Real Scottish enthusiasts think of autumn as a wonderful time to be alive – not because of leaf-watching and pumpkin-picking trips, mind you. But because it’s that time of year, Diageo, one of the world’s largest liquor companies, unveils its long-awaited annual Special Releases Collection initiative, which started in 2001.
This year the theme is Legends Untold. And there will be eight bottlings – the same number since 2019. (Years back, as in 2017 and 2018, have included at least 10 terms.)
And as always, there are proven staples (such as the always reliable Lagavulin 12), and there are highlights. This year’s big additions include a crispy and bold Talisker 8, a fresh tasting Royal Lochnagar 16 years old and a Lagavulin 26 years old finished in first filling Pedro Ximénex and Oloroso Sherry.
But in addition to the liquid, Diageo tapped on digital illustrator Ken Taylor to bring to life the “legendary tales” behind each of the distilleries in the collection. The result is incredibly bold packaging reminiscent of old-school sci-fi book covers filled with magical creatures.
And as an experiential component, a QR code is included in each of the bottles. Imbibers simply scans the codes to gain access to “multi-sensory experiences” that will kick-start the narrative of an expression’s mythical narrative. After this, there will also be a guided taste experience.
“We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries, explored the elements and re-imagined the liquids for the Legends Untold collection,” said master blender Dr. Craig Wilson, who personally selected each of the whiskeys for the Special Releases Collection. “The mythical creatures in this year’s collection represent the true expression of the distilleries. Inspired by them, we have unveiled new depths of flavor and embraced the essence of each of whiskey’s unique flavor profiles, revealing the legend it brings to life. This year’s collection is just the beginning of the story. ”
2021 Diageo Special Releases: Legends Untold
Mortlach 13 years old
details: ABV: 55.9% | Region: Speyside | Cask: Virgin and refill American oak barrels | SRP: $ 124.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: A soft and rounded nasal sensation soothes the senses and then introduces a first soaring tone of freshly oiled wood. Then salty and meaty notes suggest that the animal inside still also carries a sweet tartness, suggesting frying pheasant with currant jelly. The senses are amplified as these pitch-perfect aromas in turn reveal a deeper base note of heather landscape, rich in heather pollen and freshly crushed herbs. A drop of water completes the expectation and brings out a sweet, fruity touch of lime. Limited quantities available.
Singleton of Glendullan 19 years old
details: ABV: 54.6% | Region: Speyside | Dish: Refilling of American oak barrels, finished in cognac barrels | SRP: $ 174.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: Mild feeling, nose lit with top notes of dried fruit suggesting dried figs and apricots or crystallized angelica and orange peel, while underneath is the dry scent of a light fruitcake, iced with notes of vanilla-scented marzipan. Several buttery notes pop up with a drop of water, which also brings the spice up. Limited quantities available.
Talisker 8 years
details: ABV: 59.7% | Region: Ø / Skye | Dish: Heavily Peat Filling Dishes | SRP: $ 114.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: The mild nasal sensation gives a slight hint of the raging spirit that will soon appear. The top notes are sweet and maritime, an early hint of porridge oats that quickly make room for more cleansing and maritime aromas suggesting salted seaweed, crystal salt and iodine on a base of mountain smoke. A drop of water softens things and increases the maritime character. Limited quantities available.
Lagavulin 26 years old
details: ABV: 44.2% | Region: Islay | Dishes: PX / Oloroso spicy dishes for first filling | SRP: $ 2,399.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: On the soft nose, a finely woven wine-woody aroma of great complexity takes time to reveal its individual secrets. Bright, fresh and vinous top notes blend with the linseed oil from an artist’s studio and then fade to a warm suggestion of sun-bleached polished mahogany, backed by dry edible seaweed, with sweeter touches of baked figs and butter. Further in, the aromas grow more sharp, oily and fragrant smoky; like fishing, with background aromas of tar rope and boat engine. If a little water is added, their intensity is reduced, while a note of pure linen survives best. Number of bottles available: 7,542
Lagavulin 12 years
details: ABV: 56.5% | Region: Islay | Dish: Filling of American oak barrels | SRP: $ 149.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: Mild, drying and soon, wonderfully aromatic; clean, fresh and maritime, with top notes of sea air and Himalayan salt, supported by fragrant smoke-dried Lapsang Souchong tea, mineral salts and lightly cleansing ointment. Beneath these lie drier notes of cocoa powder and dried seaweed, with a lemon peel, this salty sweetness imbued with wood-smoke from a distant bonfire on the shore. Limited quantities available.
Cardhu 14 years
details: ABV: 55.5% | Region: Speyside | Barrels: Filling of American oak barrels, finished in red wine barrels | SRP: $ 149.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: The mild nose is fresh and slightly fruity, as gentle aromas of white grape and lychee balls with sharper touches of green apple, pear and a trace of orange peel, all enveloped by a touch of buttered pastry. Rising above these, a slightly spicy note reveals more of the wine-spiced wood. A drop of water introduces a light tone of meadow flowers, which over time becomes distinctly honey. Limited quantities available.
Oban 12 years
details: ABV: 56.2% | Region: Coastal Highlands | Dish: Freshly Cooled American Oak Dishes | SRP: $ 114.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: Mellow, with elusive but unmistakable maritime top notes of crispy seaweed, crystal salt and coarse black pepper on a wood digger, perhaps accompanied by very lightly smoked fillets of white fish. After a while, add a spoonful of sweet chili sauce to the dish, while light olive oil with a drop of water becomes the top note. Limited quantities available.
Royal Lochnagar 16 years
details: ABV: 57.5% | Region: Highland | Dish: American Oak and European Oak refill dishes | SRP: $ 249.99
Diageo Tasting Notes: The very soft and rounded nose swirls with subtle aromas. The top notes are slightly fruity, suggesting orange peel and green apple. They are encapsulated after a while in a touch of puff pastry, all resting on a mushy and slightly woody bottom. Adding a splash of water adds the fruit, now solid white grapes, and produces spicy. Limited quantities available.