The Diageo Special Releases 2020 Collection, Diageo’s highly-anticipated annual collection of rare and exceptional single malt whiskies, has been released for the Singapore market.
If there’s one particular time in a year that whisky collectors look forward to, it is when Diageo announces its annual Special Releases collection. Normally released near the end of the year, this special set of whiskies puts together some of the most interesting whiskies culled from its varied stable of distilleries across Scotland.
And while Diageo has a penchant for issuing stratospherically-priced bottles of rarity – for example, the recent Prima & Ultima collection – what’s important to note is that its special releases collection isn’t a platform for them to push expensive whiskies into the market. Rather it allows the blending team an opportunity to go beyond the confines of each whisky distillery’s house style, and put together a diverse selection of whiskies that is pretty much guaranteed to pique the interest of avid whisky aficionados (as opposed to collectors).
This year, the Diageo Special Releases 2020 collection is a selection of eight different whiskies specially curated by Diageo master blender Dr. Craig Wilson. Inspired by the theme ‘Rare by Nature’, each of the eight cask-strength expressions either explores unusual age statements or experimental maturation techniques. In the case of the Talisker 8 Year Old in the collection, it’s the first-ever expression released by the Isle of Skye distillery that’s been finished in Caribbean pot-still rum casks.
Here’s a look at the eight whiskies in the Diageo Special Releases 2020 collection.
Cardhu 11 Year Old
ABV: 56.0% | 70cl | RRP: S$150
Diageo’s workhorse distillery Cardhu is probably best known for being the heart of its iconic blended whisky Johnnie Walker. But this special release 11 Year Old single malt has been put together as a small batch, and matured in refill casks, as well as new and ex-bourbon American oak. Expect notes of fresh orchard pear, green apple, grape and pineapple join a trace of lemon peel on the nose, with a gentle mossy base. Of a good length, the finish is spicy, with lingering warmth.
Cragganmore 20 Year Old
ABV: 55.8% | 70cl | RRP: $220
The first-ever 20 year-old release from the Speyside distillery, this Cragganmore has been matured in a mix of refill casks and new fresh-charred American oak casks. The unusual maturation regimen brings out sweet and spicy wood notes, offering fruit-forward notes of ripe pear, soft melon and green banana, but also some savoury hints. The finish is long, velvety and spicy-dry.
Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old
ABV: 51.9% | 70cl | S$870
An ultra-rare single malt from the Highland distillery of Dalwhinnie, this special expression comes wholly from refill American oak hogsheads that were casked back in 1989. The long maturation imbues sweet yet spicy tones to the mountain malt; there’s a vibrantly fresh taste that’s richly sweet, with a drying, gradually building peppery-spicy warmth. Just 6,978 bottles are available worldwide.
ABV: 56.4% | 70cl | RRP: S$210
A rare 12 year-old from the Islay distillery – the last time Lagavulin released an official 12YO bottling was from 2007 – this is the odd expression in the Special Releases that totally stays true to distillery character. Being matured in traditional refill American oak casks means the signature Lagavulin assertive strength dominates. This is a clean, fresh Lagavulin that is sweet, smoky, and lightly salty at the same time, with a very lightly drying mid-palate and a long smoky finish.
Mortlach 21 Year Old
ABV: 56.9% | 70cl | RRP: S$910
The priciest member of the Diageo Special Releases 2020 collection is this 21 year old Mortlach at S$910. This “Beast of Dufftown” has been first matured in small batches and then finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso-seasoned casks for additional complexity. As expected of a sherry bomb, this Mortlach is wonderfully rich and sweet in the form of dried fruit that’s multi-layered with sweet wood spice. Just 7,692 bottles are available worldwide.
Pittyvaich 30 Year Old
ABV: 50.8% | 70cl | S$640
From the ghost Speyside distillery that is Pittyvaich comes this 30 Year Old from Diageo’s dwindling stocks. More crucially, it comes from the last remaining Pittyvaich stocks from 1989 to be finished in first-fill ex-bourbon casks. Here you’ll find an exotic yet ethereal vanilla sweetness balanced with bright fruit acidity that finishes dry. A gentle hint of spice too at the end. Just 7,056 bottles are available worldwide.
Talisker 8 Year Old
ABV: 57.9% | 70cl | S$160
From Isle of Skye’s oldest working distillery is this Talisker 8 Year Old, which is for the first time in the distillery’s history has been finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks. Pot-still rums tend to be richer and bolder than its column still counterparts; that has translated to giving this marine malt a sweeter and rounder note that, when combined with the usual smoked sea salt, briny seaweed character of Talisker, gives this whisky an air of exoticism.
The Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old
ABV: 55.1% | 70cl | S$190
From The Singleton of Dufftown comes its first-ever exclusively refill cask release. Being wholly matured in refill American oak hogheads gives this classic Speyside malt – with its normally elegant grassy and fruity tones – a candied sweetness along with a touch of peppery spiciness. Certainly not your run-of-the-mill, core-range Singleton.
“I’ve created this year’s Special Releases Collection, from some of my favorite distilleries across Scotland, with whisky enthusiasts in mind,” shared Dr. Craig Wilson, Diageo Master Blender. “For those who enjoy spicy flavours, my recommendation would be to try our Cardhu, and for those who favour rich, intense and smooth flavours my choice would be Mortlach 21 year old.”
“If you are curious about discovering something very rare, the Pittyvaich – the single ghost distillery in our Special Releases collection this year is an unforgettable dram,” Dr. Wilson added.
The Diageo 2020 Special Releases collection will be available in limited quantities in Singapore on DiageoRareandExceptional.com at S$3,350 for the full set of eight bottles. Bottles are also sold separately.