Every year we in the industry wait with bated breath for Diageo to announce their yearly special bottling. We expect fresh distillers' editions, which tend to be very consistent and well made whisky, but what we're really waiting for are the "Special Editions". The States only see a sliver of the total Diageo special edition/release offerings each year. Last year it consisted of Port Ellen 30 year, Brora 30 Year, Talisker 25 year and Lagavulin 12 year. They released single barrels at outrageous prices, but those were UK only. In any case, the "Special Editions" are consistently exceptional, though generally predictable and always expensive. Last year, Diageo did something different. They took a RISK! Highly unusual behavior for a publicly traded multination beverage company. That said, they really don't have much to lose. Their products are more popular than ever, the holy grail for all, but the geekiest among us. What they truly have on the line is their credibility with this tiny portion of the customer base. Fortunately, I'm part of that minority.
Diageo is like the Empire from Star Wars. We all love to hate them, talk about how they're heartless, faceless, loveless. In the end, we are forced to sheepishly admit they are at the very least really good at what they do. Whether it's oppressing freedom on a Galactic level or distilling some of Scotland's very best whisky, all must acknowledge their ruthless efficiency and striking effectiveness. Whatever risk Diageo has assumed with these new releases, it was clearly calculated, even decisive. The new line is diverse and unique. I don't think I need to adjust my expectations, this line up over delivers almost across the board. The bottles are of course mostly very expensive to the point that all but the most "comfortable" (read: flush) Single Malt consumer will feel these bottles totally out of reach for everyday consumption. I was lucky enough to taste the whole lot. Their organizational structure maybe multinational corporation, but we have to acknowledge that people still actually work at these distilleries. These are real people who know how to make great whisky. Remember, it wasn't the marketing team or executive committee that distilled these malts. Here's our first review of the 2010 Diageo Special Edition Bottings:
Shockingly, this was one of the favorite bottles of the evening. I think many had preconceptions regarding the Glenkinchie 10 Year. It has perhaps proved underwhelming at times. Not that there's any particular fault with the 10 year, but it can feel touch pedestrian when poured next to Lagavulin 16 year. Glenkinchie at strength with 20 years was a revelation. Aged in American Oak, this whisky is fresh, fragrant and youthful. The nose is flowers, ripe fruit, and fresh barley, a smidge of minty tingle. The palate brings citrus blossom and lighted honeyed touch of savory wood. It finishes long, textured and flinty - a seamless integration of oak. It's so soft and approachable, while retaining all it's intensity. A velvet sledgehammer. Exceptional! Bottled at 55.1%, Only 4854 Bottles made. Stay tuned for more of my notes later in the week.