Every year since 2001, Diageo, owners and custodians of some of Scotland's most treasured whisky distilleries, have released a limited selection of single cask whiskies. Earlier this week we were lucky enough to attend the launch of 2015's "Special Releases" and, having sampled the full range of these sublime liquids, our recommendations for this month almost pick themselves.
The whiskies are always special, always rare, and always selected with the utmost care from the best stocks available to Diageo. Prices range from £80 to £2,400 so there really is something to suit most people's budget.
Although the headline names in the selection are without doubt Brora and Port Ellen, two much-loved and irreplaceable 'lost distilleries', we were very impressed by the supporting cast in the range.
Staff Picks - our choices for this month
Caol Ila 17 Year Old 1997 Unpeated 2015
A sensational unpeated Caol Ila. Sweet, fruity and herbaceous with a lovely charcoal smokiness. This is the 10th 'special release' from the Islay distillery but the first to be matured in American Oak ex-bourbon casks.
£90.00 at www.masterofmalt.com
Lagavulin 12 Year Old Special Release 2015
A very well balanced 12 year old from Lagavulin which belies it's age. A careful balance of salty, savoury characteristics and sweet, smoky pungency. Opens up nicely with a drop of water. This special release from Diageo was aged in refill American Oak casks.
£80.00 at www.masterofmalt.com
The Cally 40 Year Old 1974 Special Release 2015
A rare and unusual Single Grain Scotch Whisky from the closed Caledonian Distillery near Edinburgh. Grain whisky softens beautifully with age and this special bottling offers wonderful layers of complexity with no woodiness. Dried fruits, pastry, crème brûlée and hints of menthol.
£750.00 at www.masterofmalt.com
Pittyvaich 25 Year Old 1989 Special Release 2015
This rare single malt bottling from Pittyvaich – which once produced whisky for blends - has lived than longer than the distillery itself which only operated between 1974 and 2002. Some cask survived and matured in wonderful and unexpected way as this 25 year old shows. Notes of plum jam and and toffee apples find the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. A lovely complex whisky.
£250.00 at www.masterofmalt.com