Diageo Special Releases

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Known as the Special Releases series, Diageo first launched this initiative in 2001 and continues with new Special Releases each October. Released to satisfy the demands of collectors and whisky enthusiasts, these old, rare or unusual whiskies are selected from the company’s operational 28 single malt distilleries and two grain distilleries, along with stocks from long since closed distilleries.

2016 Special Releases Collection

This year's Diageo Special Releases comprises ten very diverse Scotch whiskies, all bottled at natural cask strength and available in limited quantities - some very limited. Prices start from an affordable £80 for the Lagavulin 12 year old and range to £2,500 for the Port Ellen 37 year old, which considering its quality and rarity is arguably a bargain.

Port Ellen is one of three whiskies amongst the ten to have been made at distilleries long since closed. Another, the Cambus 40 year old, is the oldest in the line-up and the third single grain whisky to ever feature in Diageo's Special Releases. The Cambus Distillery closed in 1993 and bottlings are vanishingly rare.

However, Port Ellen is perhaps the most famous of all Scotland's 'dead' distilleries and the 2016 collection includes the 16th appearance of Port Ellen in the series - the oldest Port Ellen ever released. Two other 2016 releases - the Brora 38 year old and Glenkinchie 24 year old are also the oldest bottlings from these distilleries to feature as part of the Special Releases series. More affordable is the commemorative Lagavulin 12 year old 200th Anniversary edition celebrating the distillery's double century.

All ten whiskies are available (while limited stocks last) from specialist retailers in Northern Europe, the USA and certain Asian markets. For your convenience we summarise them all below with our rating, each whisky name linking through to our full-review and the Whisky Exchange Shop should you decide to splash out.

Auchroisk 25 Year Old (Distilled 1990) Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
51.2% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £280
Max. 3,954 bottles available worldwide
Light-bodied yet with a woody chewiness. A dash of water is essential to reveal this malt's pleasing pear fruitiness, otherwise overshadowed by oak and mild spice.
Difford's Guide rating: 5/5

Brora 38 Year Old (Distilled 1977) Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
48.6% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £1,450
Max. 2,984 bottles available worldwide
Stocks of this rare malt from a long closed distillery are now apparently depleted, so although pricey, this could be your last chance to acquire a bottle of Brora and savour what is a beautifully balanced characterful malt. Hints of earthy peat, smoke, soot, sweet apple and pear, spice, elegant oak, candied ginger and chocolaty malt. Enjoy with water or neat. This malt has it all. What's not to like? (Besides the price and limited availability.)
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Cambus 40 Year Old (Distilled 1975) Lowland Single Grain Scotch Whisky
52.7% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £750
Max. 1,812 bottles available worldwide
An incredibly rare Lowland single grain Scotch whisky from the long since closed Cambus, this shows how exceptional a very old grain whisky can be with buttery vanilla, vinous fruit and Christmassy spice with salted caramel.
Difford's Guide rating: 5/5

Caol Ila 15 Year Old Unpeated (Distilled 2000) Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
61.5% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £90
"Limited quantities" (unspecified) available worldwide
This 15 year old Caol Ila packs a spicy punch - it's bottled at 61.5%, something to take into account when considering the price as the water you'll need to add stretches this malt to make it good value for money. Your hard earned cash will buy you a Caol Ila with "limited edition" (quantity not disclosed) bragging rights and a characterful malt with baked apple, peppery spice, leather and Rooibos tea.
Difford's Guide rating: 4.5/5

Cragganmore 6th Special Releases Limited Edition Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
55.7%
RRP on release: £400
Max. 4,932 bottles available worldwide
Barley malt served with apple and hot peppery spice.
Difford's Guide rating: 4/5

Glenkinchie 24 Year Old (Distilled 1991) Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
57.2% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £300
Max. 5,928 bottles available worldwide
A light whisky weighed down with heavy burnt raisiny European oak and enlivening peppery spice. This is far from being a crowd pleaser but is a very interesting Glenkinchie bottling.
Difford's Guide rating: 4.5/5

Lagavulin 12 Year Old 16th Special Release (1816 to 2016, 200th Anniversary, bottled in 2016 edition) Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
57.7% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £80
"Limited quantities" (unspecified) available worldwide
Black peppery spice, carbolic, charcoal, tar and soot may not read as being appealing tasting notes but this malt is cleansing and enlivening, leaving a moreish spearmint like freshness. What a way to end a meal.
Difford's Guide rating: 4.5/5

Linkwood 37 Year Old (Distilled 1978) Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
50.3% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £600
Max. 6,114 bottles available worldwide
Waxy leather, orchard fruit and mild spice, this malt is incredibly quaffable - the sample provided was all too small. Incredibly fruity and sprightly for a 37 year old.
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Mannochmore 25 Year Old (Distilled 1990) Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
53.4% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £250
Max. 3,954 bottles available worldwide
Considering the price and the degree of pleasing flavours - bang per buck, this is my personal pick from Diageo's 2016 Special Releases. Baked orchard fruit, mild clove spice, pastry and vanilla rich oak. Quaffable, pleasing and yet complex.
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Port Ellen 16th Release, 37 Year Old (Distilled 1978) Islay Single Malt Whisky
55.2% alc./vol.
RRP on release: £2,500
Max. 2,940 bottles available worldwide
The star of Diageo's 2016 Special Releases, sadly many bottles of this very rare malt will be purchased as an investment rather than something to be sipped and savoured. What a shame. Port Ellen is not revered due to its rareness; it is this malt's incredible flavour that makes it so desirable - supply and demand drives the price. Treat yourself, slap that card and be sure to invite us round.
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

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2015 Special Releases Collection

The 2015 Special Releases comprised of nine whiskies released in limited quantities, some very limited due to dwindling stocks.

The Cally 40 year old Distilled 1974
53.3%
Max. 5,097 bottles available worldwide
RRP £750
Difford's Guide rating: 5/5

Dalwhinnie 25 year old Distilled 1989
48.8%
Max. 6,000 bottles available worldwide
RRP £325
Difford's Guide rating: 4.5/5

Clynelish Select Reserve
56.1%
Max. 3,000 bottles available worldwide
RRP £550
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Pittyvaich 25 year old Distilled 1989
49.9%
Max. 6,000 bottles available worldwide
RRP £250
Difford's Guide rating: 5/5

Dailuaine 34 year old Distilled 1980
50.9%
Max. 3,000 bottles available worldwide
RRP £380
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Caol Ila 17 year old Distilled 1997
55.9%
"Limited availability worldwide"
RRP £90
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Brora 37 year old Distilled 1977
50.4%
Max. 3,000 bottles available worldwide
RRP £1,300
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

Lagavulin 12 year old
56.8%
"Limited quantities available worldwide"
RRP £80
Difford's Guide rating: 4.5/5

Port Ellen 32 year old Distilled 1983
53.9%
Max. 3,000 bottles available worldwide
RRP £2,400
Difford's Guide rating: 5+/5

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