It’s time to get started with an annual treat: Diageo’s Special Releases, a collection of limited release cask strength Scotch whiskies, each representing a one-off bottling. This year’s releases are a bit unusual: Only eight whiskies are being released, and of those eight, only three are being sold in the U.S. (No unpeated Caol Ila this year, folks!) We were fortunate enough to receive the full octet, and will note in each of the reviews whether you’ll be able to obtain them on our shores.
We kick things off with a somewhat inauspicious bottling of Cardhu at 14 years of age. Cardhu is the primary blending malt in the Johnnie Walker blends, and on its own it’s rarely much of a thrill. This 14 year old isn’t an exception, though it is unusually finished in Amontillado sherry-seasoned hogsheads.
On the nose, the whisky feels muted and a bit lifeless, with a somewhat basic note of cereal and greenery dominating. Over time, the whisky gets increasingly beefy, though notes of cloves add a certain spice.
The palate is sharp with sherry-driven notes of cherries and burnt orange peel before slowly moving into a beefier character. Boldly chewy, it fills the mouth with a hearty character that, on the finish, feels like you’ve just downed a Sunday roast. Woodsy and a bit chalky on the back end, it never really coalesces into the dramatic experience one expects from the Diageo Special Releases line.
110 proof. Not available in the U.S.
B / £120 / malts.com