Review: 2017 Diageo Special Releases

Diageo Special Releases 2017 Full Range

With the release of the 2018 Diageo Special Releases a few months away, I thought now would be as good a time as ever to take a quick look at last year’s bottlings.  Better late than never, I say!


The oldest whisky in this year’s collection, Port Dundas 52-year-old was distilled in 1964 and bottled at 44.6% ABV.  It matured in refill American Oak hogsheads.  Only 752 bottles were made available.  $900

The nose is robust, with hints of buttered toffee, vanilla cream, baking spices, and well worn leather. The whisky coats the mouth with rich caramel and aged vanilla bean. A slight musty character is also present. Old oak brings some spice and slight astringency. Some leather, dark roast coffee and fudge appear on the back palate and into the long finish, leaving behind dark toffee and anise on the long finish. Beautifully matured. A fine example of an old single grain whisky.  9.5/10


Distilled in 1993, Blair Athol 23-year-old matured in ex-bodega European Oak butts.  It is bottled at 54.8% ABV.  5,514 bottles available. $460

Lots of dried fruit on the nose, along with some bananas foster, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, and allspice. There is a lovely basenote of brioche. Some airtime reveals menthol. Flavorwise, this whisky starts off with rich toffee, dried fruit, and spice. A licorice note develops soon afterwards. The whisky becomes a bit dry, revealing oak notes as it reaches its medium finish. Nice enough, but not distinctive.  8/10


This Convalmore release was distilled in 1984 and aged in refill American Oak hogsheads.  It comes in at 48.2% ABV.  3,972 bottles available. $1,400

Pineapple preserves play heavily on the nose. Some spice and grapefruit peel add character. The palate consists of a bittersweet fruit cocktail with a light drizzle of toffee. Some herbs come into play, followed by fresh ginger and black pepper, as well as a bit of cedar in the background. The finish is long, semi-sweet and spicy.  8/10


My favorite of the the 2017 Special Releases, Brora 34-year-old was distilled in 1982 and matured in refill American Oak hogsheads.  It has an ABV of 51.9%.  3,000 bottles are available at an SRP of $1,700.

Not as much peat on the nose as past releases here.  This release is fruit forward on the nose with complementary aromas of cardamom and leather.  There is a slightly savory quality buried here as well.  The palate has that big waxy fruit quality for which the distillery is known.  Full-bodied and well rounded, the whisky develops notes of dark chocolate, tobacco, spice and old oak.  A notable long, leathery finish also features lingering notes of honeyed fruit and aromatic bitters. 9/10


This rare release from Teaninich was distilled in 1999 and matured in refill American Oak hogsheads.  It was bottled at 55.9% ABV and available at an SRP of $310.

A sweet, grain-forward profile describes the nose on this single malt, featuring hints of fresh baked bread, lemon zest, coconut shavings and toffee.  The palate has a buttered Hawaiian sweet roll characteristic, followed by nutty toffee and a splash of freshly squeezed citrus juice.  A small amount of spice hits the back palate, but it’s ever so slight. The long finish features more of the same flavors.  7.5/10


Distilled in 1998, Glen Elgin 18-year-old spent its life in ex-bodega European Oak butts.  It’s bottled at 54.8% ABV, with 5,352 bottles available at a price of $340

The aromatic nose features honey, dried fruit (especially raisins), sweet malt and some floral top notes.  This is not a heavily sherried whisky, as the light color also indicates.  The creamy palate reveals a nice balance of malt and refill sherry cask with hints of yeast rolls, dried fruit, some spice and a touch of dried herbs.  The finish has a lingering spicy & sweet malt, becoming slightly bitter a few moments after swallowing.  This one’s nice. 8.5/10


This annual bottling from the Lagavulin distillery was matured in refill American Oak hogsheads and bottled at 56.5% ABV.  At $130, this is the most affordable of the 2017 Special Releases.

Classic Lagavulin is on display here.  Brine shines on the nose.  Notes of caramel, seaweed and a general earthiness can be found right underneath.  Seaweed and chocolate chews hit the palate first, followed by waves of campfire smoke.  A bit of brightness can be found courtesy of lemon oil.  A bit of creamy vanilla pudding adds another layer of complexity.  The finish is long and oily, with hints of herbs, caramel, and smoke. 8/10


This fan favorite release was distilled in 1979 and was matured in refill American Oak hogsheads and refill American Oak butts.  It was bottled at 51% ABV, with only 2,988 bottles made available.  It’s not cheap – a bottle retails for $3,500.

One sniff of the oldest expression of Port Ellen ever released and I’m in heaven.  The earthy nose features hints of salted caramel, hay and smoked meat as well as some fruit. The palate starts with sweet tropical fruit, with ashy smoke developing soon after.  Herbs and grass, leather and tobacco… the development here is most impressive.  Like on the nose, the full-bodied whisky’s palate carries an earthy quality as a base.  The long, smoky finish has a lingering sweet fruity note.  9/10

Thanks to Diageo for the samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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