There is no shortage of ultra-premium, high-end, collectible, expensive single malt scotch whisky releases these days, and Diageo is certainly no stranger to this practice. The company owns many well-known distilleries, including Lagavulin, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie and Caol Ila, and is the force behind the world-famous Johnnie Walker blends. The Prima & Ultima Private Collection of Rare Malts, now in its third release, will be available for purchase for the first time in the US this summer.
These four rare single malts were selected by master blender Dr. Craig Wilson, and Robb Report had the opportunity to taste through them recently and we came away impressed. The distilleries included are Lagavulin, Talisker, Royal Lochnagar and Singleton, and all the whiskies are bottled at cask strength with no chill filtration or color added.
Lagavulin 1993 is a 28-year-old whisky bottled at 50.1 percent ABV matured in two casks, one PX/Oloroso sherry seasoned butt and one refill American oak hogshead, with a yield of 642 bottles. This was the standout of the collection, bringing Lagavulin’s familiar peaty notes to another level with flavors like blueberry, molasses, caramel on the palate and fig, raisin and cherry on the nose.
The oldest whisky of the bunch at 40 years of age, Royal Lochnagar 1981 is bottled at 52.5 percent ABV and matured in refill casks and refill American oak hogsheads, with a yield of 1,047 bottles. This is an interesting one, because according to Diageo these barrels were part of an experiment to reduce the angel’s share—or whisky that evaporates during maturation—but placing some type of membrane over them. Apparently it didn’t really work, because who can stop thirsty angels, and some of the whisky was transferred to these casks to rest for a few more decades. This is a lighter whisky with notes of honeydew melon, vanilla, butterscotch and a bit of savory oak and spice on the palate.
Talisker 1984 was matured for 37 years in three refill American oak hogsheads and one European oak sherry butt, and bottled at 51.9 percent ABV with a yield of 968 bottles. The smoke is softened on the palate here from this long slumber in casks, with a touch of salinity and notes of summer berries, burnt vanilla and even some barbecue sauce on the palate.
Finally, The Singleton of Glen Ord 1987 was matured for 34 years in five refill American oak hogsheads, and bottled at 49.4 percent ABV with a yield of 1,047 bottles. According to Diageo, this is the first 1987 vintage from The Singleton of Glen Ord and these are the last remaining casks. The palate has notes of ginger, cream and spice throughout.
Based on our first impressions, this is a pretty special collection of whiskies, especially the Lagavulin. What makes it notable is that even people familiar with each of these distilleries will find something exciting in trying these aged expressions they wouldn’t get their hands on otherwise. The Prima & Ultima Collection will be available at select retailers throughout the country in the coming months, but if you are interested in purchasing these whiskies you can register at this website and someone from Diageo will get in touch with you.