Diageo unveils their prestigious 2020 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection
Strong, rare and bold
Every year, there's plenty of anticipation for Diageo's annual collection where the company curates a stunning line-up that celebrates the diversity of Diageo’s most treasured reserves maturing in Scotland. It's where experimental maturation techniques and unusual age points are appreciated and seen as an intrepid exploration of whisky—of how far it can go. Diageo's 2020 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection also sees the first-ever release finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks.
But before we get into the flavours, let’s break down what makes a “good” whisky.
According to Chong Wai Keng, the Brand Ambassador of Diageo Malaysia, during a virtual session, it’s all in the complexity and the balance. He explains that the complexity comprises of the “smoothness”, the capacity, the profile characters, the layers (the more layers, the better) and the “length” of the whisky—meaning how long it stays on your palate (again, the longer, the better). The balance is referring to the range of flavour profiles. For example, if the whisky is dominated by a smoky after-taste, that doesn’t make it a well-balanced whisky. That being said, the notion of a “good" whisky is subjective and depends on the consumer’s preference.
So why did Diageo choose to put these eight whiskies together? It’s because they each have an interesting and unique history that exemplifies Diageo's 'Rare by Nature' theme. Each liquid has been carefully selected for flavour by the Scotland-based team and is each instrumental to the history of Diageo’s Scotch portfolio. From the 20-year-old Cragganmore with its complex aromas and intense wood-spice to The Singleton with its grassy fruitiness and smooth expression, the 2020 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection gives Diageo an opportunity to bring these whiskies to both enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
I had the opportunity to try the whiskies during the session as well and out of the eight, these are my personal favourites:
1. Talisker 8 Year Old
The Talisker is the youngest of the collection. This is also Diageo’s first-ever finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks. It has a delightful twist of sweetness (from the Caribbean rum cask finish) with hints of dry seaweed and salt. Adding water "opens" up the flavour and reduces the sweet notes. On the palate, it has a soft texture and a bold flavour profile. However, the tinge of saltiness makes the drink a little dry and so, a splash of water helps to round it out. It's a tropical flavour that evokes a maritime character.
2. Lagavulin 12 Year Old
The 12-year-old Lagavulin was included in this collection for its purity of cask expression (the number of times the same cask was used to mature whiskies). It is described as "a true individual" with its smooth texture, smoky taste and deep, rich intensity. The top notes are ashy and a quick sip reveals light, fruity notes of hard candy. The smell is said to be akin to "sniffing the sea air in a fishing harbour". The Lagavulin has a rich complexity in flavours that range from floral to fruity with a smoky finish where neither one are over-dominant. "It's easy to drink and you should have it before dinner," recommends Chong. "Like during a cocktail reception," he adds.
3. Mortlach 21 Year Old
The Mortlach is a powerful and commanding 1999 malt and dubbed the “The Beast of Dufftown”. Its deep gold and amber colour comes from the rich tannins contained in the bottle as well as the fresh toasted Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso seasoned casks. Upon the first inhale, I was greeted with the scent of something meaty. Chong explains that the Mortlach is meant to be “chewed” and “eaten” rather than drunk. On the palate, that initial meaty aroma dissipates and is replaced with nutty, mature, and sweet notes which can be accredited to the dried fruits. There is a surprising kick of chilli pepper as it goes down too.
4. Pittyvaich 30 Year Old
The pièce de résistance is the 30-year-old Pittyvaich. It may very well be one of the most desired bottles in the collection because of its age and rarity. The Pittyvaich was first distilled in 1989 in a Dufftown distillery house that has since been demolished. It’s unique, scarce and can’t be replicated. There are only 102 bottles in Malaysia. “Once a bottle is consumed, it’s gone, so I’d suggest savouring it and only taking it out on special occasions,” says Chong. The mouth-filling texture is silky smooth, light and easy to drink. There is a balance of fruity acidity with a sweet, light finish. Additionally, I felt a gentle, lingering spicy warmth in the after-taste that is rather pleasant on the palate.
The other whiskies from the collection are: Cardhu 11 Year Old, The Singleton 17 Year Old, Cragganmore 20 Year Old, Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old.
Diageo's 2020 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection is available in limited quantities. Whisky enthusiasts can purchase the collection by contacting Moet Hennessy Diageo Malaysia at [email protected]