The world’s largest distiller, Diageo, has released its hotly anticipated Special Releases collection of cask-strength single malt Scotch whiskies.
Diageo Special Releases 2021 ‘Legends Untold’ arrives in Australia in May 2022, seven months after its launch in Western Europe.
But Diageo national whisky ambassador Katie Nagar told Drinks Adventures this is a customary delay rather than the result of any covid-related mischief.
“Sometimes it takes a bit longer for things to get shipped to us down here at the bottom of the planet!” she says.
“Plus, Australia has some of the most stringent spirits regulation of any country around the world, so getting products through Customs takes a lot longer.”
Conceived in 2001, Special Releases is an annual release of eight to ten rare and collectible whiskies bottled at natural cask strength and non-chill filtered.
“Sometimes they include whiskies from distilleries you wouldn’t normally see as single malts, because almost all of their allocation goes into blends,” Nagar says.
“Or, they might be rare expressions from well known distilleries; unique age statements or whiskies showcasing experimental cask maturation.
“Sometimes we have a ‘ghost’ distillery in there, a distillery that’s been out of business for some years and we have limited stocks left.”
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Featuring illustrations and design work by renowned digital artist Ken Taylor, Special Releases 2021 comprises (RRPs):
- Mortlach 13-Year-Old ($243)
- The Singleton of Glendullan 19-Year-Old ($252)
- Talisker 8-Year-Old ($152)
- Lagavulin 26-Year-Old ($2971)
- Lagavulin 12-Year-Old ($234)
- Cardhu 14-Year-Old ($216)
- Oban 12-Year-Old ($189)
- Royal Lochnagar 16-Year-Old ($360)
It’s a characterful and contrasting line-up exhibiting high quality across the board, with talking points including a rare outing for obscure Highland distillery Royal Lochnagar.
“Royal Lochnagar is the smallest distillery in our portfolio,” Nagar says.
“I was super excited to see it again because it’s a beautiful single malt and it’s not very often you get to have it.
“It’s a beautifully fresh, spring-like whisky with really nice tropical fruit character, it’s almost got this lychee-like acidity to it.”
The Lagavulin 26-Year-Old is a dazzling expression finished in first-fill Pedro Ximenez/Oloroso casks, but there is just as much excitement around its 12-Year-Old stablemate, which continues a long lineage of special release 12YO Lagavulins.
“If you want all the power and intensity of Lagavulin itself, you’re going to want the 12-Year-Old,” Nagar says.
“That’s the age at which the distillers say Lagavulin is at its best, and one of the gentlemen who has worked at the distillery for 40 years says this is the best Lagavulin 12 they have ever made.”
Finally, Nagar points to The Singleton of Glendullan 19-Year-Old as one of the surprise packages from this year’s collection.
“Out of all the Singleton family of distilleries, Glendullan is the lightest and most grassy,” she says.
“Cognac is quite powerful, so I thought the cask might overwhelm the spirit, but they really nailed it in terms of balancing the character of Glendullan against the richness of that cognac finish.
“It’s just a really elegant, exquisite whisky.”
Diageo Special Releases 2021 is available from Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Vintage Cellars, Costco, Boozebud and selected independent bottle shops.