Diageo Special Releases: the oldest, rarest whiskies

Every year the giant distiller Diageo dips into its stocks of maturing Scotch to curate a limited-edition collection of one-off whiskies. Becky Paskin casts her eye over this year's selection

Words by Becky Paskin

Diageo collection

The Diageo Special Releases series, a highlight of the whisky calendar, features quirky expressions from firm favourites as well as old and rare liquid from ‘silent’ distilleries that are no longer operational. Releases from the latter, whose barrels get rarer and rarer, mean such whiskies become more and more sought-after by the year.

Previous line-ups have included whisky from the silent distilleries of Brora, Caledonian, Cambus, Port Dundas and Port Ellen – liquid that can never be replicated (though work is currently underway to reopen Brora and Port Ellen).

This year’s Special Releases – a sibling anthology to the inaugural Prima & Ultima series launched earlier this year – features eight single malts chosen by Diageo master blender Dr Craig Wilson. While each has been selected for emphasising remarkable aspects of their individual distillery characters, collectively the octet present a journey of flavour around some of Scotland’s whisky producing regions.

The 2020 collection comprises a variety of flavour styles and prices under the theme ‘Rare by Nature’. For those seeking the ultimate in rarity, a 30-year-old malt from silent distillery Pittyvaich (£400) matured in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks is a rich, fruity and brooding option.

One of the highlights of this year’s line-up also represents the best value. An eight-year-old Talisker (£90) is the first to be matured in pot still Caribbean rum casks, which give this briny Skye whisky a sticky, cakey and funky twist.

Meanwhile a superbly fruity and chocolatey 17-year-old Singleton of Dufftown (£110) is arguably one of the best examples from this distillery yet.

The Diageo 2020 Special Releases will be available from this autumn at specialist retailers across Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, selected Asian markets and airport duty free. Full tasting notes, including prices, can be found below.