Whisky Advocate

The Managers’ Choice: Round 2

January 9th, 2010

To get the full perspective, before you proceed, you really should read my blog post (and record-breaking 175 comments) on Round 1 here.

The press release below was supposedly embargoed until Monday.  But, since the cat’s already out of the bag, Diageo notified me today that I could post it up now. They did note, however, that the details on this second release probably won’t be up on their site until Monday.

Yesterday, I spoke with Nick Morgan, who oversees the limited edition and special releases. He told me that the bottles are already at the retailers in the UK and will get into circulation next week. The will eventually work their way into the rest of Europe within weeks. (Nothing for the U.S., sadly.) Nick also told me that Round 1 was successful and that most, if not all, of the bottles have been sold.

Just like Round 1, I’ll be getting samples of this batch. (It will take a while, with all the red tape.) I’ll let you know my thoughts after I taste them. Here are my tasting notes from Round 1.

So, what do you all think? Have you calmed down since the first release back in October? Has anyone tasted any of the whiskies from the first round?

Press Release:

Monday 11th January 2010

Diageo launches the next batch of their first-ever single-cask collection of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies


Following the first batch launched in September, Diageo have announced that the second batch of their single-cask collection of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies has arrived.

The project encompasses all 27 of Diageo’s Single Malts  –  the first time that Scotland’s biggest estate of Single Malt distilleries has issued a comprehensive series of single-cask bottlings. Labelled The Managers’ Choice, each distillery is represented by a very restricted bottling of its Single Malt Whisky drawn from one single cask, selected after a careful examination of distillery stocks.

The rare limited-edition series is aimed at collectors and connoisseurs who will enjoy owning and exploring an unusual expression of their favourite Single Malt or even a whole anthology of highly individual Single Malts, chosen to represent a unique take on each of the 27 distilleries’ distinctive distillery character.

The releases are being staged in four batches over several months. September 2009 saw the first release of six malts: Cardhu™ (1997), Glen Elgin™ (1998), Linkwood™ (1996), Mortlach™ (1997), Oban™ (2000) and Teaninich™ (1996).

This second release comprises of:

Blair Athol™




Glen Spey™



For each Malt, the cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as a highly distinctive expression of that distillery’s Single Malts by a judging panel of acknowledged experts, including leading maturation experts and the distillery managers themselves.

In many cases, unusual cask woods will have had their influence on the final result. Perfect maturation and spirit quality have been the criteria, resulting in a bottling that delights with original and sometimes unexpected flavours whilst allowing the distillery character to still shine through.

Depending on the size of the cask and the rate of evaporation over the years since it was filled, the volume of bottles obtained can vary between approximately 600 and as little as 200.These are, consequently, extremely rare and distinctive whiskies.

Each cask is bottled at its natural cask strength.   This means that the liquid the connoisseur pours into his or her glass is exactly as it emerged directly from the cask when it was hand-picked a few months earlier by the experts – it’s as good as a dram drawn from the cask in the warehouse itself.

Classic Malts Selection spokesperson Nick Morgan said: “As we said last year when the first batch of The Managers’ Choice was launched, this is the most extensive collection we’ve ever released of single cask malt whisky bottlings, from all 27 of our operational malt distilleries. 

“Our announcement last September provoked a great deal of interest and comment. The release was a huge success, with a number of customers asking for more allocation. It met all our commercial expectations: in some territories, these bottlings turned out to be the fastest-selling limited-edition single malt whisky bottlings we have ever launched. We expect the second batch, which like before offers both celebrated and lesser-known single malt whiskies, will also be very well received.”

Full details, including tasting notes, will displayed on the Classic Malts Selection™ website The updated website content includes the story of The Managers’ Choice and the selection process, a “Meet the Managers” page where they talk about The Managers Choice collection & questions related to the world of whisky, whisky tasting notes & audio, Q&A with a Sensory Expert, and details of where to buy the whiskies. Whisky enthusiasts registered as Friends of the Classic Malts™ have been given advance notice of the launch.



Release dates

Stocks of the new releases are now available in UK specialist retailers. Retailers in Northern European markets (Germany, Switzerland and the Netherland) will be receiving stock in the course of January.

Release details – second release

Blair Athol™ November 1995 570 Bodega Sherry European Oak
  Butter scotch nose, with sweet, deep burnt flavours.
Cragganmore™ May 1997 246 Bodega Sherry European Oak
  An oaky fruity aroma with a warm dry finish,
Dalwhinnie™ February 1992 270 Refill American Oak
  Orange marmalade aromas with smooth bitter notes.
Dufftown™ May 1997 282 Rejuvenated American Oak
  Warm fruit cake aromas with a gentler smooth taste.
Glen Spey™ January 1996 276 New American Oak
  Toasted almonds with a warm finish.
Strathmill™ December 1996 300 New American Oak
  Fresh springtime aromas with caramel on the palette.
Talisker™ December 1994 582 Bodega Sherry European Oak
  Soft peat smoke, with lots of apple sweetness.


Pack shots are available – contact Pat Roberts on +44 (0)7774 424 410 or


The UK RRP are as follows:

Blair Athol £200
Cragganmore £250
Dalwhinnie £250
Dufftown £200
Glen Spey £200
Strathmill £200
Talisker £300


See for full details of the release, including interviews with many of those involved in the selection process

Diageo’s distilleries

Diageo has 28 operational single malt whisky distilleries, but spirit distilled at Diageo’s new distillery at Roseisle is not available yet.

Craig Wallace

Full interview with Craig Wallace, and other details of the first The Managers’ Choice releases, can be downloaded from: ResponseSource:


The Managers’ Choice bottlings are available from specialist retailers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands only.

44 Responses to “The Managers’ Choice: Round 2”

  1. John,

    Calm here at -5 degrees (F).

    The many great folks who have posted their notes about wanting to read about the premium whiskys even though they’ll never buy or taste them have convinced me to do the same.

    I have to wonder though, even with your world audience, why Diageo asks you to rate their whisky that, other than your samples and perhaps a few others, will never be offered for retail sale in your home country.

    Am I being too provincial in my thinking, here?

  2. Although I could never afford to buy these Scotches, I am always disappointed when you rate whiskeys that we can’t purchase on U.S. soil. I get very jealous when I read your comments, know a customer that would be interested in that specific profile, & I can’t get it for him.

  3. bgulien says:

    I am happy with my Dufftown 26 yo from Bladnoch at 42 GBP.
    It also was a manager choice, albeit from Raymond at Bladnoch.

    Not much of a eyecatcher on the shelves as those MC’s, but 5 of those against 1 of the MC’s? No contest!!

  4. John Hansell says:

    Guys: to be honest, I asked them to send me samples because, as a whisky enthusiast, I am curious to how they taste. (I appreciate them making the effort to send the samples because it’s a real pain in the butt to get them to me.) I don’t recall them ever asking me to rate them, but maybe it is implied.

    Do you not want me to rate them? Are you not curious?

  5. bgulien says:

    BTW, He also got some Cragganmore at about the same age also for 42 GBP.

  6. bgulien says:

    John, If they would ask me: do you want some samples? Of course I would. Lucky you!
    And yes, please rate them. I mean, it’s your job to do it, isn’t it? 😉

    Still outrageous prices, as the first time around.

  7. Red_Arremer says:

    Be honest, most of you don’t have the same feelings about this release as you did about last years, do you? This time you’re ready. This time it doesn’t seem quite as outrageous. And it feels healthy not to have a strong reaction to a recurring bad situation that you can’t change.

    How is the person who still has a very bad reaction to Diageo pricing a 15 yo Talisker at 600$ different than the person who doesn’t anyway? I don’t know.

    My feelings about these releases are the same as my feelings about that Macallan box set. I don’t want them for my birthday. I don’t want them period. I wish something better existed in their place. Anyone could get a lot of better whisky for such a price so who’re are these aimed at? Of course that’s a rhetorical question.

  8. mars says:

    My mind don’t change at all about these release. I still find these release plain ridiculous!
    For that kind of price I can buy a benriach 1976 or a glendronach 1972 who are both incredibly good(to my taste). And this is just some exemple, we can find too many incredible whisky for cheaper than this (the whisky for sale on the bladnoch website are a good exemple. Maybe the best exemple).

    I don’t want to try these whisky for the moment. Even if it’s free.


  9. Texas says:

    OK, John. Took a deep breath and a little rest. Sorry for getting a little short with drwhisky.

    I would be very interested in your opinions of these. I am so used to being able to afford very little and also not being able to get it since I am an American (Talisker 57 North, Bowmore Tempest, HP Hjarta) I am used to it. Since Talisker is my favorite SMS I would especially be interested in that review.

  10. John Hansell says:

    Texas, no worries.

    Yes, there has been a barrage of whiskies being released that we here in the U.S. can’t get. A bit frustrating.

  11. Texas says:

    I have worked in Sweden a few times and hopefully we’ll be going back there again in the next 3 years (it’s Australia next year). Hopefully I can pick up the Hjarta and the 57 North while going through Stockholm.

  12. butephoto says:

    Hmm, I’m a touch sceptical of Nick Morgan’s claim that “most, if not all, of the bottles have been sold.” The Whisky Exchange still has all 6 for sale: and my local Oddbins has only sold one of the first six that they were given (and only a couple of days ago was that one sold). Obviously that’s only a couple of examples but given his spin when the first six were released I wouldn’t be too convinced about what he says.

    Anyway, apart from that this is again a selection of whiskies which will barely register a blip on my whisky radar – there are much better and cheaper whiskies to be looking at.

  13. JWC says:

    i think it’s marketing – brings attention to the “regular” bottles that diaego has to offer. i have no problems – probably bc i’m now more into bourbon than i am scotch. having said that, i am curious about this collection vs. the versions that are more affordable and available. i’m just keeping my fingers crossed that bourbon doesn’t go the way of scotch as far as these marketing ploys go.

    texas, sweden and now oz – are you in the oil and gas industry by any chance?

  14. Steffen Bräuner says:

    Milroy’s has most of the first set on sale at 20% discount

    Adding to that I will say that these diageo’s single cask get too much publicity here, why not review some of the hundreds and hundreds single cask bottlings available at decent prices, like the ones from Bladnoch ?


  15. Leorin says:

    I second the opinion that releases like the Manager’s Choice bottles or that Macallan get too much publicity here.
    I and many other whisky enthusiasts are mainly interested in whiskies that are very good but also affordable.

  16. Louis says:

    Well, I just had a thought. Maybe these casks are really, really good. These are also distilleries, except for Talisker, that wouldn’t attaract of lot of attention if independent bottlings show up. So if John reviews these botles, we might have some useful information for future purchases, just not from Diageo.



  17. BFishback says:

    Can you not order from the whiskey exchange in the US? Or is it a game of custom’s roulette?

    I think the manager’s choice releases are interesting but for those prices I think I could have more fun elsewhere.

  18. brian bradley says:


    I have bought from a few UK places (Loch Fyne Whiskies and the whisky barrel)and never had trouble yet.

    I don’t know if anyone has had trouble.

  19. brian bradley says:

    John, I doubt this will generate the epic outrage as last time. I think now this sort of thing is expected.

    They should have a special subset of this Single Cask release that is “extra special” not only chosen by the managers, but, touched and kissed. The bottles will have a special gold foil lable and Diageo will only charge us an extra two hundred bucks a bottle.

    That would be a bargan. I mean, those managers can’t lift and touch every bottle.

  20. Neil Fusillo says:

    Incensed? No. Not incensed. Still disgusted? Absolutely.

    I guess the trick is to pretty much assume Diageo’s marketing department is staffed by incredibly business-savvy, whisky-hating sociopaths, and then it seems more like an absolutely rational thing for them to continue to put out wildly overpriced whiskies. 😉

    The whole spin they put on the release makes it sound as though the NORMALLY sold versions of these whiskies are incredibly inferior quality, so these particularly rare versions should be coveted.

    All that really makes me wonder, though, is, why the heck should I bother spending my money on their inferior product when I could buy whisky from distilleries who put more care and concern into getting an excellent product to the market place?

    I’m sure that wasn’t their marketing intention, but they WERE the ones saying that these were chosen by experts as distinctive expressions of that distillery… which implies the rest of the stuff is just schlock they stuck in a bottle.

  21. Mark says:

    I wonder if Diageo encouraged you/gave you permission to release the info because it would follow the Macallan info!

    To your direct question about curiosity, please count me as curious. But not because I would buy these bottles (no worries on Diageo’s part there, clearly, since they have no trouble finding buyers elsewhere).

    I’m glad you get to taste and glad we get to read what you think of them.

    Given my disinclination to purchase them, it hardly makes sense for me to be frustrated that they won’t be available in the States.

    I’ll buy Brett Pontoni’s often excellent cask picks for $60-80 instead. I’ve found him to be “spot-on” about which bottlings are spot-on distillery representatives.

  22. Luke says:

    I’ll be very interested in your reviews John, but it’s still crazy money to charge for 12-17 Year-Old Single Cask!

  23. patrick says:

    post 6: Hi John, don’t forget you have international readers 😉

    post 12: Mark, Diageo has sold all their stocks to the retailers, but this does not mean, that the retailers have sold their stocks 😉

    Compared to the previous batch, the £/year is better..

  24. Todd says:

    My comment is “Still Alienated TM”. It goes to show how thick headed Diageo’s marketing group is that they put out a second group of these overpriced bondoggles.

    Patrick’s comment about retailers picking these up means “sold” to Diageo is apt. Retailers must have been arm twisted into taking these and it will interesting to see if they can find takers for the second set. I guess Diageo always stake out a position that unless retailers take a certain number of these, that palates of Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16 will be withheld. Diageo may convince retailers to take these based on price breaks on high volume standard releases.

    Based on the bottle runs, Diageo has inadvertently released their world wide estimate on the current number of whisky buying fools with more money than sense – about 400-500.

  25. Todd says:

    BTW, 200-250 GBP for a 29 year old Port Ellen or 30 year old Brora seems like a real bargain by comparison, doesn’t it? Maybe that is the underlying message of the Manager’s Choice series.

  26. patrick says:

    I do agree with you Todd, but after having tasted the first batch, it gives the impression that Diageo was not looking for very active cask to leave the character expressing itself.
    Afterwards, it is a matter of personal preference, but for the same amount of money, I prefer to go for a Special Release

  27. Steffen Bräuner says:

    For the same amount of money I prefer to walk into cadenheads next time I am in Edinburgh and fill my suitcase 🙂


  28. Paul M says:

    I would like to read your reviews of these releases. As part of your reviews I would like your opinion as to whether or not they are reflective if the distillery profile. That way, I could compare it to something that both available and more affordable here (in the USA).

  29. B.J. Reed says:

    my response is no different then it was on the first thread – if people buy the stuff Diagio achieves its goal – No use complaining about the price.

    John can do a service by telling us if the whisky is as good as the same thing we could get from Cadenhead or any other independent bottler.

    I am unlikely to buy any of this – I can go to Duncan Taylor, G&M or Scotch Malt Whisky Society and get quality Diagio owned distillery bottlings that equal or exceed what Diagio is producing at a much lower cost. To those who wish to buy these bottles, go for it!

  30. Texas says:

    Hey I wish I was in oil and gas ..then I might could afford some of this stuff. No I mentioned I was in Antarctica on one of these threads I think before you started posting..I am a U.S. gov’t contractor in a technical field.

  31. Red_Arremer says:

    The more people have the opportunity to taste before they buy– And to do so in the company of someone who’s informed and not deeply allied to the big boys, the less we’ll see stuff like this.

  32. John @ 4:

    That you asked for the samples makes all the difference in the world. Yes, now I’m curious to know what you think of them.

  33. butephoto says:

    Patrick @23 – that’s exactly the sort of spin I mean. Nick Morgan’s idea of success is not the same as the retailers!

  34. Rick Duff says:

    Technical question – noticed a couple the were “New american oak”. Does this mean that it’s a brand new american oak barrel.. or it’s a first fill.. having already had bourbon in it in the US?

  35. patrick says:

    @Rick, new should mean “virgin” of any alcoholic beverage

  36. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    the second set will not get as much attention as the first I think. The storm that brewed over the first set has taken it`s course and has subsided. Everthing that could be said has been said. So we will not see a repetition of the fury.

    The fury still is there and the bad publicity Diageo reaped is still in the memories.

    That is one aspect.

    The other is that the expectations for the second set and the sets to follow are not and can not be as high as the marketing people of Diageo had driven them with the blah blah for the first set.

    I did collect the tasting notes on various web sites of the first set and compared them.
    The long and short of it is that – as we all assumed and predicted – the Managers Choice failed to deliver what Diageo had claimed.

    Not one reviewer or taster of the first set raved about the first six examples. The scores given were not exceptional over all and if you compare all the notes you can find and read them and between the lines you will find that the whiskies are just that in the reviewers eyes – whiskies. Not revelations not the creme de la creme.

    There is a kind consistancy among the reviewers, though. The Oban does very well over all and the Lochnagar as well.

    So now that the cat is out of the bag I do not think that we will see a repetition of the fuss and outrage the first set provoked.

  37. Red_Arremer says:

    Just out of interest, how many of you feel any discomfort when buying a Diageo bottle– and when & why did this begin?

    Personally, I do and I think it began with that local goods festival in scotland– the one where Diageo threatened to withdraw sponsorship if whisky from any other producers ended up on show. Still, I bought a bottle of the ’07 Brora– couldn’t say no to it…

  38. B.J. Reed says:


    I don’t shy away from Diagio more than any other company bottling but I have been disappointed in how the corporate decisions have filtered down to the distilleries in some cases.

    My experience with tours at Diagio facilities have been a real mixed bag and I find unless you get a real seasoned person to connect with the information provided is very standardized so we have avoided some for that reason.

    On the other hand we have found some wonderful people working at Diagio distilleries and struck up good relationships with them – The same is true of some of the Classic Malt Ambassadors here in the U.S.

    Whisky is a business and ofttimes decisions are made (in my opinion) that fly in the face of their core customer base – Diagio is accountable to its shareholders and like any business that has to do with profit but that does not mean you have to alienate people in the process.

    Having said that, I will always have a special place in my heart for the small company operations (e.g. Burn Stewart) and the independent distilleries (Glenfarclas, Bruichladdich) and bottlers (Edradour)and where I can I will continue to make extra effort to support them if I can.

  39. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    well Red, I can not say that I do feel discomfort when or if buying a bottle from the Diageo portfolio.

    My discomfort stems from reading about Diageo being driven by money interests leading to things like the closure of Kilmarnock bottling facilities and the like. It comes from reading sometimes outright silly marketing effluences – and knowing better than the claims being made therein.

    It comes from realising that the leader of Scottish whisky industry and other alcohol industries as well is blindly setting it`s sight on eternal growth. Furthermore it stems from the most probable outcome you can imagine that this dead end strategy will lead to. Collapse.

    And it comes from watching the “strategic” decisions which are being made on the way.
    Whiskies no longer maturing at their distilleries premises on a grand scale and in way of principle.
    In short all those decissions that effect the way whisky is being made. Not only in Diageo facilities. Quantity is always the enemy of quality.
    In the blind effort of hightening the quantity of shareholders profits the quality of the products is sacrified. One could almost say in general. Diageo will deny that. All others will as well. But add all those “optimisations” “rationalisations” “synergetic effects” cost and corner cuttings and in the way whisky is made you end up with quite a different thing and no longer the real McCoy.
    At the same time the marketing bla bla celebrates tradition, the old way and the way whisky has always been mad and always will be!!!
    Truth is the old way was a craft`s way the way today is the way of an industry. riddle me that.

    See Bell`s blended Scotch in the UK. It lost its age statement “8 yo” – again!

    It always does when Diageo thinks they need to sell more Bell`s for the same price – only younger.

    etc etc you get my drift.

  40. John Hansell says:

    Politics and price notwithstanding, I look forward to reviewing the products (and comparing them to sibling.

  41. Tim F says:

    I was fortunate to be invited to taste this new batch of Manager’s Choices at a Diageo bash just before Christmas (although we never received samples of the first lot).

    My (very condensed) verdicts on the new batch are at the bottom of this post (apologies, John, for the self-promotion):

    Apologies in advance to anyone upset by the corporate shillery =)

  42. butephoto says:

    I’ve just found out that Oddbins in the UK are discounting all of them and not just the Oban.

    Clearly the reductions now appearing show, which we all knew, that Diageo got the pricing completely wrong on this series.

  43. MacArdbeg says:

    My point of view is, that “bottles that are overpriced should be overlooked”, as another blogger wisely has said.

    In their spin and arrogance Diageo has not understood, that those bottlings will neither create more interest in their brands nor any interest among whiskydrinkers. I would never consider to purchase one of those bottles, and if I had an offer for free at a tasting I would probabely turn it down as a matter of principle.

  44. […] written about the first and second releases here. Below you’ll find the info on the third release, taken from their press […]

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