Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
The annual Diageo Special Releases always has a theme. However, the 2020 edition marks the first time a theme repeats itself. Due to the popularity of the 2019 Rare By Nature collection, Diageo has released a part two. Master Blender, Dr. Craig Wilson was given this special opportunity for an encore to his carefully selected whiskies from 2019.
The 2020 Rare by Nature has the same whiskies as the 2019 Special Releases for whisky lovers to compare. Dr. Wilson meticulously hand-selects each whisky to show another side of the distilleries chosen. The third whisky in the Rare by Nature editions comes from the Dalwhinnie Distillery. The age statement of the whisky has not changed, and it is one of two 30-year-old whiskies in the 2020 edition.
Fun fact: the Dalwhinnie Distillery is the second highest distillery in Scotland at 1164 feet above sea level. John Grant founded the distillery in 1897. Whisky production, however, started a year later. It quickly changed owners, and eventually an American liquor company became the first investors in the Scotch whisky trade. The Cook & Bernheimer Company bought the Dalwhinnie Distillery specifically for selling blended whisky.
With wartime looming, the Cook & Bernheimer Company sold the distillery and went out of business. Even with ownership repeatedly changing hands, production kept going until a fire in 1934. It took four years to rebuild, but by that time WWII caused barley shortages throughout Scotland.
It should be noted that only 10% of Dalwhinnie’s whisky is bottled as a single malt. Even with Diageo owning the distillery, the rest of the whisky gets blended for the brand Black & White. Luckily for us, Diageo put a Dalwhinnie single malt in both the 2019 and 2020 Rare by Nature Special Releases collection. Let’s see how the 30-year-old whisky compares to last year’s edition.
Tasting Notes: Rare by Nature 2020 Special Release Dalwhinnie 30 Year
Vital Stats: 51.9% ABV. Highland single malt distilled in 1989. Matured in refill hogsheads. 750ml $732.
Appearance: Light amber
Nose: Peaches and nectarines immediately jump out to me. Spun sugar with the overly sweet cotton candy mingles with bright lemon peel. Fresh garden mint with tree bark rounds out the backend.
Palate: All the oak just comes at you at the beginning. It is hot on the tongue at its natural cask strength, and the mouthfeel is light. There is a bit of soot or charcoal to the whisky. However, the palate offer little compared to the nose. It is earthy or swampy. Overall, you really have to focus to pick out the stone fruit.
The Dalwhinnie 30 year-old in the Rare by Nature Special Releases encore is more on the nose than the 2019 edition, yet less flavor than the 2019 edition. While it is hot on the tongue from the ABV, it does not burn the way the 2019 did. Overall, the 2020 edition is better even though both editions have the same age statement. I recommend comparing them side by side if you have a chance.
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Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...