Special; adj: Better, Greater or otherwise different from what is usual.
With the enjoyment of whisky being such a subjective phenomenon, it is a tall order for a perennial series of Single Malts to be described by above definition of the word ‘’Special’. Incredibly, upon inspection of the intricacies of the limited-edition cask strength whiskies released each year by DIAGEO it is clear to see that each bottling does in fact fit this label in one way or another.
First issued in 2001 on the back of the popularity of the acclaimed rare malts series, DIAGEO’s Special Releases are highly prized by collectors, investors and lovers of fine whisky. The annual line-up announcement and subsequent release being one of the most eagerly anticipated high points of the whisky calendar.
So, what makes the whiskies selected each year so ‘Special’?
Each has a story to tell
As the title of this article suggests, one of the main draw cards of these whiskies are the stories of incredible dedication and skill of the people who worked tirelessly at distilleries across the four corners of Scotland to craft these magnificent liquids. Conceivably, in many cases those involved may have distilled and barrelled spirit which they never had the pleasure of seeing bottled. Nevertheless, the legacy of their toil lives on in the form of these wonderful whiskies many of which can be found in beautiful packaging individually designed by master designers.
Supply & Demand
The economic adage is as true now as it was when first coined by a (Scottish) economist way back in 1767. The finite quantity of each bottling, the details of which are printed clearly on the label means that interested parties are well aware of the rarity of each expression and both the demand and prices are set accordingly.
The fact that many of the whiskies come from ghost distilleries such as Port Ellen & Brora increases the collectability and re-sale potential for investors. For those (like us at TWM) who feel that life is too short to hold onto full bottles of whisky, the promise of being one of only a relative handful of people in the world who can savour such a delicious dram of history is often the overriding factor behind the decision to purchase.
They’re nice, they’re different they’re…unusual
Whilst there are a number of mainstay expressions that have become part of the fabric of each release ( Lagavulin 12 & Caol Ila Unpeated ) there is always a curveball in the set which takes everyone by surprise. Classic examples include the Collectivum XXVIII , a wondrous blend of whiskies from each of DIAGEO’s 28 operational distilleries, as well as The Cally 40YO , a Single Grain whisky from a distillery, long silent, who’s chimney is still a feature of the skyline of Edinburgh’s west end.
It is the inclusion of these previously unheralded gems which helps to maintain the hype around the series year in year out.
Only the angles to share with
Each Special Release expression is bottled at cask strength meaning that no additional water is added prior to bottling and it’s ‘alcohol by volume’ % sits at whatever it was initially barrelled at, minus the share the ‘angels’ have taken throughout the maturation period. Whilst on face value the higher strength may make the experience seem overly challenging, in reality what it does is open up vast opportunities to tailor the final flavour of the whisky to your palate through the use of different amounts of water and or ice.
Go on, Be a part of history
So, whatever your motivation; enjoyment, collection or investment the DIAGEO Special Releases are something to behold and will certainly not disappoint