First Look at Diageo’s Special Release 2022: Psychedelic Legends Untold (Oban, Talisker, Cardhu, Singleton, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Cameronbridge)
Note: We would be providing more updates closer to September as more information is released about each bottle. Stay tuned to this space!
What you need to know
- The annual Diageo Special Release are back, with a number of high quality but relatively affordable whisky expressions that are sought after by drinkers and collectors.
- This year's release features 6 single malts Scotch from Oban, Talisker, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Singleton of Glen Ord, Cardhu. There’s one single grain Scotch from Cameron Bridge
- The stand out bottles so far appear to be the sherried Clynelish, virgin oak cask Lagavulin and the Cameron Bridge.
- It’s still early in the year so we expect at least one more bottle to be revealed in due time!
The annual Diageo Special Release whisky bottlings are back. This is a long-running series started 20 years ago, and showcases high quality and rare limited edition expressions from Diageo’s Classic Malts distilleries. The average bottle tends to be cask strength and about 10 to 16 years of age.
With fewer inherently rare bottlings, Diageo’s marketers spend more effort on bottle art. This year, Diageo appears to be continuing its Legends Untold theme from the 2021 release with another fantasy-themed range.
For 2022, we have 6 single malts from Oban, Talisker, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Singleton of Glen Ord and Cardhu. We also have a Cameron Bridge, the first single grain Scotch in the past couple of years.
Let’s take a quick look at this year’s range.
1. Oban 10 Years Old, Ex-Sherry & Amonillado Finish, 57.1% ABV
Oban is a trippy leaping rabbit with a backdrop of the Northern Lights. The typical Oban house style is gently malty, apple-y, briny with mild spice. So the combination of ex-sherry and Amontillado-seasoned casks would be interesting. The description does raise some questions. Isn’t Amontillado already a type of sherry? What is that “ex-sherry” referring to then?
This does remind me of one other rather successful core Oban expression- the 14-year-old Oban Distiller's Edition finished in Montilla Fino casks, which has notes of rich dried fruits combined with its signature maritime profile.
Perhaps we would see some of that profile in this release.
2. Talisker 11 Years Old, Ex-bourbon Casks, Lightly Peated, 55.1% ABV
Talisker is a hallucinogenic jellyfish. Considering the first two bottles' art, you’d say the theme is more psychedelics-inspired than fairy tales.
This is a fairly standard combination of lightly-peated Talisker in an ex-bourbon cask. How would this taste? Perhaps a little similar to the long-running unpeated Caol Ila bottling that disappeared in 2018!
3. Clynelish 12 Years Old, PX and Oloroso Casks, 58.5% ABV
Clynelish’s label is a glowing Scottish wildcat - the famous mascot for the distillery.
This one’s interesting. The typical Clynelish is bright, biscuity, waxy and bourbon-matured. This expression has been instead matured in PX and Oloroso seasoned casks, so it would be interesting to see what the intense sweetness and nuttiness of the PX and Oloroso would bring out in the Clynelish.
4. Lagavulin 12 Years Old, Smokiest Reserves, Virgin Oak Casks, 57.3% ABV
Lagavulin is a burning phoenix - or is that just what a rooster looks like while we're on 'shrooms?
This is probably the one I’m most interested in tasting. This is blended from Lagavulin Distillery’s “smokiest reserves”, which we can assume is some of the peatiest stock we would be seeing from the distillery. This is also interestingly aged in virgin oak casks, which would likely make this taste much older than 12 years. The new oak is highly active and would impart much more oak flavour to the spirit.
I’d expect this to be an amped-up Lagavulin, with a much more intense notes of sweet vanilla, toffee and coconut flakes, balanced by a heavier smokiness.
Scotch distilleries generally shun virgin oak casks and go with ex-bourbon or sherry casks to avoid the astringency of new oak. For this expression to work well, we’d have to hope that the wood management and new oak maturation has been handled very carefully by the master blender.
5. Singleton of Glen Ord 15 Years Old, Wine Cask Finish, 54% ABV
The Glen Ord Distillery’s Singleton would be serving a 15-year-old wine cask-finished single malt. Glen Ord Distillery’s house style tends to feature a higher proportion of European oak maturation, which delivers a rich and well-rounded spirit with fruitcake and malt. A red wine finish could fit right in with that house style.
6. Cardhu 16 Years Old, Jamaican Pot Still Rum Cask Finish, 58% ABV
Cardhu Distillery serves up a 16-year-old single malt finished in an ex-Jamaican Pot Still Rum Cask. Now, I have tasted a couple of ex-rum cask Scotches and many have disappointed me. But this is another bottle I’d be interested to try.
Our friend John has once opined that rum cask finishings could sometimes be a little gimmicky. Scotch distilleries have difficulty melding flavours from two different spirits, particularly if notes from the Scotch are too robust and would overpower any funk we might hope to find from the rum.
In this case, a Jamaican rum cask Cardhu might just work. Cardhu is known for its soft, sweet and delicate Speyside style. There could be enough room for us to taste some funkiness from the Jamaican rum. We’ll see.
7. Cameron Bridge Single Grain 26 Years Old, Refill Casks, 56.2% ABV
I thought this was originally spelt Cameronbridge? As the oldest of the 7 bottles, this would probably be the most premium of the range for 2022, unless there’s an unrevealed bottle that would be announced later.
Like many single grain Scotches, this one has been matured in a refill cask.
Old grain whiskies are typically sold at some very reasonable prices, compared to malt whiskies. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for this one
These days, the Special Release’s range of distilleries offered appears to be getting more and more limited. We no longer see rare bottlings from mothballed distilleries (Port Ellen and Brora) due to supply shortages. Since 2017, we also no longer see the unpeated Caol Ila which is still remembered as a favourite for many.
That said, the Special Release is still worth checking out for its consistent quality, generous cask strength and occasionally interesting cask styles.
I’ll be most interested to sample the sherried Clynelish, virgin oak cask Lagavulin and Jamaican rum cask finished Cardhu.
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