The launch party for the 2015 Diageo Special Releases is tomorrow night and it’s long been an ambition of mine to go to it. And thanks to Tom Thomson I now will, as he’s kindly donated his ticket to me in return for some words for his blog. I am extraordinarily excited. You know how excitable I am when it comes to whisky anyway! This year’s releases look as wonderful as ever, with dependable yearly releases like the unpeated Caol Ila (for the first time at 17 years old), 12 year old Lagavulin, NAS Clynelish making its second appearance, and the Brora and Port Ellen comets as top dressing. Curve balls this year come from Pittyvaich and Dalwhinnie, a very old Caledonian single grain. Finally, and most promising for me is a really special looking 34 year old Dailuaine. All the details are on the new ScotchWhisky.com site.
The last two years I’ve sampled lots of the special releases at the annual Whisky Exchange tasting at Vinopolis. Last year I was particularly looking forward to trying the Coal Ila 30 year old but they didn’t have it, and it’s taken me this long to score a sample (from the public service run by Master of Malt). It was worth the wait.
Nose - Dreamily caught between bright, sweet deodorant, refreshers, fried seafood and ozone. Dirty cereal on exhale. Pipes directly into the old Caol Ila receptors in the brain. Sweet berries too - jewelled, red - honey glazed sesame snaps and Sauternes. Pretty epic. Damn. With water, a lot sweeter, more boiled sweets - but funkier and a bit dirtier too.
Body - Spicy and ballsy and surprisingly peated. Lots of toffee, toffee apple and unlit cigar tobacco. Toast and honey, fried bay and glacé cherry. With water, very distinctly black forest gateau - how strange. It has the character (luxury, maturity and anticipation) of a high quality cigar.
Finish - Very long, very juicy with apple juice, pineapple cubes and a touch of liquorice imps. Rolling and very satisfying - certainly not a blousy old Islay from another planet this time - lots of structure but still dusty and with tropical wax on the way back. After the long, excellently balanced finish, it's oily and sweet with bourbon cask and perfect old peat.
What's not good about it - apart from price, nothing. And even at this price, it's heavily tempting.
What's good about it - where do I start? Probably the best old Caol Ila I've tried (and I'm making it a mission to try many). Incredible complexity and balance, old, dirty sweetness but loads of blood and guts. Old Islay plus lots of structure and well integrated peat. Dirty, funky, important but not from another planet - buy now!