Diageo’s prolific collection of single malt Scotch whiskies, the Classic Malts Selection, is augmented every year by the issue of a small portfolio of limited edition single malts, under the heading of Special Releases.
The series has always aimed to intrigue, delight and sometimes surprise whisky connoisseurs and collectors, by presenting unusual, rare, collectable – but always deeply enjoyable – expressions of single malt whisky, all from original distillery stocks.
Some are affordable, others enjoy a rarity that imposes frankly aspirational prices. Many enjoy striking, specially designed packaging that enhances the pleasure of ownership and sharing.
Familiar distilleries are often present, but in unusual expression or ages. Other bottles are drawn from the precious and dwindling stocks of distilleries that ceased production last century. Most are bottled at natural cask strength and all without chill filtration. There are eight Special Releases this year; five are from closed distilleries; and the whole production is less than 60,000 bottles.
Diageo’s Nick Morgan explains:
“We set out to include one or two really unexpected bottlings in the 2011 Special Releases collection. Very few whisky connoisseurs – possible none at all – will ever have encountered anything like the 20 year old glorious Port Dundas single grain whisky that we are offering this year, and since the distillery closed two years ago, it’ll be a rare experience for those who who get to try it now.
“By contrast, the 25 year old Knockando from first-fill ex-sherry casks might astonish those who thought they know this malt: this bottling is rich, deep-flavoured and very complex. The Glenury Royal at 40 years old is a very venerable (and inevitably expensive) bottling, an old-style after-dinner experience; but it shows no fatigue and is packed with flavour. Lovers of the Lowland style will be charmed by the Rosebank 21 year old.”
Older & Rarer
As in previous years, Brora and Port Ellen will be a focus for committed devotees of these irreplaceable single malts.
The Brora 32 year old is in a limited edition of only 1,404 bottles: compare the first release in this series, in 2002, which ran to 3,000 bottles.
The Port Ellen, also at 32 years old, comes in an edition of 2,988 bottles (compared with 12,000 bottles in 2002!). Rarer and older as the years go by, both are priced at £300.
Here’s a quick summary:-
|2011 Release||Quick Facts||Price Range|
|Brora 32 Year Old 1978 (54.7% abv)||Diageo’s oldest Brora to date. 1,404 individually-numbered bottles available.|
|Caol Ila Unpeated 12 Year Old 1999||6,000 bottles available.|
|Glenury Royal 40 Year Old 1970||Second oldest release of Glenury Royal from Diageo. 1,404 bottles available worldwide.|
|Knockando 25 Year Old 1985||Knockando has never before been featured in the Special Releases range. Fewer than 4,500 numbered bottles.|
|Lagavulin 12 Year Old Cask Strength||The tenth time Lagavulin has been featured in the Special Releases series.|
|Port Dundas 20 Year Old 1990||First ever Special Release of grain whisky! There are just 1,920 numbered bottles from the now closed distillery.|
|Port Ellen 32 Year Old 1978 (53.9%)||Oldest ever official release of Port Ellen. 2,988 bottles available from this legendary distillery which closed just a few years after this was distilled in 1978.|
|Rosebank 21 Year Old 1990||5,604 numbered bottles worldwide. The distillery closed almost two decades ago and stocks are becoming heavily depleted.|