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Roseile 12 Years old, 56.5% ABV, Diageo Special Releases 2023 ‘The Origami Kite’


Diageo's Special Releases are an annual part of the Scotch calendar. An event you keep a look out for, definitely one that catches eyeballs, all of which carries the hope for something, well, special.

And let's face it. With each passing year, the anticipation has grown ever so much more weary. Each set has gotten more marketing driven and less about the whisky. That was probably no more obvious than when mystical creatures were called upon to don bottle labels. Which - granted is eye catching and should be given some credit for an attempt to make Scotch look more accessible - is certainly not the ascetic labels of yore which simply stated details of the whisky and where it was from. Ironically, those sets from yesteryears were what powered the excitement for Diageo's Special Releases.


The legendary's of Diageo's OG "special" collection, the Rare Malts Selection, surfaced the likes of both bygone distilleries such as Brora, Port Ellen, Rosebank, and also created cult followings for the likes of active distilleries such as Caol Ila and Clynelish - Scotch fans would more than likely pinpoint that to be the source of their high regard for Diageo's Special Releases. And so when the Rare Malts Selection concluded in 2005 and was lowkey replaced by the Special Releases, which at that point had clocked five years of track record, much of that excitement still carried over.


The Rare Malts Selection by contrast to today's Special Releases, seems awfully ascetic and yet punched its way to legendary status. (Image Source: McTear's)


The newly minted Diageo Special Releases had started in 2001, and would unofficially take over the torch in 2006.

Up till that point, the Special Releases looked promising - you were assured a Brora, a Port Ellen, a Talisker (later two even!), and a Caol Ila, and then you'd be treated to a surprise of Diageo's pick of the litter, could be a Glenury Royal, or a Convalmore, along with some of the staples, Cardhu, Dalwhinnie, Mortlach, that sort. Whatever it was, whoever you were, everyone knew there was something in there for everyone.

As the years went on, it wasn't the biggest shocker that ghost distilleries such as Port Ellen and Brora were dropped - after all, there was only so much of the stuff left. Everyone knew the day would come, even if they had hoped it would carry on for just one more year. That year was 2017.


The Special Releases of 2006 looks remarkably different from today. (Image Source: Whisky-Note)


2018 - the first year without the cornerstone Port Ellen and Brora - saw a a 35 Year Old Caol Ila, and then pretty much a mixed bag of young staple Scotch's and some "yeah, I've heard of that somewhere" distilleries.

Each passing year somehow seemed less exciting. In all fairness, you could just as well blame Diageo for its excellent bolstering of each of its classic malt's own individual well-developed lineup. That made it such that if you were in the market for a 15 Year Old Talisker, or a 12 Year Old Lagavulin, or 21 Year Old Mortlach, heck you could find it year round from each distillery/brand's core lineup. Even the not as popular brands such as Dalwhinnie, Cardhu, Oban, Royal Lochnagar or Glenkinchie have pretty consistent flagship expressions stretching quite the age range. Not really screaming "Special".

Sure, some of them were finished in more unique barrels, but the recommended retail prices were also getting quite "pretty". Over time, they just seemed unspectacular and costly for being not-so-special.


You'd have thought they were producing Tesla's in there. (Image Source: AECOM)


Yet, 2023 rolled around, and suddenly eyebrows (curiously) raised - "Roseile". That's new - for once.

And yes, it was new, Roseile being Diageo's big new £40m mega distillery. While it had in fact been in the works since 2010, the distillery was only to make its first proper appearance in Diageo's 2023 Special Releases. Finally! Something actually "Special".

Located at the northern tip of Speyside (with Glen Moray Distillery being the closest distillery to it), the distillery is one of Scotland's largest by production capacity. At 10 million litres per annum, it places fifth in all of Scotland. It was also designed to be more eco-friendly, generating less than 15% of CO2 of that of an average distillery. Alot of its work is also going to be automated, with only 10 staff running the distillery, the idea being for the distillery to be sustainability focused whilst also providing much needed Scotch components to all of Diageo's portfolio. 

The distillery itself is also set up to be capable of producing two distinct styles of spirit - one lighter and grassier, whilst the other heavier, oilier and more sulphury. While the Roseile 12 Year Old is the first time we're seeing the distillery's spirit bottled under its own name, it actually did make a small appearance in the Collectivum XXVIII Blended Scotch expression that was part of the Diageo Special Release 2017 cohort.


Ryoko Tamura, the artist behind the Origami Kite. (Image Source: Bokabeitan)


I won't go much more into details, because more importantly we've got to find out how it tastes!

Also special shout out to the artist Ryoko Tamura, a Japanese artist based in Scotland, who was the person behind the Origami Kite label, which is really, really pretty!

Let's give this a spin! 

Roseile 12 Years old, 56.5% ABV, Diageo Special Releases 2023 ‘The Origami Kite’ - Review

Tasting Notes

Colour: Gold

Aroma: Warm, deep notes of honey coating orchard fruits of apricots, pears, red apples. It’s waxy and creamy, with a thick, syrup texture. There’s a side of confectionary quality to it, alittle like powdered sugar and fried bread dough. There’s a light grassiness here too.

Taste: It starts off honey sweet, but immediately deepens with much punchier notes of black pepper, apple pie filling, spiced honey. There’s bits of lemon sherbet, mascarpone and marzipan too. It’s medium bodied but has a very buttery, waxy texture.

Finish: Long peppery finish that’s backed up by warmer, sweeter notes of honey. Over time more on vanilla cream and apricots. A final wisp of eucalyptus.


My Thoughts

A solid Scotch by all accounts - as with everything new, it's met with equal parts curiosity, hype and skepticism - but having tried and tasted it, I can most definitely say that there's no way anyone could say this wasn't a good whisky. Pricey? Maybe, but that's another matter altogether.

This had great fruity and honeyed aromas, with a lovely creaminess and waxiness to its body, with warm summer time flavours. It's quite classically Highland Scotch in my opinion, and does better when you give it some time to air. It's rather punchy and nippy on the palate at the start, alittle closed off as well, but does open up to more orchard fruits and floral notes.

For me though, the finish was really where I liked it most (aside from the buttery texture on the palate) - I found that it continued to open up on the thoroughly long finish, showcasing a delightful evolution that gave everything from vanilla cream decked upon apricots, to a more herbal eucalyptus.

All in, this was very enjoyable - most definitely a solid first release. But to that end I also felt it was a rather "safe" expression that didn't really bring out anything out of the ordinary or particularly new and unique to the table. It was by my account a benchmark ex-Bourbon Highland Scotch, nothing less, but nothing more.


My Rating: 7/10


Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.