Whisky Tasting; Diageo, “The Distiller’s Edition” range

The first real tasting of 2013 was almost a miss for me as the day job seems to encroach on this valentine’s evening. However, all worked out, and being the old romantic that I am, I let the wife stay at home whilst I headed to Skipton.

This tasting was Diagio – The Distiller’s Edition range. Hosted by the extremely entertaining Colin Dunn, I can say it’s one of the best tastings I’ve attended.

Firstly, the range was fantastic; being a Diageo session rather than a distillery session, there was a greater contrast of brands. I was familiar will all, and very familiar with several of these, so it was interesting to compare to the standard distillery bottlings I know.

Secondly, Colin’s approach was just great. Entertaining, yes, but this wasn’t just a glass-by-glass approach.

We started with something different, sniffed at sample 6, tried sample 3, back to 6 and so on. The whole evening tested the senses, but also demonstrated differences – as well as included chocolate too.
So, before we get into the samples, a bit about Diageo:

Diageo is the world’s leading premium drinks business with an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across spirits, beer and wine. These brands include Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, J&B, Windsor, Buchanan’s and Bushmills whiskies, Smirnoff, Ciroc and Ketel One vodkas, Baileys, Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray and Guinness

So there you go.

Right, onto the whisky.

The unnamed sample
We started with an ‘extra’ sample. Not numbered on the sample sheet and nameless, at this point anyway. We sniffed, we sampled and we regularly came back to this. With Diageo owning a large spectrum of distilleries and blends, it was difficult to narrow this one down.

Clues in the tasting; slight citrus and slight smoke to it. Well bodied, long finish. Generally touched on salty/medicinal. We’ll come back to this..

Sample 1: Royal Lochnagar
This was actually the second to last sample we tried, but it is labelled no.1. This was a real surprise for me. Im looking for a new bottle – something “not my usual” and this was an extremely pleasant and easy everyday dram. Light, floral with a hint of spice.

Sample 2: Clynelish
A big hit on the night this wasn’t a favourite. Finished in Oloroso casks, this was fruitcake-sweet with nutty undertones. Interesting fact: Clynelish is not so familiar as 95% of the distilled spirit goes to blend for overseas market!

Sample 3: Dalwhinnie
This was the winner for me. An absolute delight and surprise. Again, finished in Oloroso casks this head an earthy feel without being heavy; heather, peat and oak. Rubbing between your hands, you could really smell the malt in this too. Lovely spice on the palate and smooth to the end. I’ll be getting a bottle.

Sample 4: Oban
I have a small bottle of Oban at home and have not really given it a great chance. This 1996 bottling was great. Really fruity but you get the sting of sea air with it too: salty and a touch of smoke which makes it interesting.

Sample 5: Talisker
Coming into familiar territory, this was a lovely sweet, rich, juicy, vanilla and sherry drink. Easily drinkable and rewarding too. I’d happily come back for much more. The only other Talisker I am familiar with is a a 30yo sample I have. Worth a revisit.

Sample 6: Caol Ila
This was the one we started with – and it was fantastic. If I hadn’t recently finished a Caol Ila (12) and wanted to try something new, I would have bought this. Wonderfully “Caol Ila” in all it’s best ways: medicinal, sea salt, peaty, smoke – it’s what it is. This however, is Distiller’s Edition – so it was finished in Moscatel casks – giving a new dimension which smoothed some of the edges off this (in a good way) and added sweetness..

Sample 7. Lagavulin
Well, what can you say? Lagavulin is simply brilliant as is, so what’s the difference here? Finished in PX this again has an added dimension. Perhaps gain this is a smooth sweetness which nicely balances the iodine, peat and roasted malt which we know. There’s no fault to this drink at all.

SO, what a night – but what about that first drink? It was Johhnie Walker Double Black.! When plain old Johnnie Walker Black isn’t enough – there’s always Double-Black. Again, as with everything on this night – a very enjoyable drink.

So, all in all – a great night. And I’ve not even mentioned the Talisker 35yo and the Port Ellen 12th release I sampled yet….

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