Review: Diageo Scotch Whisky Special Releases 2022

Review: Diageo Scotch Whisky Special Releases 2022

Diageo’s Special Releases — its most prized Scotch whiskies in limited run formats — are here for 2022. And while you can try to ignore the insane messaging — with taglines like “the enchantress of the ruby solstice” — and the out-there bottle artwork, you certainly can’t ignore what’s in these bottles — all hitting the shelves at cask strength. Ready to dive in to another round with these rarities? Here we go.

(Note: The most expensive of the releases this year? $360… a far cry from the parade of four-figure bottlings we’ve seen in the past.)

Lagavulin 12 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s another year with cask strength Lagavulin 12, this one matured in bourbon and virgin oak casks. Though claims of being drawn from its “smokiest reserves” are made, this is actually a pretty supple, balanced expression of Lagavulin. Peat and iodine lead the way on nose and palate to light-handed fruit — pear, spiced apple, and, eventually, Earl Grey tea. Water is transformative here, letting the salt and fruity sweetness meld more clearly, and well-tempering the bonfire smoke and medicinal notes on the finish. 114.6 proof. B+ / $150 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]

Talisker 11 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – A fairly standard expression of Talisker, with 11 years in first-fill bourbon barrels. Boldly salty and moderately smoky on the nose, this ashy dram has plenty of Talisker hallmarks, including a kipper and iodine punch that becomes rather pungent with time in glass. Sea spray and a squeeze of lemon are immersive on the palate, giving things a gritty, rustic texture. It’s very much a classic Talisker construction through and through, just at a much higher abv, which doesn’t do all that much to change the game. Water only muddies the story. For Talisker purists only. 110.2 proof. B- / $145 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]

Clynelish 12 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – Finished in a oloroso and PX casks, this release from the remote Highlands distillery kicks off with massive spice, pepper, and sherry notes, followed up with hazelnut and, curiously, some anise visible. A rather green, burly spirit, the palate has lots going on — citrus, pungent char, pepper, and an almond note all at once. It all comes across as rather scattered, but water is helpful at taming the beast, at least a bit, coaxing out a milder citrus character and some blossom notes. The florals get slightly soapy on the finish, but it’s never off-putting. All told, it’s fine, but better and more interesting expressions are readily available in this collection. 117 proof. B / $235 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]

The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – Eight of the 15 years of this whisky’s aging are spent in red wine casks, giving it a distinctly unique disposition. Savory up front, the nose is dense and nutty and lightly peppery as it haltingly gives way to those inevitable, tannic red wine notes, thick with both oak and grape skins. It’s equally intense on the palate, showcasing gentle notes of roast beef before moving into a slick spice bill, cloves and nutmeg informing a lush, brown buttery character. Warming and lightly peppery on the finish, but oh so tantalizing from start to finish. Never seen a Glen Ord like this, that’s for sure. 108.4 proof. A / $155

Cardhu 16 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – Finished in a Jamaican rum cask, which seems to be a first for a relatively sleepy distillery like Cardhu. The expected bump of sweetness is welcome here, providing a nose of toffee and banana, almost tiki-like at times, balanced with some earthiness, then notes of mandarin orange. It’s decidedly more complex on the nose than the typical Cardhu expression, and the palate is equally fun, showcasing rich fruit notes — both citrus and apple — some bitter orange peel (almost sherry-like), and something of a hogo character as it builds in the glass. Cardhu tends to be aggressive, and this whisky is no exception, though the rum meets it head-on and engages with it, creating a surprisingly elevated, differentiated experience with notes of baking spice, well-toasted oak, and flambeed banana late in the game. Tough and biting yet gloriously immersive on the finish, I keep thinking this is something I should float in a Zombie, were it not such a rarity. 116 proof. A- / $290

Oban 10 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – Matured in refill and new American oak, then finished in sherry (presumably oloroso) and Amontillado seasoned casks. Delightful notes of citrus kick off the nose in a way that feels distinctly un-Obanlike but which is nonetheless engaging through and through, though elements of sesame and that classic Oban note of sea spray and coal dust offer a familiar shoulder to lean on. On the palate, the formula is reversed. Malt and a gentle smokiness lead the way to notes of spiced apple, sharper red fruits, and eventually some sea spray salting up the finish and evoking a beachfront campfire off in the distance. It’s straightforward but laser-focused on its most endearing elements — and it’s one of those whiskies where a 50ml sample just doesn’t do it justice. 114.2 proof. A / $145 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]

Cameron Bridge 26 Years Old Limited Edition 2022 – This single grain comes from the largest grain distillery in Europe, and arguably the oldest. There are no big mysteries here, kicking off with that classic honey-sweet nose that evokes lemon peel, overripe fruit, and a healthy pinch of chimney soot. I’ve never been a huge single grain fan, and this release comes across as very familiar — seeming far more youthful than its quarter-century of age would suggest. More than a little gummy on the palate, with lots of ultra-sweet fruit, marshmallow creme, and toasted grains in a swizzle. Strangely hot on the finish, with something of a burnt note to it. Aka Cameronbridge. 112.4 proof. B / $360

Cameron Bridge 26 Years Old Limited Edition 2022




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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