Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Review / The Diageo Special Releases 2023 : Spirited Xchange

It is that time of the year again. Each Autumn the Special Releases are released by Diageo, Scotland's largest producer of whisky. The 2023 Edition features eight whiskies selected from across their 28 single malt distilleries. The series carries the title of Spirited Xchange this year and each whisky has been selected by Dr. Stuart Morrison, one of Diageo's Master Blenders.

The Special Releases first appeared in 2001 and have been released annually ever since. The collection has grown to be eagerly anticipated by whisky fans, consumers and collectors around the world. The whiskies included each year are designed to showcase some of the best and rarest whisky, both single malt and single grain, held within Diageo's extensive portfolio of maturing stocks.

The 2023 collection feature eight whiskies, which are accompanied by exquisite labels and packaging. These have been designed by eight illustrators and artists from around the world, who have tried to capture the essence and tasting notes of each whisky in their design. Highlights of this year's Special Releases are the first ever bottling of Roseisle and the oldest ever official release of Glenkinchie.

The Diageo Special Releases 2023 : Spirited Xchange are available in limited quantities via specialist whisky and luxury retailers in selected markets worldwide including Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, UK and USA, plus selected travel retail outlets and Details of each whisky including ABV strength, cask make up and price are below.

"This collection has given us the opportunity to roam freely through our vast portfolio and experiment with old and new cask types, including various wine and local spirits casks to create eight one-of-a-kind expressions." 
Dr. Stuart Morrison. 
Our Tasting Notes

Clynelish / The Jazz Crescendo
10 years old / Highlands / 57.5% ABV / Matured exclusively in American oak first-fill ex-bourbon casks / £165

The colour is golden yellow and the nose has aromas of honey, vanilla and peach with hints of candle wax and dusty, woody spices. On the palate this whisky has a slightly oily texture and is immediately confected and fruity. Notes of peach and apricot mingle with caramelised pineapple and crisp red apple. This is backed up by honey, vanilla fudge and boiled fruit sweets. Underneath is an evolving dusty spiciness that is reminiscent of an old cigar box - think of cinnamon, sandalwood, white pepper and a whiff of dried tobacco leaf. The finish is long, peppery and drying. This is especially true once the sweet and fruity elements have slowly faded. The apricot lingers longest of these and has a jam-like feel.

Glenkinchie / The Floral Treasure
27 years old / Lowlands / 58.3% ABV /  Matured in re-fill American oak barrels & European oak butts / £340

The colour is deep gold and the nose is very floral with aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle and pink peppercorns up front. Then come further aromas of vanilla and crisp green apple. On the palate it is the vanilla that hits first - think of a high quality vanilla custard especially. Then comes some fruit - green apple again but with hints of ripe tropical fruit and apricot jam. Everything is underpinned with a distinct malty characteristic and a dried grassy note that develops with time. The finish is long and filled with plenty of warming woody spices and a hint of gingerbread. A pinch of white pepper and juicy pineapple round things off as the floral notes reappear at the death. Delicious.

Lagavulin / The Ink of Legends
12 years old / Islay / 56.4% ABV / Finished in ex-Don Julio Tequila casks / £155

The colour is pale lemon yellow and the nose is big, bold and peaty. Peppery aromas of bonfire ash and green moss lead the way, and sit alongside something bright and vegetal - this is most reminiscent of green capsicum pepper. On the palate this whisky is initially fiery and peppery. Dying bonfire embers and charcoal lead the way and these notes are quickly joined by damp seaweed, moss and cigar ash. White chocolate and vanilla fudge add much needed sweetness. Underneath is a distinct vegetal quality - think of charred or grilled capsicums and agave-like earthiness. The finish is long and vibrant with plenty of the bold peppery spices and punchy peat smoke on offer. A late twist of lemon zest is a nice touch.


Oban / The Soul of Calypso
11 years old / Highlands / 58% ABV / Finished in Caribbean ex-pot still rum casks / £140

The colour is a pale gold and the nose is bright and vibrant with a sweet and confected edge. Aromas of white chocolate and vanilla fudge combine with zesty citrus and ripe tropical fruits. On the palate this whisky is immediately fresh and juicy with the fruity notes popping. Ripe tropical fruit (especially pineapple, papaya and a hint of lychee), green mango and crisp apple lead the way and are balanced well by an evolving distinct malty note. The white chocolate and vanilla fudge from the nose come through well, as does an icing sugar like sweetness. The confected nature slowly fades to reveal more of the maltiness and a distinct hot and peppery finish. Takes water well.


Mortlach / The Katana's Edge
No age statement / Speyside / 58% ABV / Finished in ex-Kanusoke Japanese whisky & ex-Pinot Noir wine casks / £250

The colour is deep gold and the nose is rich and bold. Aromas of hard caramel and peanut brittle come through, plus some milk chocolate and something very savoury and umami-like. On the palate this whisky has a distinct sweet vs. savoury vibe going on. Dusty and earthy umami notes, plus a hint of dried porcini mushroom are evident and they marry with sweet toffee and caramel. The combination is intriguing. Later notes of vanilla cream and orange marmalade add further depth and complexity, as do hints of candy floss and marshmallow. An underlying note of baking spice binds everything together well - think of cinnamon bark, clove and nutmeg.


Roseisle / The Origami Kite
12 years old / Speyside / 56.5% ABV / Matured in first-fill & re-fill ex-bourbon casks / £120

The colour is vibrant gold and the nose is highly perfumed. Floral aromas of jasmine, plus green apple, hazelnut and freshly cut grass are all evident. It is a heady mix. On the palate this whisky feels soft, creamy and velvety. A lovely note of apple crumble appears first - think of cooked apple, cinnamon and brown sugar especially. Further sweetness comes in the form of a hint of cream soda. Then comes some vanilla and fresh honeycomb straight from the hive. The floral and grassy notes from the nose sit in the background and add depth. The same can be said for some warming spices - cinnamon again, plus clove and all-spice a pinch of white pepper at the end. A delightful whisky.


The Singleton of Glendullan / The Silken Gown
14 years old / Speyside / 55% ABV / Finished in French oak ex-Chardonnay de Bourgogne casks / £132

The colour is golden yellow and the nose fresh, green and elegant. Aromas of crisp green apple and pear are complimented by fudge and toffee with pinches of cinnamon and white pepper. On the palate this whisky is soft and gentle with delicious notes of vanilla, heather honey and plump juicy sultana. Then come the lovely green orchard fruits from the nose - apple and pear again especially. The green and grassy nature continues - think of dried grass or hay. Underneath sits a delicate malty note that gives structure, plus hints of candied orange peel. Warming spices in the form of powdered ginger and cinnamon, plus white pepper drag out the finish.


Talisker / The Wild Exporador
No age statement / Skye / 59.7% ABV / Finished in a combination of ex-Ruby, ex-Tawny & ex-White Port casks / £120

The colour is coppery amber and the nose is fruity and a little fiery. Aromas of sultana and candied lemon lead the way, followed by red apple and green grape. A dusty spicy undertone sits underneath as well as peppery peat smoke. On the palate this whisky is initially a bit hot and spicy. Smouldering bonfire ash and mineralic peat smoke dominate to begin with. These notes evolve into coal tar soap and crispy salted bacon. Sweetness come through in the form of toffee, butterscotch and sugary sultana. Hints of candied lemon, malted biscuits and cookie dough are also evident. The finish is hot and ash-like - this gives a peppery feel and makes it super drying towards the end.

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