The Whisky Tasting Club

Diageo special releases: second half

Evening all, and welcome back.

Now if you recall, in the first half Diageo went 3-1 up so they’re doing good. But as Tony will tell you, that’s one less than Reading at half time. and it’s not out of the question that this tasting can end up as a 4-4 draw just as it was with The Arse this week. In which case – genius! – I shall demand four more whiskies for extra time and promise them a 7-5 victory?

I tried to balance the two halves of the tasting and I’m taking my time because these whiskies demand respect. But here we may well have the weakest (Auchroisk) and the strongest (Port Ellen). But then again, that price tag might be Port Ellen’s undoing.

We shall see.

Anyway the players are on the pitch, we’re all set to go. Let battle commence.

Auchroisk 30 year old, distilled in 1982, bottled in 2012  54.7%


What they want for it: £230

What they say about it: The oldest Auchroisk ever released by the distillers. From a mix of American & European Oak refill casks filled in 1982.

What I say about it: The malt used in the original Singleton is in pretty stellar company here and has its work cut out. But it has a surprisingly loyal following in some circles. So can it cut it? Sceptical…

How it did:

Nose: Gets prettier the longer you leave it. It’s a bit cramped, damp and fungal first out but there are pretty floral notes there after a while, and some brittle toffee nut bar. A smattering of sawdust. Quite feminine.

Palate: Nice and spicy with intense dark chocolate and espresso coffee notes.The treacle toffee is there but there’s a burnt note to it, too, and that might just be the oak sweeping all before it.

Palate: Disappointing really. It’s too intense, dark and unforgiving. A bit like burnt toast.

Would I or wouldn’t I? No, definitely not. Just not for me.

3-2 and The Ageo has a match on its hands. The atmosphere has changed entirely. We need something with experience. Oh, and here it is…

 Dalwhinnie 25 year old Distilled in 1987, bottled in 2012 52.1%

What they want for it: £185

What they say about it: Latest of four limited releases to be offered by the distillery, and the first of these to come from rejuvenated American Oak hogsheads.

What I say about it: Can a whisky so nearly perfect as the standard (!) 15 year old be bettered by an older version, and should we even try? Should the Rolling Stones have split up decades ago?  Hell no! Have you heard the new single? Are you as curious about this as me? And does it have to be better? No. Like The Stones, it can just be different and worth being in our lives. Big hopes here…

How it did:

Nose: I’ve never been in a garden full of tropical fruit after a rainstorm but this is what I imagine it would smell like. There’s pineapple and mango, sherbet dib-dab, quite clean and sweet but with something damp, too – sort of dirty wispy smoke. Quite polite. Like.

Palate:Wow! I accidentally poured pepper on my grapefruit and it works! It’s a weird mix of a lime liqueur and a fragile grapefruit. Its two main characteristics, as you might expect, are sweetness and Highland earthiness. Perhaps not as rich and honeyed as the 15 year old but reminds me of the delightful Ardmore 25 year old. Some astringency from the oak but this is a treat.

Finish: The driest, oakiest and spiciest part of the ride, but the grapefruit doesn’t let go. Long and lingering. Excellent whisky.

Would I or wouldn’t I? Oh without a doubt.

4-2 to the Ageo and the fans sigh in relief. They can’t lose now and
they have two star strikers on the bench….

Port Ellen 32 year old, 12th release 52.5%

What they want for it:£600 (gulp)

What they say about it: Twelfth of a very limited series of annual releases. From refill
American Oak and refill European Oak casks filled in 1979.

What I say about it: Are we nearly there yet? How much more is hidden away? If you’re a conspiracy theorist you could put up a good argument that some DCL genius (or whatever it was back then) laid down masses of stock from this distillery then closed it down just so we reached this point. Okay, not the greatest theory but David Icke got 4000 people the other night. This is the same age as last year’s release. Can it keep living up to the hype?

How it did

Nose: Mucky but magical. It’s like riding with the driver on a steam train. If you don’t like getting dirty don’t go there. If you do it’s dirty bliss. Oily, fish innards in brine, scuzzy peat smoke dipping in and out of the mix. It’s the whisky equivalent of chili stuffed olives. Sounds intense and intense it is. Sounds awful and it isn’t.

Palate: Well you know you’re not drinking tea. It’s big, with lots of peat and cocoa, but also oak. But there is something not quite right here. Hold it in the mouth – and if you’re going to buy and drink this stuff I’m sure you’re going to savour it sip by sip – then after you get past the peat there’s a flat note which I was taught comes from a poor cask. It’s not the greatest.

Finish: Nice and peaty – but so’s Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig Quarter Cask & St George’s Chapter 11. Have I just committed treason?

Would I or wouldn’t I? I was going to give it the point and then dramatically wave it offside so that the score would be 4.5-2.5 and the victory would be in the bag. Can’t do it. Not a great Port Ellen. Not one to buy and drink. Collect maybe. But we don’t do that, any of us, do we?

So it’s now 4-3 and all to play for.

Oh and if Mark Reynier’s reading, I know which side my bread is buttered when it comes to Diageo do I? Right.

Although I have my fingers crossed for the youth off the bench…

Lagavulin 12 years old, distilled 2000, bottled in 2012, 56.1%

What they want for it: £71 (Yes!)

What they say about it: Eleventh in a series of special 12 year old releases from the original distiller’s stocks. Vatted from refill American Oak casks, each at least 12 years old.

What I say about it: The Whisky Tasting Club’s Uncle Tony rates 12 year old pretty much close to his favourite whisky <ed: that made michelle laugh!>. I can see why. He has favourites from the last 10 bottlings but he wouldn’t throw any of them out of bed for smoking after adult intimacy. Big hopes here.

How it did

Nose: Very Islay, oily, fishy, smoky, peaty. But there’s a very sexy sweet citrus thing going on and there’s no earthiness or scuzziness here. This is is a very good young power metal band. It knows its music but the energy of youth comes through in droves.

Palate: As I started tasting this Rival Sons’ You Want To burst out the iPad with the opening line ‘oooohhh, you got me right where you want me’. Bang on. Download the track, buy the bottle andy take it in to 4D. This is fierce -big peat, lots of mocha, lots of pear, some hickory…I’m in the zone.

Finish: Waiting for the finish is like coming off the highest roller coaster in the world and then waiting to watch the next ride. Sod that! I’m going on again. See ya.

Would I or wouldn’t I? Oh yes. So much so that I’m awarding it two goals. Why can’t I? My game!

6-3 to the Ageo!

A great set of releases.

Time, I think, for a curry…

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  • “Can a whisky so nearly perfect as the standard (!) 15 year old…”

    If the Dalwhinnie 15 is that good why did you not include it in your book “1001 whiskies you must taste before you die”?

    Surely Mark Reynier would not have minded (too much) if you included the Dalwhinnie in place of one of the 19 Bruichladdich’s … LOL

  • not sure why its not in Dom’s book, but it is in our highland tasting

  • I didn’t cover that region so wasn’t responsible for selecting it. I used 25 writers and until you mentioned it I wasn’t even aware it wasn’t there! But it was on my original list and it’s covered in all the other books which I’ve written.

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