Reviewing the Diageo Special Releases 2015

let’s begin

Holy wow. Like many I spoke to last night, being invited to a Diageo Special Releases launch evening was pretty high up there on the ambition list when I started GreatDrams and last night I had the immense privilege to be a part of the Diageo Special Releases 2015 event.

Traditionally one of the biggest launch events in the whisky calendar each year, the Diageo Special Releases 2015 event followed the format of previous years by launching nine, yes nine of the most incredible Diageo releases of the year at a lovely venue to a congregated group of select whisky trade luminaries from industry involvement from retail to prominent bloggers to writers to magazine editors.

The evening itself was superb, lovely to catch up with so many friends and put some faces to various people I know across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram but had not had a chance to meet as yet.

There was also an immense collection of phenomenal whisky that makes up the Diageo Special Releases 2015. 

Naturally I tried them all, some twice, as was the case for Port Ellen 32 Year Old, Lagavulin 12 Year Old and Caol Ila 17 Year Old as they were just incredible, leading to me buying the Lagavulin and Caol Ila before I had even left the venue I was so impressed.

Every release is bottled at natural cask strength and each release is a limited edition (although sometimes they don’t sell out, they mostly always do).

What were the nine releases? Well... here you go, the list.


Brora 37 Year Old
Caol Ila 17 Year Old
The Cally 40 Year Old
Clynelish Select Reserve
Dailuaine 34 Year Old
Dalwhinnie 25 Year Old
Lagavulin 12 Year Old
Pittyvaich 25 Year Old
Port Ellen 32 Year Old


50.4%, 2,976 bottles
53.3%, 5,060 bottles
56.1%, 2,946 bottles
50.9%, 2,952 bottles
48.8%, 5,916 bottles
49.9%, 5,922 bottles
53.9%, 2,964 bottles



Here are a few thoughts on my top three of the Diageo Special Releases 2015.

Caol Ila 17 Year Old

Despite being billed as the oldest ever ‘unpeated’ Caol Ila, this whisky has residual peat notes to it, the dram itself is thick, tropical and sweet but all wrapped in a peaty / smokey hug that is reminiscent of bonfires on the nose, developing further on the palate to include bags of honey and fresh fruits, hints of apples. Long and lingering finish. Divine.

Clynelish Select Reserve

A surprise this one, for me anyway, as I did not expect it to make my top three going into the evening but oh wow it is superb. Lots of chatter around the room was about his easy-sipping this one was and how much everyone was enjoying this dram with its toffee nose laden with fruity / juicy apples leading to a malty, orange-influnced palate full of more toffee. About this whisky, Diageo says: “a cautious nose leads to a surprisingly rich and embracing palate and a beautifully balanced finish”

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

BOOM! This Lagavulin is unreal… peaty power at its absolute best. There’s a real power on the nose, with white pepper and chillies accompanying the mighty peat and bonfire influences. The palate opens up to reveal hints of citrus and mint with yet more peat, at one point interfering with the nosing of the Caol Ila by a friend next to me as I sampled this beast. Long, enjoyable finish.

Oh and of course, the one we all look out for and are excited for which had to clock in as my absolute favourite from the evening…

Port Ellen 32 Year Old

Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh yes. I always thought this was going to be my hero dram of the evening, and I was not disappointed one bit. This delightfully dark Port Ellen release gave myself, and a few others, a near-sensual experience as oodles of Port Ellen smokiness and dark fruits interweave to create something truly special. Beneath the surface there are waves of fruit, honey and spices that create a perfectly balanced whisky that I could genuinely nose all night.

All in all a fantastic evening with nine fantastic releases, thanks to Diageo and Dr. Nick Morgan of the invite, hope to see you again next year! 

Tags: DalwhinnieDiageo Special Releases 2015Port Ellen
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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