Prima & Ultima – meaning ‘first and last’ – showcases whiskies that are exactly that: either the first or the last of their kind. The eight single malts in this year’s line-up were chosen by Diageo master blender Dr Craig Wilson, following in the footsteps of previous Prima & Ultima creators Maureen Robinson and Dr Jim Beveridge OBE.
The whiskies include the final Brora bottling from 1981, and spirit from the last two casks of Port Ellen filled in 1980, as well as single malts from Royal Lochnagar, Cragganmore, Mannochmore, The Singleton of Glen Ord, Lagavulin and Talisker.
‘I have personally selected each whisky with great care, each an exceptional spirit marking a special time in the distilleries’ history and whiskies that I’ve had the privilege to watch mature,’ said Dr Wilson.
The theme of this year’s collection is ‘A Moment in Time’, linked to the natural preservation of fossils and specimens, with each whisky allocated a precious artefact that reflects its story.
Priced at £36,500 in the UK, there are 317 full sets of Prima & Ultima Third Release available through appointed agents, and for the first time whiskies are also available for individual purchase. Online registration of interest is open now, until 30 June, at www.theprimaandultimacollection.com.
The result of a mysterious experiment designed to reduce the angels’ share (evaporation) as whisky matures, this is a delicate, fragrant, beautifully expressive single malt from one of Diageo’s smallest and most photogenic distilleries. Highly floral, with lavender and jasmine on the nose and ginger, honey and light oak tannin on the palate.
The oldest release of Cragganmore to date, this was distilled soon after steam replaced coal in heating the stills. It’s as smooth as a velvet smoking jacket and unctuously fruity – cassis, then peach and nectarine. The assertive oak brings a drying, nutty dimension alongside toffee, with always the tang of dark marmalade lurking in the background.
The lesser-spotted, malty Mannochmore, made even rarer by its experimental maturation for almost three decades in highly active, virgin European oak. Charred bitter orange peel, spice rack flavours, coffee roaster and opulent aromas of well-polished antique bureau. A rich, deep single malt for fans of cask-driven whiskies.
Brora is a chameleon, embracing everything from dark smoke to waxy, juicy fruit. This final release from 1981, combining American oak hogshead and European oak Sherry butt, displays a little of everything: honeyed fruit, snuffed candle, shaved nutmeg and a gentle wisp of peat smoke. The star of this year’s show.
A single malt to linger over when nosing – this is a massively fragrant, floral, fine whisky, with notes of ginger snap, bright fruit and an elusive wisp of smoke, possibly from the refill American oak. Remarkably lively, but also deep and broad, with a sweet finish. Add water for honeysuckle and gentle vanilla.
Showing Lagavulin’s darker side thanks to ageing in European and American oak, this is a richly fruited malt that will delight fans of Laga 16. Juicy blackcurrant and raspberry, then classic distillery notes of beach bonfire and iodine. Lapsang flavours are swiftly smothered by sweet black cherry and a compelling vinosity.
The finest Taliskers are a harmonious balancing act of salt, smoke and sweetness, with just a pinch of chilli heat. Here the chimney soot smoke is quite assertive, but always the distillery’s classic maritime salinity persists, with some alluringly sweet fruit in the background. A savoury, silky whisky redolent of warm summer days on a Skye beach.
Commemorating HM Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Port Ellen in 1980, this is the oldest release yet from the distillery. Remarkably high in alcohol for a 41-year-old whisky, it’s full-on, quintessential Port Ellen, with robust flavours of dying coal fire and a drying effect on the palate, elevated by beguiling flavours of honeydew melon. Beautifully textured, with a long, savoury finish of Iberico ham.