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diageo special releasesIts that time of year again, when the Christmas run up kicks off with the Diageo Special Releases event, hosted in a lovely part of London and attended by some of the most interesting people in the whisky industry.

I literally could not wait, when the event invite arrived I was like an excitable kid, as I was last year, and the night itself truly delivered.

My standouts were the Glenkinchie 24, the Brora 38 and of course, the Port Ellen 37 as you will see below.

What are the Diageo Special Releases 2016?

In Diageo’s words: During the late 1980s, the benchmark expressions of single malt whiskies from six single malt distilleries became well known under the Classic Malts name. Interest in older and rarer malt whiskies in general also grew during this period. One product of this was the Rare Malts, a series of rarer releases begun in 1995, and which ended in 2005.

There remained a demand for unusual, distinctive, often older, unrepeatable cask strength bottlings, usually of the Classic Malts. Such bottlings allowed collectors, connoisseurs and enthusiasts to enjoy and experience remaining older stocks, and/or unusual expressions of a distillery’s character – a treasure trove of priceless malts.

To satisfy this demand, the Special Releases series was born in 2001, and the annual collection – with familiar names and some surprises – has been eagerly awaited by enthusiasts ever since.

This year’s Diageo Special Releases

This was my second Diageo Special Releases event, taking place in September 2016, and I was very fortunate to try the oldest Port Ellen bottled to date, a 37 Year Old whopper of a dram. On initial taste I was actually pretty dubious, there was something missing for me, but following discussion with Chris “Tiger” White of the Edinburgh Whisky Blog, and a second and third sip, we started to get on quite well.

The complexity grows and grows on you, with sweet peat wrapped in smoked, maybe cured meats with just a small amount of heat to it. Quite a savoury Port Ellen release with a long, gentle, herbaceous finish. After a stuttering start in our short friendship, I really warmed up to it.

This 2,940 limited edition cask strength release was from a marriage of refill American Oak hogsheads and refill European Oak butts that were filled in 1978.

Here’s the full list of Diageo Special Releases 2016; I bought a couple of the Caol Ila bottles as I thought they were interesting, and Colin Dunn sold it to me very well.

AUCHROISK 25 year old
Distilled 1990 ABV 51.2%
Region: Speyside
Max. 3,954 bottles available worldwide
RRP £280

BRORA 38 year old
Distilled 1977 ABV 48.6%
Region: Coastal Highland
Max. 2,984 bottles available worldwide
RRP £1,450

CAMBUS 40 year old
Distilled 1975 ABV 52.7%
Region: Central Lowland
Max. 1,812 bottles available worldwide
RRP £750

CAOL ILA 15 year old 
Distilled 2000 ABV 61.5%
Region: Islay
Limited quantities available worldwide
RRP £90

CRAGGANMORE  
ABV 55.7%
Region: Speyside
Max. 4,932 bottles available worldwide
RRP £400

GLENKINCHIE 24 year old 
Distilled 1991 ABV 57.2%
Region: Lowland
Max. 5,928 bottles available worldwide
RRP £300

LAGAVULIN 12 year old 
ABV 57.7%
Region: Islay
Limited quantities available worldwide
RRP £80

LINKWOOD 37 year old 
Distilled 1978 ABV 50.3%
Region: Speyside
Max. 6,114 bottles available worldwide
RRP £600

MANNOCHMORE 25 year old
Distilled 1990 ABV 53.4%
Region: Speyside
Max. 3,954 bottles available worldwide
RRP £250

PORT ELLEN 37 year old 
Distilled 1978 ABV 55.2%
Region: Islay
Max. 2,940 bottles available worldwide
RRP £2,500

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