Scotch By Nino Kilgore-Marchetti / September 8, 2020 Diageo, through the numerous distilleries it owns in Scotland, each year releases its Special Releases Whisky Collection. Bottlings in this line up typically range in age and rarity as well as price. Of late they’ve been themed as well, and for 2020 eight cask strength bottlings have been chosen that center around a “Rare by Nature” tag line. The new 2020 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection, according to those behind it, draws upon a number of notable considerations in its line up, including unusual age points, experimental maturation techniques and a first-ever release finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks. The encore theme, meanwhile, “highlights the extraordinary nature that surrounds each distillery, with each whisky visually brought to life through intricate illustrations that decorate the bottles.” 2020 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection (image via Diageo) “I’ve created this year’s Special Releases Collection,” said Dr. Craig Wilson, Diageo Master Blender, in a prepared statement, “from some of my favorite distilleries across Scotland, with whisky enthusiasts in mind. For those who enjoy spicy flavors, my recommendation would be to try our Cardhu, and for those who favor rich, intense and smooth flavors my choice would be Mortlach 21 year old. “If you are curious about discovering something very rare, the Pittyvaich – the single ghost distillery in our Special Releases Collection this year is an unforgettable dram.” Plans call for these whiskies to be available in the US in extremely limited numbers at select retailers being in late fall. You’ll find more specifics on each bottling below, including official tasting notes, based upon information provided by Diageo. Cardhu 11 Year Old ABV: 56% Region: Speyside Limited quantities worldwide SRP $111 Cardhu, the Queen of Speyside malts, has a generous spirit that is as well matched to that of hard- working founder, Helen Cumming, as it is to that of the busy bees that pollinate the hillside heather through the long days of summer. Clean, elegant and perfectly poised, this Cardhu was made in small batches and matured in refill casks, as well as new and ex-bourbon American oak, drawing out tones of floral sweetness and spicy intensity in a playful exchange between wood and whisky. Notes of fresh orchard pear, green apple, grape and pineapple join a trace of lemon peel on the nose, with a gentle mossy base. The texture is creamy-smooth, the taste sweet then juicy, with a buttery richness. Of a good length, the finish is spicy, with lingering warmth. Cragganmore 20 Year Old ABV: 55.8% Region: Speyside Limited quantities worldwide SRP $171 A Cragganmore of this age has never been released from the distillery, making this elusive malt a much anticipated expression. In addition sweet and mellow woody notes emerge from this small batch, patiently matured over 20 years in a mix that included new fresh-charred American oak casks. Cragganmore is a highly respected Speyside malt founded by a giant among distillers, John Smith. The ethereal aromas are among the most complex to be found in any malt, appearing and disappearing mysteriously like the ghostly flight of the Barn Owl as it quarters the wooded Speyside glens at twilight in search of its prey. Showing the sweet and spicy effects of part maturation in new oak, this expression explores the woods just as deeply. The mellow nose is sweet overall, revealing fruity top notes of ripe pear, soft melon and green banana, then more savory hints of soft glove leather and sanded hardwood. The texture is creamy-smooth while the taste is rich and not quite as sweet, delightfully balanced by a savory mid-palate. The finish is long, velvety and spicy-dry. Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old ABV: 51.9% Region: Highland No. bottles available: 6,978 SRP $722 This ultra-rare single vintage Dalwhinnie has an astonishing bright intensity for its age and comes uniquely from refill American oak hogsheads, all of which were casked in 1989. Three decades of maturity have bought a fine elegance to the vibrant distillery character, allowing its moorland aromas to peak. The result is smoothly sweet, yet also surprisingly peppery. From the highest distillery in Scotland, part of her coldest inhabited community, Dalwhinnie is a mountain malt. It is as well adapted to its location and as lively in taste as the nearby mountain hares that box for supremacy in spring.. The aroma is gentle; sweet and fragrant with herbal scents, subtle traces of butterscotch and hard fruit candy, and a base of spicy wood. The texture is smoothly creamy, the vibrant taste richly sweet overall, with a drying, gradually building peppery-spicy warmth. The finish is long and delightfully warming. Lagavulin 12 Year Old ABV: 56.4% Region: Islay Limited quantities worldwide SRP $164 This Lagavulin has been matured in traditional refill American oak casks selected to give a perfect expression of distillery character. Soaring in taste and intensity, the flavor is powerful and assertive yet subtly sweet. Lagavulin is an iconic Islay malt, its majestic spirit steeped in history for over two hundred years. Standing proud in a rocky bay crowned with a castle by the Lords of the Isles, who long ago ruled Islay, it reigns supreme today like the White Tailed Eagle that soars high above sea and shore nearby. The aromas of this modern day King of Islay are elusive, until familiar hints of ash and linseed oil emerge. A light fruity note follows, as does a clean, fresh whiff of the sea, like breathing in the air of Lagavulin bay. The texture is smooth, the big taste sweeter than expected, intense and deeply smoky, with a long and commanding finish. Mortlach 21 Year Old ABV: 56.9% Region: Speyside No. bottles available: 7,692 SRP $755 This Mortlach was matured for rich distillery character in small batches then carefully finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso-seasoned casks to build yet more levels of aroma and taste. At once smooth, sweet and savory, the many-layered outcome mirrors the complexity of the mysterious Mortlach 2.81 distillation itself. Called the “The Beast of Dufftown” for its robust, meaty nature, little known Mortlach may be the best kept secret in Scotch. Bold flavors are the mark of this special breed, distinguishing it as the monarch of its glen as surely as the bellow of a mature red deer stag. The aromas run deep, swirling with dark dried fruits and savory, meaty notes. The texture is super- smooth, the intense taste is sweet with rich fruit and cured ham, building to a lingering spicy- dryness. Long and impressive, the finish truly emphasizes this harmony of sweetness and spice, leaving the palate dry in a glorious afterglow. Pittyvaich 30 Year Old ABV: 50.8% Region: Speyside No. bottles available: 7,056 SRP $525 This elusive 1989 Pittyvaich from the last remaining stocks is the first ever to be finished in first-fill ex-bourbon casks. This finely crafted finishing has brought an exotic, rich vanilla sweetness to the light, creamy, fruity aromas and flavours of a less well known Speyside gem, until now familiar only to a knowledgeable few. A ‘ghost’ distillery that worked for only 18 years before falling victim to industry consolidation in 1993, the buildings of Pittyvaich have long since vanished. Its dwindling stock is as rarely sighted today as the shy capercaillie, a bird occasionally spotted in Scottish pine forests. Aromas of sweet oak, delicate ripe fruitiness and dried flowers leap from the glass. The texture is soft and silky, the sweet taste rich in notes of vanilla that perfectly match the classic green, creamy and fruity distillery character. It becomes drying in the development, while the smooth, warming finish closes with a final sweet flourish. Talisker 8 Year Old ABV: 57.9% Region: Isle of Skye Limited quantities worldwide SRP $119 From a malt rich in maritime character, this adventurous release of Talisker is the first ever to be finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks. They have enlivened the marine scents and peppery punch of this Skye distillery’s colorful character with the rich, dark and exotic sweetness of warmer climes. Founded in 1830, Talisker was the first distillery licensed on Skye and remains the island’s oldest working distillery. Famous for a full-bodied, rich character and powerful peppery finale, it is made by the sea, like the oyster beds that teem with life in the clear waters of the island’s west coast. Deep, caramel aromas are balanced by sea salt, dry seaweed and warm sand on a smoky barbecue base. The texture is smooth, the taste hugely rich and sweet before the classic Talisker heat builds with a dash of salt and chilli pepper to a smoky, peppery and drying finish. The Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old ABV: 55.1% Region: Highland Limited quantities worldwide SRP $145 This unusual first-ever exclusively refill cask release of The Singleton Dufftown has been matured for seventeen years in refill American oak hogsheads, to showcase the fresh, spring-like nature of this slowly crafted single malt. The Singleton is renowned for the smoothness and balance of its whiskies, which match the liveliness and vigour of the leaping salmon in the fast flowing rivers of the Highlands of Scotland. The Singleton Dufftown is particularly known for its elegant grassy and fruity aromas and tastes. The mellow aromas mark this as a classic Speyside malt, with a first sweet impression of honeycomb and beneath, a floral note of dry grasses with hints of fruit on an earthy base. The texture is creamy-smooth and coating, while the taste is sweet, rich and perfectly balanced. There is a warming, drying finish, with a peppery spiciness.