Diageo’s annual Special Releases series started out in 2001 as a single-malt showcase, featuring rare limited editions from Diageo-owned distilleries. Over the years, the brand has included a few grain whiskies and no-age-statement malts, but it has never included a blended whisky in the series—until now.
Collectivum XXVIII ($200) is no ordinary blend. It includes whiskies from all 28 of Diageo’s active distilleries, among them Lagavulin, Cardhu, Mortlach, and Talisker. Stylistically and geographically, the whiskies come from all over the map, hailing from the Highlands to the Lowlands—from smoky, peaty Islay to sweet, gentle Speyside. To alchemize so many disparate drams into a unified, singular whisky takes a talented blender—or in this case, a team of blenders overseen by Diageo’s Nick Morgan.
Collectivum is a blended malt—also known as a vatted malt—which means it exclusively uses single-malt whiskies without the lighter-grain whisky that’s a hallmark of almost all blends. It’s also bottled at cask strength (114.6 proof), which gives it more burn than a typical blend. It’s dry and on the tannic side with cinnamon spice at the fore, along with caramel, vanilla, almond, and a touch of tangy lemon. A splash of branch water works very well here, ramping up the sweetness and taming the spice just enough without dulling the overall flavor. The finish is long, dry, and just a touch smoky.
For fans of blends, this is a must-have. It just might convert naysayers, too. Right now, Collectivum is available exclusively in the UK, making it even more of a rarity in the U.S. The best way to have it shipped Stateside is through The Whisky Exchange.