Because of all the rumors, blog postings, etc., (including my own teaser this past week) on this subject (unauthorized, in many instances), Diageo has given me permission to release this information, officially, one day early.
First, let’s start with the information from the press release:
Diageo launches its first ever complete collection of single-cask malt whiskies
Diageo has announced the launch of its first single-cask collection of single malt Scotch whiskies. This is 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, 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 each of 27 distilleries’ distinctive but authentic whisky signature.
The releases are being staged in batches over the next year. September 2009 sees the first release of six malts.
Each distillery is represented in The Managers’ Choice by a bottling of its single malt whisky drawn from one single cask, selected after a careful examination of distillery stocks. The cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as the most 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.
Once picked, each cask is bottled at its natural cask strength, without chill filtering. Nothing is allowed to affect the natural taste and aromas of the whisky. 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.
Diageo whisky specialist Craig Wallace explained the challenge of selecting a single cask for a bottling that will be made available to a discerning and knowledgeable consumer audience: “When you’re selecting casks for a bigger bottling, you can work with a wider variation of maturity, distillery character and wood influence because you can even it out and aim for consistency.
“But when you are bottling a single cask, you can’t do that: you have to get the balance totally right when selecting the cask. And it’s highly unlikely, whatever single cask you choose this time, that you’d ever be able to replicate that precise flavour profile the next time you look for one. So finding a single cask with just the right balance is actually very challenging.”
Classic Malts Selection spokesperson Nick Morgan said: “We have occasionally issued single-cask bottlings of individual single malt whiskies before, for instance for visitors to the annual Islay Festival. And single-cask bottlings of our malts can sometimes be obtained from independent bottlers.
“But this is a much more ambitious venture – the most extensive collection we’ve ever released of single cask malt whisky bottlings, from 27 of our operational malt distilleries, involving both the well-known and those whose product isn’t widely available.
“Each individual distillery cask selected by the experts after an extensive examination has doubly earned its place in The Managers’ Choice, regardless of its age: because it faithfully illuminates that distillery’s individual DNA, and also because it will offer the connoisseur a different, interesting and perhaps unexpected experience of that whisky.”
Full details, including tasting notes, are displayed on the Classic Malts Selection™ website www.malts.com. The new 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.
Note: Since this project doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, Diageo informed me this morning that the website featuring these whiskies may not be fully operational until then.
Here are the six whiskies in the first release, along with corresponding information on distillation dates, number of bottles, and pricing. (Sadly, these whiskies will NOT be available in the U.S.)
Cardhu™ , distilled 1997, 252 bottles, £250
Glen Elgin™, distilled 1998, 534 bottles, £250
Linkwood™, distilled 1996, 480 bottles, £200
Mortlach™, distilled 1997, 240 bottles, £250
Oban™, distilled 2000, 534 bottles, £300
Teaninich™, distilled 1996, 246 bottles, £200
I spoke with Nick Morgan last week and he was candid with me, telling me that it was very difficult deciding on which cask to pick for each distillery. The nosing team narrowed it down to three different casks for each distillery. Then, the group of nosers, along with the distillery managers and other key individuals, basically debated until coming up with just one pick for each distillery. (I would have liked to been there for that! That would have been fun.)
So, there you have it for now. I WILL be getting review samples of each release, so I’ll let you know my thoughts at that time. If you have any other questions, let me know. I’ll try to get them answered for you.
And please, post up your comments. Diageo is watching…