The Diageo Special Releases 2022 have been out for a few months now. I would’ve reviewed them earlier, but November and December were particularly busy. Not to mention the cold that threw a spanner a few weeks ago. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to taste the Diageo Special Releases 2022, I figured I might as well post them all together in a big batch.
You may remember I didn’t review the Diageo Special Releases last year, but did post my thoughts on the diminished nature of this series. You can read them here. They haven’t affected my reviews below, but I can’t say that this year’s releases have swayed me to think otherwise either.
Oban 10 Years ‘Celestial Blaze’ (57.1%, OB)
Refill and new American oak and amontillado seasoned
Nose: Rather creamy, almost buttery and certainly with plenty of vanilla, but also whispers of oranges, butterscotch, ripe apples and touches of minerals. Finally some caraway seeds. Taste: Sweet, creamy arrival. But the first impression is mostly dominated by (oak) spices. Slight bitterness with a hot pepperiness. That’s followed by apple peel, sultanas and peanut skins, but also a soft salinity, while water brings out lemon pith and freshly cut grass. Finish: Long with lingering oak spices, salt and orchard fruits.
A young-ish, somewhat hot Oban. It has some pleasant coastal touches, but I find the oak spices on the palate a little too present. Good, but certainly not an easy sipper, if that’s what you’re hoping for.
Cardhu 16 Years ‘Black Rock Paradise’ (58%, OB)
Refill and re-charred American Oak and Jamaican pot still rum seasoned
Nose: Some surprising mineral notes and touches of varnish, followed by pear skin, brown sugar, pineapple, and hints of hints of forest floor. Finally some plums, honey and biscuits. Taste: Thumbs up for the creamy mouthfeel. The palate displays a vibrant fruitiness. Hints of grapefruit, mango and tangerines. Hints of almonds and something vegetal, as well as orange liqueur and dark caramel. Really very pleasant. Finish: Hints of honey, mango and a touch of chalk. Gentle, warming spices. Medium in length.
I’m really happy with how the Cardhu 16 Years turned out. The Jamaican pot still casks certainly seemed to have added a tropical fruitiness that’s always very welcome. But it’s also not overtly rummy, if you know what I mean.
Cameron Bridge 26 Years ‘Golden Triumph’ (56.2%, OB)
Refill American oak
Nose: Plenty of furniture polish to kick things off, but that’s not surprising at all. Hints of caramel, wood glue, and coconut shavings. It’s a bit one note, with maybe some orchard fruits lingering in the background, but also touches of lemon zest and papaya. Taste: A very traditional grain whisky profile. Touches of caramel, orange liqueur and fudge. Some buttered popcorn, but then plenty of furniture polish and varnish to round things off. Finish: Medium in length with a touch of aniseed, varnish and charred oak. Finally a hint of strawberries.
It’s good, but rather boring. Single grain whisky just has such a narrow flavour profile that you almost know what to expect before even sniffing the glass. This Cameron Bridge 26 Years is no exception.
The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 Years ‘The Enchantress’ (54.2%, OB)
Refill American and European oak and wine seasoned
Nose: The wine is rather present, with immediate notes of candy-esque red fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries. And there’s a slight lactic quality too, accompanied by a tinge of chalk. Soft notes of cigar tobacco, nutmeg and pepper too. Finally a hint of decaying leaves, as well as some acidity. Taste: A somewhat cloying, wine-y first impression. Touches of black pepper, allspice and cloves, while the candied red fruits are here for an encore. Wine gums, prunes and apricots. Slightly fizzy almost, but that might just be some wood tannins. Finish: A sweet, bitter finish. Or bittersweet, shall we say? Slightly herbal too. Medium in length.
You can’t quite accuse The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 Years of being particularly well-balanced. As is often the case with ex-wine cask maturation, it lacks proper integration between spirit and cask.
Mortlach ‘Lure of the Blood Red Moon’ (57.8%, OB)
Refill American oak, virgin tawny port, and red muscat seasoned
Nose: Hints of cherries and almonds to start, followed by touches of nougat, sultanas, cranberries and stewed pears. Also a touch of oats, warm apple sauce, honey and bay leaf. It’s a bit shy overall, but water certainly opens things up. Taste: Quite spicy with touches of ginger, cloves and cracked black peppercorns. Also charred oak, but then plenty of wine-y sweetness too. Think winegums, cherry marmalade and mead. Water brings out breakfast cereals and tames the spices. Finish: A touch of sultanas with lingering, warming spices.
Not a rousing success and I’m not entirely sure what to make of this no-age-statement NAS. I will say this: I find it hard to believe the secondary maturation in port and wine casks have significantly improved the original liquid.
Clynelish 12 Years ‘Golden Eyed Guardian’ (58.5%, OB)
Refill American oak and Pedro Ximénez and oloroso seasoned
Nose: A quick hit of beeswax, stewed apples and Greek yoghurt, accompanied by brown sugar, pear skin and sweet pastries. Hints of breakfast tea, charred oak and orange peel too. Finally a touch of apricots. Taste: Waxy arrival (but I’ve had waxier) quickly followed by peppery spices and bitter, charred oak. Some oranges, lemon pith and dried tea leaves as well. Also slightly nutty with a hint of After Eight. Finish: Drying, bitter and spicy with a tinge of sweet fruits coming to help out.
With all the good, similarly aged Clynelish that have been released by independent bottlers in the past few years, how can Diageo not at least match that quality? Sure, I’ve enjoyed sipping this and like it better than many of the other Special Releases 2022, but it’s not exactly competitevely priced. In short: you can probably do better.
Talisker 11 Years ‘Creature of the Depths’ (55.1%, OB)
First-fill and refill bourbon and wine seasoned
Nose: Bonfire smoke, salty sea spray and apple crumble with vanilla pods, but also dried seaweed, whispers of agave and jalapeño brine. Some ashes and cow dung too, but let’s not forget fruits such as pickled lemons and papaya. Taste: Oily mouthfeel but overall quite ashy, salty and somewhat spicy with white pepper taking the lead. A tad more powerful than the nose suggests. More pickled lemons, a touch of coffee powder and sal ammoniac. Water brings out more citrus notes. Finish: A sweeter touch of marshmallows accompanied by grilled pineapple and lingering maritime peat. Long.
Seriously good whisky. And the wine-seasoned casks very much stay in the background. I wouldn’t have known if they hadn’t told us. Big thumbs up for the Talisker 11 Years.
Lagavulin 12 Years ‘Flame of the Phoenix’ (57.3%, OB)
Refilled heavily peated American oak and virgin oak
Nose: Hints of briny oysters, vegetal peat smoke and ever so subtle sauerkraut. There’s some seaweed and iodine too, as well as asphalt, white pepper and bung cloth. Touches of mineral Riesling and mush banana round things off. Taste: Fatty mouthfeel. More vegetal peat, charred lemon peel and lovely briny notes, as well as mineral touches. Spices such as ginger, pepper and cloves are present but well-regulated. Finish: Charred oak, spices, ash and vegetal smoke. Long.
It’s one of the better entries in this year’s Special Releases. And I know everybody always raves about the Lagavulin 12 Years Cask Strength, but I’ve never thought they were hors catégorie. This year’s release included. However, it’s once again really good, that’s undeniable.
I’m having a hard time bringing the blog post to an end. Because what’s left to say about the Diageo Special Releases that’s hasn’t been said already? The 2022 Editions are a bit of a mixed bag. All are either above average or (really) good, but none represent particularly good value for money. And that really sums it up.
Sure, you rarely see an independent release from Cardhu, Oban, Talisker or even Lagavulin. But in case of the latter three distilleries, their core range is good and generally much more affordable than what’s on offer here. As for Cardhu, this is probably the first expression that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But is it worth shelling out 180 euro?
I suppose I’ll let you answer that question for yourself.