characteristic of the distillery.
Speaking of waxy notes, it is also the signature note of Brora. The distillery hardly needs much introduction these days and its expressions have become a must-have for many whisky investors. On the nose, the Brora 34 Year Old is very fruit forward. It also offers gentle smoke and dark chocolate. The fruity, nutty and waxy notes were really welcoming on the palate. The finish is again, waxy. An outstanding Brora, in essence. Although, cost-conscious drinkers may want to look into highly-regarded Clynelish bottlings to get a similar (not the same, of course) experience.
Port Ellen has been included in the Special Releases Collection for the 17th year straight. This year’s bottling, the Port Ellen 37 Year Old, is the oldest ever. This expression is, in short, subtle and utterly engaging. Within the short time we were at the Johnnie Walker House, we had orchard fruits, dying bonfire smoke and gentle peat on the nose. A delicate, smoky mouth feel, accented by ripen apples and almonds. The finish is earthy, salty and again, gentle smoke. Definitely, one to savour slowly at night, after a significant achievement.
The Teaninich and (very unfortunately) the Port Dundas 52 were very limited in quantities and as a result, they were unavailable for tasting.
The 2017 Special Releases Collection is available via Johnnie Walker House Singapore.
BLAIR ATHOL 24 Year Old Distilled 1993 ABV 58.4%
Ex-Bodega European Oak Butts. 5,514 available worldwide. $603.
CONVALMORE 32 Year Old Distilled: 1984 ABV 48.2%
Refill American Oak Hogsheads. 3,972 available worldwide. $1,854
BRORA 34 Year Old Distilled: 1982 ABV 51.9%
Refill American Oak Hogsheads. 3,000 available worldwide. $2,243
PORT ELLEN 37 Year Old Distilled: 1979 ABV 51%
Refill American Oak Hogsheads & Refill American Oak Butts. 2,988 available worldwide. $4,076
COLLECTIVUM XXVIII Distilled: NAS ABV: 57.3%
Blend of Refill American Oak Hogsheads, Refill European Oak Butts, Ex Bodega European Oak and First Fill Bourbon Casks. $251.
TEANINICH 17 Year Old Distilled: 1999 ABV: 55.9%
Refill American Oak Hogsheads & Refill American Oak Barrels. $408
PORT DUNDAS 52 Year Old Distilled: 1964 ABV 44.6%
Refill American Oak Hogshead. 752 available worldwide. $1,193