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Whisky launch: Diageo Special Releases 2022

This year’s release focuses on younger expressions at comparatively lower prices. Richard Woodard reviews the range and gives expert tasting notes on all eight bottles.

Leading Scotch whisky maker Diageo has unveiled the eight expressions that make up this year’s Special Releases. This is a sought-after annual collection of cask-strength malt and grain whiskies.

The range, selected by master blender Dr Craig Wilson, includes famous names such as Lagavulin and Talisker, fellow single malts Clynelish, Cardhu, Oban, Mortlach and The Singleton of Glen Ord. There is also a rare single grain release from the Cameronbridge distillery.

Dr Wilson chose the whiskies from Diageo’s 30-plus distilleries, and an inventory of more than 10 million maturing casks of whisky.

He described the collection as ‘boundary-pushing’. It features whiskies that have undergone extended secondary maturation periods and finishes in cask types including tawny Port, red Muscat and Jamaican pot still rum.

The 2022 line-up highlights the recent evolution of the Special Releases series. Once marked by the presence of older whiskies from closed distilleries such as Port Ellen and Brora, the range is now more focused on younger expressions and (relatively) lower prices.

Among this year’s whiskies, six have been aged for between 10 and 16 years, the exceptions being Mortlach (which has no age statement) and Cameronbridge, a 26-year-old single grain whisky.

Cameronbridge is also the most expensive of this year’s releases at £275 for a 70cl bottle. The others are all priced at between £105 and £175, except for Mortlach at £250.

Subtitled as ‘Elusive Expressions’, the whiskies have back-stories revolving around mythical beasts and tales. These include ‘The Flames of the Phoenix’ (Lagavulin) and ‘The Lure of the Blood Moon’ (Mortlach).

Labels feature the artwork of illustrators Ken Taylor and Kevin Tong. A new Elusive Expressions Cocktails and Serves book – in graphic novel style – includes recipes to try at home.

This year’s Special Releases also feature an immersive digital experience, activated via QR code, enabling purchasers to interact with the collection and their back-stories.

Limited quantities of Diageo’s 2022 Special Releases collection are available now from specialist whisky retailers and at malts.com.

Diageo Special Releases 2022: tasting notes

Cameronbridge 26 Year Old

Classical ex-Bourbon grain character – buttery popcorn, honeyed cereal, wood shavings – alongside a zesty, Cointreau-like note that darkens with time into black banana. Silky and vibrant. Alcohol 56.2%

Cardhu 16 Year Old

Initially shy on the nose, with notes of brioche and lemon drizzle cake, but the palate is far bolder thanks to time in Jamaican rum casks: raspberries dipped in chocolate, damson and roasted pineapple. Alc 58%

Clynelish 12 Year Old

Famously waxy Clynelish shows its darker side after a finish in PX/oloroso sherry casks. Black tea on the nose, dried apricot on the palate and, with water, lightly spicy with a strong thread of liquorice. Alc 58.5%

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

Billed as even smokier than usual thanks to the use of ‘heavily peated’ American and virgin oak, but just classic Laga: enveloping clouds of maritime smoke, camphor and tar, undercut by light citrus. Alc 57.3%

Mortlach

The ripest and richest in this year’s line-up, this successfully matches Mortlach’s feral nature to an exotic cask mix (tawny Port, red Muscat, virgin oak). Velvet-smooth with juicy black fruit, liquorice and ginger. Alc 57.8%

Oban 10 Year Old

Autumnal and ethereal, an understated Oban with lots of green apple, hedgerow florals and sea salt. A finish in amontillado casks brings a little richness and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Alc 57.1%

The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 Year Old

Eight years in wine casks creates a beguiling red fruit character – raspberry, red cherry – alongside darker dried fruit and fig. Prickles of acidity lift the palate and ward off blowsiness. Alc 54.2%

Talisker 11 Year Old

Unmistakably Talisker, from the nose of smoke and black pepper to the finish of coal tar and chilli. Creamy, poised between salty and sweet, and one of the most successful of this year’s line-up. Alc 55.1%


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