Review: Diageo’s “The Manager’s Choice” whiskies
In case you are new to my blog and missed my post a while back announcing these whiskies–and the whopping 174 comments about them–please go HERE first to get the background on these highly controversial whiskies.
The Manager’s Choice whiskies consist of one carefully chosen cask from each of Diageo’s 27 malt whisky distilleries, bottled at cask strength and not chill-filtered. This is a one-time deal. The whiskies are being released in groups through 2010. They will not be available in the U.S. Here are the first six.
My overall opinion of these six whiskies? Very high quality whiskies, especially for their relatively young age. I am impressed for the most part. However, I am not thrilled with the prices and the extremely limited number of bottles available. I’d like to see annual releases like this, at a more reasonable price, with whiskies from alternating years being imported to the U.S.
91 Oban, 2000 vintage, 58.7%, $£300
Matured in a sherry cask. Lush, with glazed citrus, caramelized peach, chewy toffee, roasted nuts and subtle pine needles. The sherry is a driving force throughout this whisky, but it’s obviously from a very clean, polished European oak cask. Very delicious, with a long, satiating finish. Quite impressive for such a young whisky. My favorite of the bunch. (534 bottles)
88 Cardhu, 1997 vintage, 57.3%, £250
Matured in a bourbon cask. Cardhu has always been a pleasant, but uninspiring, whisky to me. This is one of the best Cardhu whiskies I’ve tasted—richer and more distinctive. (At this price, it better be!) It’s clean and tight, with orange, tangerine, lemon gum drops, ginger, delicate honey, butterscotch, and vanilla, with a dusting of powdered sugar. Straight-forward, pleasing finish. (252 bottles)
87 Linkwood, 1996 vintage, 58.2%, £200
Matured in a sherry cask. Chock full of ripe fruit, but still quite feminine in personality. Firm malt foundation and almost buttery in texture, with juicy oak, maple syrup, raspberry (red and black), strawberry, dates, and peppered with gentle spice (cinnamon, ginger). While this is a very enjoyable whisky, I have tasted some excellent Linkwood bottling, including the standard 12 year old from back in the early 1990s, which brandished less sherry, allowing more of Linkwood’s gentle nature to blossom. Still, the sherry influence here is pristine, and the sherry gives as much as it masks. (430 bottles)
87 Glen Elgin, 1998 vintage, 61.1%, £250
Matured in a “rejuvenated European oak” cask. Balance: that’s what I like best about this whisky. It’s not as individualistic or distinctive as the others. But that’s how I always think of Glen Elgin, so no surprise here. Still, this is a very solid effort. Fruity and flowery, with notes of tangerine, marmalade, caramel apple, ginger, cut grass, cinnamon, almond paste, and underlying vanilla, which lingers on a satisfying finish. (534 bottles)
85 Mortlach, 1997 vintage, 57.1%, £250
Matured in a bourbon cask. Thick and creamy, with mouth-coating vanilla, ripe barley, toasted marshmallow, vanilla wafer, key lime pie, Golden Delicious apple, lemongrass and hay. The vanilla sweetness lingers to the finish, mixing with dried herbs and hay. I was expecting more from a carefully chosen Mortlach, given its pedigree, but this is still nice. (240 bottles)
83 Teaninich, 1996 vintage, 55.3%, $£200
Matured in a “rejuvenated American oak” cask. “ Tropical fruit” is the operative descriptor here. Bananas in cream, honey-kissed citrus (lime, Clementine), papaya, mango, hint of coconut, green tea, and gentle vanilla. Soft finish. Rather exotic. Almost tries too hard to be cool. Distinctive, but I could tire of it sooner than the others here. (246 bottles)