Whisky Advocate

Diageo announced four new distillery-only whiskies

May 21st, 2010

This just came in. I have always liked the concept of distillery-only whiskies. I think if you make the effort to visit a distillery, you should be rewarded for your efforts.

Here’s the press release:

Four New Whiskies Announced by Diageo

Special Distillery-only Single Malt Scotch Whisky Bottlings

Diageo has announced four additions to their extensive range of single malt whiskies  –  but only for visitors to their Scottish distilleries.

Lagavulin, Oban, Glenkinchie and Blair Athol will shortly be selling a single malt Scotch whisky bottling that isn’t available anywhere else in the world.

Like other Diageo distillery-only bottlings sold at Talisker, Caol Ila, and Clynelish, these new expressions are bottled at natural cask strength and without an age statement.

Nick Morgan, spokesman for the Classic Malts Selection™ range of Diageo’s single malts, said:

“When visitors take the trouble to visit our distilleries, it’s nice to be able to give them the option of buying something that they couldn’t get anywhere else.

“Of course they will still be able to buy the more familiar and widely distributed expressions, but these distillery-only bottlings might be regarded as even more special.

“In fact, with three of these new ones – Lagavulin™, Glenkinchie™ and Oban™ – we have been able to take advantage of a number of special casks that had been intended for bottling as Distiller’s Editions over the past few years but were found to be surplus to requirements, and have been sitting in our warehouse ever since. These have undergone a second (or ‘double’) maturation in American Oak cask wood that has previously held a fortified wine  –  in this case, sherry treated American oak casks.

“But unlike our regular Distillers Edition bottlings, these are offered at natural cask strength, and carry no age statement.”

The Lagavulin™ distillery-only bottling is expected to be available for visitors to buy during the Islay Festival this year. The prices will be between £55 and £70 UK RRP.

Details of new distillery-only bottlings

Blair Athol ABV 55.8%
Wood European oak (first fill sherry cask)
Nose Unreduced, faint nose prickle, rather like inhaling Friar’s Balsam. Strong rancio, more subtle fruit and a hint of struck matches. With time, a touch of sultana sweetness. Adding water lowers the cask-derived notes and adding plenty brings up a gentle, fragrant leafiness.
Palate Immediately sweet (dried apricots) with a pepper-spiced edge that soon moves centre stage to mask the fruit. Quickly develops a bitter-sweet character. Medium bodied, quite well integrated and rich – needing only a little water to show its best. Adding a bigger splash (1:1) gives a soft, sweet and malty start, with the spicy notes taking longer to come through, and raises the underlying, balancing bitterness.
Finish Quite short, sharp and drying, with some sweetness coming through again in the aftertaste.
Overall “A balanced and straightforward bitter-sweet malt.”


Glenkinchie ABV 59.1%
Wood Has undergone a second (or ‘double’) maturation in Amontillado-treated American oak casks.
Nose Unreduced, fruity, spicy, and dry. Subtle floral aromas develop but are far less obvious than in the Classic Malt expression. Adding water (not too much) softens and sweetens the nose.
Palate So sweet (acacia honey) with a surprising and luscious palate-coating texture. Medium bodied and unusually rich for Glenkinchie. Adding a splash of water softens things down into a sweet and spicy dram, with good grip, and a great balance of primary tastes.
Finish Medium length, crisp and sweetly drying.
Overall “The best Glenkinchie I’ve ever tasted, more all-rounder than apéritif. Even though in its new-found assertiveness it perhaps loses some of Glenkinchie’s signature floral notes, it is sweetly persuasive!”


Lagavulin 51.5%
Wood Has undergone a second (or ‘double’) maturation in Pedro Ximenez-treated American oak casks.
Nose Unreduced, big and rounded. At first sweet (toffee) and smoke with restrained medicinal notes. Bigger than the 16 year old expression. Adding water (not too much) softens the nose and balances the smoke and sweetness.
Palate A delightfully sweet start, at natural strength soon overwhelmed by a whole ocean of hot smoke crashing over the tongue. Rich, with great structure and grip. Big and powerful, sweeter than the 16 year old and just lovely to drink straight. Adding a splash of water(not too much) rounds things, easing back the smoke to leave a firmly balanced sweet-smoky dram.
Finish Medium to long, rich and peppery. Fine smoky aftertaste.
Overall “A big, self-assured Lagavulin with all the certainty of age, uncomplicated, satisfying and so-o-o easy to enjoy!”


Oban 55.0%
Wood Has undergone a second (or ‘double’) maturation in Pedro Montilla Fino-treated American oak casks.
Nose Unreduced, some nose prickle. Rich raisins and spicy wood. Adding a little water lowers the richness and brings up more subtle, fresh, fragrant notes.
Palate Unreduced, immediately sweet and powerful with a salty tang. Very warming with a good mouthfeel. Adding a good dash of water gives a honey-sweet, fruity start (ripe nectarine?) still with a hint of the sea behind it, then waves of light smokiness roll over the palate. Mouth-drying overall. Medium bodied, elegant.
Finish Quite long, smooth and sweetly drying, with more smoke coming through in the pleasing aftertaste.
Overall “Like Oban, only more so. A well-balanced and very more-ish dram that makes a fine all-rounder.”

No Responses to “Diageo announced four new distillery-only whiskies”

  1. B.J. Reed says:

    This trend has existed for a long time it has just accelerated in recent years. I also like the idea of getting something unique and distinctive if you visit the distilleries yourself. I think the first distillery only bottlings I got were in 2001 at Highland Park and Talisker and have collected them ever since. Also the “bottle your own” single malt has really grown as well. First time I did this was 2004 at Bruichladdich but this last trip we did it there, Aberlour, Pultney and you can also do it at Balvanie and many other distilleries – It is gimmicky but fun and some of the whisky is excellent.

  2. We can note that even big Diageo must be shockingly short of sherry casks, even for special bottlings like these. “Sherry treated American Oak casks”? If they were proper sherry casks they would say so (as with the Blair Athol).

    Does this mean they had poured a few bottles of sherry into an empty bourbon barrel?

    • Red_Arremer says:

      That is exactly what it means, Oliver. Just another example of the consequences of supply outstripping demand– Like during world war two where the germans made “coffee” from ground up hazelnuts (or something like that).

      On the one hand, who cares– it’s not that far away from commissioning sherry producers just to get used sherry casks. On the other hand– It’s another step towards synthesizing whisky in test tubes. Who knows, in the future there might well be “fine old sherried whisky,” which is synthesized completely in chemical factories and poured straight into bottles. A little synthetic sherry here, a little imitation oak extract there, an application of this or that filtration process here, etc., etc., presto.

      We do a lot of talking about smell and taste– how important is anything like traditional craft, really? I think you can guess how I feel on that one, but it’s tough to draw the line… I mean I’m ok with wine finishes so why not this as well? And what about the next innovation?

      • The wine makers seem to be already going into this direction, especially the big non-Europeans. You can even buy powdered tannins to beef up your bland red.

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Powdered tannins– shoot, really? I thought I was making that up…

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Oliver, my girlfriend is asking for clarification– Do you mean that you or I can buy powedered tannins or that big, non-European wine producers can buy them, or both?

  3. Luke says:

    Anything new (and cask-strength) from Lagavulin is welcome.

    But… “Lagavulin 21 Year Old, when will we see your like again…”

  4. mongo says:

    so, the lagavulin one is going to be like the distiller’s edition but with younger whisky in it and at cask strength*. are they just adding younger whisky to leftover stocks of the d.e, hence no age statement?

    either way, i was not impressed with the most recent d.e, and i’m not excited by the continuation of the sherry/whatever cask finish trend. short sherry finishes in particular seem to me to flatten out the distinctive characteristics of the malts and push them towards an uninteresting middle where they all resemble each other to some degree.

    *(whoops–on re-reading completely, they acknowledge as much for the lagavulin, oban and glenkinchie)

  5. Alex says:

    I like the thought of distilery only bottlings as well – and hope to collect a lot of them someday in the not so far future – but I wonder how the Lagavulin differs from the Distiller’s edition that is also finished in PX casks? Anyone know – is just length of maturation?

  6. Ethan Prater says:

    Why no availability dates on the others, I wonder?

    I picked up the Talisker distillery-only bottling in summer 2001 (it was also sold at the Oban shop then). Cask strength, no age statement. Is it still the same? I haven’t even opened that bottle yet.

  7. Pär Caldenby says:

    Quite obviously, anyone visiting a distillery should be able to get something more or less uniue form their visit. One should always award the keener visitors.

    One fear that might pop up is that with huge companies like Diageo, the really special casks may not be mentioned or bottled, although remainders of last year’s special-this-or-that may be handy to bottle.

    The best thing is the bottle-your-own bottle as with the Bruichladdich “Valinch” bottling (similar to be found also at Aberlour, I believe).

    / Pär

    • Steffen Bräuner says:

      Adding to Bruichladdich and Aberlour I have seen bottle your own stuff at : Glenmorangie, Glen Moray, Old Pulteney and Balvenie. I havnet tried the Balvenie but the casks I was so lucky to draw a bottle from at the other 33 was magnificient whiskies. Anyone know of other places, I think this is a spreading trend, which I really good

      Setting up a cask in a visitor shop or tasting room and renewing it regularely is probably a pain in the butt(!)


  8. Ethan Prater says:

    I toured Lagavulin on Sunday 5/23 and Oban on Tuesday 5/25.

    The distillery-only bottlings were available at the respective distilleries on that day. I believe the prices were 69 pounds (Lagavulin) and 65 pounds (Oban), but I can’t recall exactly. I tasted each alongside their respective widely available bottlings (plus the Lagavulin Feis Ile 2010 bottling).

    The descriptions provided by Diageo are accurate in both cases. The Lagavulin is largely a variation on the Distillers Edition style – a little bit of power and body removed, maybe sweetness added, compared to the 16 Year Old. Not my preference in a Lagavulin. Just consider it a cask strength Distillers Edition without an age statement.

    The Oban is very distinctively Oban. I’ve been drinking it this evening, too. Apparently no filtration, since you can actually see oils swirl around when adding water. Distinctively Oban, with some sherry sweetness added – but not too much sherry. Quite nice, especially given what I think has been a dumbing down of the standard Oban 14 Year Old over the past decade.

    In my opinion, based on quality alone, neither would merit $100+ just on a retail shelf. But they’re by no means bad or uncharacteristic of their respective distilleries.

  9. DavidUK says:

    The Blair Athol distillery only bottling is quite superb

  10. DavidUK says:

    As far as I know none of the ‘Distillery Only’ bottlings from Diaego distilleries carry an age statement

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