Review: Cladach Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.1%
Aging
First-fill ex-bourbon, refill American oak, refill European oak, Ex-sherry European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Blend of malts from Clynelish, Inchgower, Oban, Talisker, Caol Ila, and Lagavulin

This is a relative rarity in the Diageo Special releases - a blended malt. This one is focused on coastal distilleries, hoping to convey a general maritime character. “Cladach” means shoreline.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nice whisky! The nose starts with toffee, mixed spice, a touch of sulphur, smoke, roasted meat, light tropical notes, washed-up seaweed, vanilla, and a touch of rubber. Slightly floral, too. The palate blooms with smoke, charred chickpeas, a kick of tropical fruit, and a touch of youth that works really well with its untamed presence. The lagavulin in it is just beautifully integrated. It is phenomenal at cask strength - it starts sweet, goes oily and tropical, then ashy, and fruity. The finish has rock pools, vanilla, clove, and cedar. It is very nice.

Score: 91/100

Value: 2/100 (based on $312 - though you might get a better deal)


Review: Oban 21 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
57.9%
Aging
21 Years; Refill European Oak Butts
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Oban (Oban,Scotland)

One of the most highly anticipated bottlings of the 2018 Diageo Special Releases - a cask strength Oban, natural colour, and 21 Years Old. Oban 14 is a favourite of countless Scotch drinkers, so it is only natural that many got so excited by this.

I split this sample with Emmett Hossack of whiskyscores.com. His review is here.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is oaky, with light dried fruits, lots of spice (increases with the addition of water), a great “old” smell, like the reference section of a library, hazlenut, biscuits, marmelade, pear, rosehips, and milk chocolate. Spicy and creamy.

The plaate is big, spicy, fruity, with a developing set of flavours. Dried peach, cinnamon, almond…A nice warming finish - this is very pleasant. The finish is fruity (dried stone fruit), spicy, and lightly tannic. Richer and deeper than the 14, which is a bit sweeter and focused a bit more on caramel.

Score: 87/100

Value: 0/100 (based on $680)


Review: Caol Ila Unpeated 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Release 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
59.1%
Aging
15 years; Refill and rejuvenated American oak, ex-bodega European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Another unpeated Caol Ila, this time 15 years old and at a whopping 59.1%! I quite liked the 2015 release, so I’m rather eager to see how this one plays out. I do prefer the peated caol ilas, generally, but I can’t help but be fascinated to see the unpeated spirit come through. This was distilled in 2002.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fruity and spicy, with stone fruits, dried apricot, light spice, and oak underneath. Still more….toffee, vanilla, a bit of earthiness, pear, mint. A bit tropical, and quite creamy especially at higher proof. Very candied at cask strength.

The palate carries all the flavours through – fruity, tropical notes, grain – and a touch of nice arugula at the end. Very well integrated. Lots of toffee, spice, and a bit of juniper too. Terrific mouthfeel. The finish has toffee, pear, canned peaches, white pepper, sugar candy, and a light herbal influence.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low to Average. It isn’t terribly expensive, and it’s a good bottle of whisky - it’s not quite on par with the average price for Scotch whiskies this good, but it’s close.


Review: Caol Ila 35 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
58.1%
Aging
35 years; Refill American oak hogsheads, refill American and European oak butts
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

The flagship whisky of the 2018 Diageo special releases. The oldest official Caol Ila bottling - I’ve had a few old independent bottlings of Caol Ila (like a 31 year old from Signatory which was quite good but not outstanding). Old peated scotch, matured in refill casks…nice!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is unbelievable. Leather, wax, ever-so-light smoke - wow! Unbelievable nose. A bit of mint, dried strawberries, guava, hazlenuts, almond, ashiness, menthol, cedar, dry earth, and old orange peel. The palate is rich, spicy, and a bit smoky! Very spicy - shocking - but this works really well and softens as it sits. Rich and balanced, with more leather and waxy notes and classic old whisky notes. Loads of toffee and spice develop towards the finish. The finish has light spice, and is rich and complex, with honey, sweet peat, light tannic oak, herbal notes, pistachios, and an elegant dryness. The smokiness fits so well. And then grainy, too!

The tropical notes are fascinating throughout, and I love them. One of the best scotch whiskies I’ve tasted - really good.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. Not a cheap bottle of whisky.


Review: Carsebridge 48 Year Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
43.2%
Aging
48 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Grain (Likely Corn)
Distiller Carsebridge (Alloa, Scotland)

Carsebridge was a lowland grain distillery which closed in 1983, but at one point it was the largest distillery (by area, not necessarily production) in Scotland in 1886. It was thought to be the largest grain distillery in Scotland when it closed. Scottish grain whiskies are becoming more common now, column distilled from corn or wheat into a very light whisky which is used as the base for blends.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

What a nose! It is incredibly rich, and not too oaky. I really like old, lighter whiskies.

It’s slightly sour, with lots of vanilla, and touches of a floral character. That combined with the vanilla makes me think of a dried vanilla flower, if such a thing even exists. Yet, the nose is still intense and oaky. Old, dry seville marmelade, dried dill, honey, and luscious aged whisky notes. Also, it’s a bit dusty. The palate has this - but it’s quite sweet, creamy, and slightly sour with a sense of umami throughout. The seville marmelade really comes out, but also the honey, vanilla, dried flowers, peach, and not too much oak at all! Finish is short and light, lightly sweet and clean.

I tried this next to Nikka Coffey Grain and it made Coffey Grain taste like a bottom shelf product (it is not!).

Score: 93/100

Value: 0/100 (based on $1500)


Review: Inchgower 27 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
55.3%
Aging
27 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Inchgower (Buckie, Scotland)

You don’t see many Inchgowers, as they mainly go towards blends - malt madness indicates that less than 1% of its output goes to single malts, while its main uses are to fill out Johnnie Walker, Bell’s, and White Horse blends. The distillery was built in 1871 to replace the Tochieneal distillery.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A very nice, lightly herbal and fruity nose. Baked apples, applesauce, and dried thyme. That really comes out, but with some other dried herb notes like savoury. Also straw, almonds, and lots of spice - it’s also really dusty! How often do we see that? A bit of wet cardboard, like many old scotch whiskies.

The palate is rich, spicy, dry, and fruity - yet still very clean with dried herbs and flowers at the core. It’s light, yet rich. Peaches and other stone fruit, too. The finish is light and hot, with a touch of sulphury spice. It’s very unique, and the combination of herbal and dried floral characteristics is fantastic. It grew on me as I went back to it again and again.

Score: 89/100

Value: 0/100 (based on $600)


Review: Pittyvaich 28 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
52.1%
Aging
28 Years; Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Pittyvaich (Dufftown, Scotland)

Pittyvaich is a mothballed distillery which only operated for a few years – it was only operated from 1975 to 1993. This bottling came towards the end of the distillery – distilled in 1989. Pittyvaich closed because of industry restructuring, but was used largely for blends so its single malts have never been widely available. This whisky has lived longer in a barrel than the distillery did!

Not the first special release bottling we’ve had (there was a 20 year old in 2009) – but this is quite fun!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is incredibly fruity, with pear, apple, fresh peach, fresh apricot, pineapple – but also light spice in white pepper, olive sourdough, and mixed citrus peel. A bit waxy at cask strength, but this dies down with water. The palate continues, lightly fruity – but it has a core of magnificent barley. It’s quite beautiful – the barley, clean and rich, sits at the centre of everything – with fruit overtop and light oak underneath. It has a bit of the classic older scotch characteristic to it, which is a bit cardboard-y. Nice apple on the palate, and the finish is creamy and slightly tannic, with some nice spice. Great mouthfeel, and it really does well at cask strength – I don’t often like lighter Scotch malts at cask strength, but I’ll take this one at full force! There is a great mix of barley, fruit, light baking spice, and earthiness on the finish. A fantastic single malt!

The empty glass is rich and enticing, too – spicy and oaky, but still with very nice barley.

Score: 89/100

Value: 0/100 (based on $655)


Review: Talisker 8 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
59.4%
Aging
8 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Talisker (Carbost, Scotland)

This whisky was distilled in 2009, not the first Talisker 8 - there used to be a series of them in the 1970s and 1980s. This is the whisky I was most excited for of the Diageo special releases this year - and a cask strength young version - yes please!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

What a terrific nose. Pear, smoke, light tar, apple, maple, mixed nuts, loads of baking spice, and something tropical too. More medicinal than most Taliskers – and really sharp, and incredibly earthy – just awesome. Like a handful of peat – the full earthy, damp richness gets captured. Seems to brighten with time to reveal some peach, too – and the creaminess comes through. The palate is rich, lightly sweet, oaky, and loaded with vanilla – it is young, but not immature. The sweetness and light creamy texture perfectly offset the broad earthiness and sharp smoke. The tropical note is still there – mangosteens, I should think. The finish is sweet, spicy, smoky…milk chocolate, light smoke, white pepper, pear, and a touch of coconut still. Lots more – light iodine, ash, soursop, oak, and light tannin. It really opens up well with water, and it isn’t quite as sweet – and the spice and smoke come right out: 48 to 50% is the sweet spot for me.

I’m quite pleased with this – my 800th review and the dram I saved for my birthday this year.  I hope this becomes regular.

Score: 92/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $150)


Review: Talisker 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Talisker 18.jpg
ABV
45.8%
Aging
18 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Talisker (Carbost, Scotland)

I don’t always love the older peated whiskies, since I love immense peat quite a bit (i.e. I’ll take the younger Laphroaigs over the 18) – but Talisker 18 and Longrow 18 are both fantastic examples of terrific, old, heavily peated whiskies. It really works a trick with Talisker…


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L7319CM015 00001560

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Rich oak – and a terrific fruity character – apple juice, pear juice – but also vanilla, baking spices, raisins, and white pepper. Lightly sweet on the nose. The palate is lightly sweet, lightly smoky, but also with a great sense of age to it. The balance is just tremendous – and it’s very easy to drink. The finish really comes on – it’s really earthy – but also with lots of chocolate, spice, nuts, raisins, vanilla, and even a touch of celery seed. A masterclass in balance.

Score: 90/100

Value: 7/100 (based on $250)


Review: Lagavulin 12 Year Old Limited Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lagavulin 12.jpg
ABV
~56%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Lagavulin (Lagavulin, Scotland)

This whisky is a limited release, but it comes around every year, so it's not very rare. It usually clocks in at a higher price than the 16 year old - this is because of the cask strength and limited nature of the release. Lagavulin is a terrific distillery for just about all their releases - I really quite like what they do.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2012 Release (56.1%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Big, slightly sour peat. Smoke, vanilla, tar, gooseberries, smoked paprika, stewed peaches, grape, vanilla, lots of minerality, smoke, soot, seaweed, cucumber, earthy, marula, a bit briny, …terrifically complex and interesting. It’s voluptuous and creamy, with lots of peach here too. The palate shows tar, slightly burnt lentils, terrific minerality, bonfire, smoking dried leaves, tinned and fresh peaches, custard – all with perfect tannic grip. Earthy peat, too – but this doesn’t dominate. The finish is fabulous: smoking leaves, freshly baking bread, charred chickpeas, strawberry jam, vanilla, custard, brine, dried peaches, lime, cilantro, and light tannins. Top notch stuff – and the tannins are just perfect. Incredible whisky. This is the biggest, and most muscular between the regular (terrific) releases of the 16 year old and distiller's edition. It’s just so big…if this wasn’t at cask strength it would be a 92 – but the cask strength shows through so well, particularly the finish.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. For a terrific batch of this, $130 was not a bad price to pay.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Release (56.5%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Smoldering smoke, saltstone, lightly sweet, raisins, cacao butter, slightly farmy and peppery too. The palate is buttery, full of wood smoke, also including rich cacao and lots of earthiness – brilliant. Sweetness is perfectly balanced. The finish is beautiful, and rich – including roasted malt, woodsmoke, white pepper, peppery radish...dries to heather brush.

Very peppery – more than I remember. Brilliant. I’d call this one cloying, in a positive sense, with all the sweetness – but I suppose it’s never used in a good way, eh? I guess we’ll settle for "syrupy” or "syrup-laden” or something...

They are pricy, but they are good! Likely my favorite regular Islay, though I do like the Ardbeg 10, too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018 Special Release (57.8%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I do love trying these! It’s very much in line with the above releases - though it seems a bit sweeter and a touch less rich. Burning leaves, oil, tar, marine notes, lemon, and a light waxinesss too! Spicy and smoky finish. These things are such classics. Wonderful at cask strength.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.