Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Review / Diageo Prima & Ultima Collection (2021 Edition)

This set of single malts form the second line-up for the annual Prima & Ultima Collection from Diageo, Scotland's largest whisky producers. The 2021 Edition consists of eight rare bottlings and shows the diversity of maturing stock across Diageo's portfolio, both from current and closed distilleries. The whiskies were selected by Maureen Robinson, Senior Blender at Diageo, who has taken over the reigns from Jim Beveridge OBE. He curated the inaugural set in 2020. 

Each bottling is either the first or the last of its kind and marks a particular point of history at each distillery. All are bottled at their natural cask strength and are of natural colour and non chill-filtered. There will be just 376 complete sets with each costing £23,500 / $32,500 US. Registration for the sets can be made via the dedicated website Remaining bottles will be sold through selected specialist retailers globally, although prices for each have not been revealed. 
"This is a selection of very special single malts, some that have never before seen the light of day and others that are the fleeting and final examples of their kind. Each bottling shares a glimpse into the history of Scotch and one that I am honoured to have witnessed in person." 
Maureen Robinson. 

Our tasting notes

Auchroisk 1974
Speyside/ 47 years old/ 48.7% ABV/ re-fill European oak butt - the first ever cask filled when the distillery began production/ 382 bottles 
The colour is golden yellow and nose deliciously fragrant. Aromas of baked apple with toffee sauce mingle with baking spices and a hint of ginger cake. Then come dried blood orange, raisin and sultana plus a suggestion of hedgerow berries. Further wood spice and oak evolve also.

On the palate this whisky is creamy and velvety with plenty of early vanilla, coconut and oak evident. Sweet heather honey and golden syrup then join and highlight the baked apple characteristic from the nose. Toffee, fudge and delicate hints of fresh apricot and bramble fruits are also present. Biscuity cereals and dried fruity notes underpin everything - think of malted cookies, oatcakes, raisins and sultanas here. A drip of orange oil makes everything pop on the tongue. Later, the oaky notes develop nicely to give a warmth and woody spice - imagine cinnamon, all-spice, ginger powder and a grind of white pepper. A pinch of cocoa and white chocolate completes it.


Brora 1980
Highlands/ 40 years old/ 49.4% ABV/ 3x re-fill American oak hogsheads, the last remaining stock from 1980/ 505 bottles 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is full of honeycomb, beeswax and vanilla custard aromas. Through these come delicate tropical fruits, burnt caramel and a whiff of gentle sweet Highland peat smoke. Background fragrances of baked apple, antique furniture, cocoa powder and brine add to the headiness.

On the palate this whisky is rich with plenty of savoury notes rising first. The sweet peat smoke and a distinct earthiness come through initially and are followed by notes of dried tobacco leaves, old oak and beeswax polish. Some ginseng root and clove also add to this. Then comes the sweetness - golden syrup and caramel notes mingle with honeycomb and sweet stone fruits (think of apricot and peach especially, and maybe some dark plum in the background). There are hints of ginger and milk chocolate, along with further hints of marzipan and orange oil. The soft smoke licks around everything and is never far away. A late hit of gingerbread and eucalyptus are also evident. 

Convalmore 1984
Speyside/ 36 years old/ 48.6% ABV/ 3x re-fill American oak hogheads/ 647 bottles 
The colour is vibrant gold and the nose pumps out aromas of vanilla, honey and dried tropical fruits - think of pineapple, peach and mango especially. There are also aromas of green apple, hay and yellow melon, along with fresh coconut and oaky wood shavings. Late warming spices and pink peppercorn also come through.

On the palate this whisky is soft, gentle and luxurious. Caramel coated apple and lychees in fruit syrup are evident and slowly become supported by notes of milk chocolate, delicate cereals, vanilla ice cream and toffee. Then comes the tropical fruit - these feel a bit fresher than the dried fruit suggested on the nose. Pineapple and mango join the lychee from earlier, along with a blog of apricot jam and dried banana. The whisky keeps evolving - next comes some further sweetness in the form of golden syrup and candied almonds. Then a savoury woodiness develops to add incredible depth. This begins as earthy damp leaves and evolves into old leather and dry unused cigar box.


Lagavulin 1992 
Islay/ 28 years old/ 47.7% ABV/ 5x freshly charred American oak hogsheads/ 1,081 bottles 
The colour is deep gold and the nose is loaded with fragrant peat smoke. This has aromas of salty seaweed, damp moss and charcoal/bonfire ash to it. Underneath are further aromas of cedarwood, honeycomb and a hint of flax seed. Hints of mocha, vanilla toffee and brandy snap biscuit are also present, along with pinches of black pepper and cocoa powder.
On the palate this whisky is smoky, savoury and then sweet. There is a slight chalky feel to the texture and the peat smoke while soft, also carries plenty of influence. The seaweed and mossy notes from the nose are there but it is the ember-like ashy bonfire elements that come through strongest. Characteristics of damp leaves, old cigars and carpenters toolbox add to the savoury feel and give a pleasant dryness. This is accentuated by the chalky/flinty texture. Sweetness develops with sweet oak, vanilla, honey and caramel notes. Then comes some milk chocolate and golden syrup, plus hints of peppery and warming spices. If a big peaty whisky can be elegant, then this pulls it off.

Linkwood 1981
Speyside/ 39 years old/ 52.9% ABV/ 12 years re-fill ex-bourbon casks then 27 years American oak Pedro Ximenez sherry seasoned casks/ 701 bottles 
The colour is deep amber and the nose is highly fragrant and rich. Toasted spices and tropical fruits fill the nostrils along with elegant dried fruit (raisins and candied orange especially), caramel, golden syrup and treacle. Waxy furniture polish, plum compote and apricot jam round off this wonderful nose.

On the palate this whisky has a velvety feel and oozes class. Notes of dark chocolate, Christmas pudding, rum soaked raisins and dried apricots rise first. These are joined by sweet hints of caramel, golden syrup and molasses. Dried fruits are also evident - think of raisins, currants and candied orange peel. The depth and complexity is incredible. Everything is underpinned by some damp dusty spices (think of cinnamon, all-spice, mace and ground ginger), a whiff of cigar smoke and beeswax polish. A long finish begins sweetly and then becomes drier and spicier with a hint of bitter chocolate right at the end.

Mortlach 1995
Speyside/ 25 years old/ 52.4% ABV/ single Oloroso & Pedro Ximenez sherry seasoned butt/ 454 bottles 
The colour is deep copper gold and the nose is fruity and fragrant. Bold green apple and caramel aromas go head to head with dried fruits such as raisin, sultana and apricot. A whiff of ginger treacle pudding, dusty dry earth and a decent pinch of baking spices add depth and warmth.  

On the palate this whisky is big, bold and rich. Savoury and earthy notes rise first and are reminiscent of old leather and cedarwood. Bitter chocolate and gripping malty cereal notes evolve also to add to the savoury feel. Then comes some much needed sweetness in the form of golden syrup, fudge and a hint of black treacle. The multi-layered nature of the whisky continues as the dried fruits from the nose are added into the mix. Later hints of milk chocolate, cocoa and crystallised ginger continue this theme, which finishes with the return of savoury old leather and earthy characteristics from earlier. Wonderfully drying and warm at the end.


Singleton of Glendullan 1992
Speyside/ 28 years old/ 60.1% ABV/ 14 years re-fill American oak then 14 years Madeira cask finish/ 420 bottles 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is packed with aromas of stewed green fruit (especially apple and pear) and citrus - think of orange oil and lemon blossom. Underneath are further aromas of vanilla toffee, butterscotch, sugared sultanas and a big pinch of baking spices.
On the palate this whisky has a peppery prickle to begin with due to the high ABV and a chalky/flinty quality. It becomes soft and sweet with a creamy mouthfeel once these settle. Baked apple and poached pear drizzled in butterscotch sauce and candied orange kick things off. Then come further notes of mandarin, gingerbread and hints of peach and marzipan. An almond note rises from the marzipan hint to become more reminiscent of toasted nuts. The richness and vibrancy is enhanced with juicy sultanas and warming baking spices, especially cinnamon. Pinches of cocoa powder and clove mingle with lemon zest and a touch of menthol to accentuate the creaminess.

Talisker 1979
Islands/ 41 years old/ 47.5% ABV/ 4x re-fill American oak hogsheads, the last remaining stock from 1979/ 556 bottles
The colour is pale lemon yellow and the nose is full of coastal aromas. Salty sea spray, damp rocks, dried seaweed and driftwood mix with sweeter fragrances of honey, vanilla fudge and toffee apples. A whiff of warming peat smoke offers further depth along with background aromas of vanilla sponge cake and caramelised pear.
On the palate this whisky is superbly multi-layered. Now it is the sweet notes that come through first - honey, golden syrup, fudge and milk chocolate are most evident. Then it is the fruit - the caramelised pear and toffee apple from the nose, plus hints of preserved lemon and lime. The warming peat smoke adds a distinct savoury quality and wafts around, along with some black and pink peppercorns and the faintest hint of green chilli. The final layer comes in the form of those coastal aromas. Delicate sea spray and sandy driftwood notes mingle with salty brine and a hint of smoked kippers. This is one classy single malt.


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