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Recent releases, February 2014

Cardhu, 21 Years Old (Diageo Special Releases 2013) (Scotland)
The last time that Cardhu appeared in the Special Releases series was in 2005, and this time around we have a 1991 expression, matured in ex-Bourbon casks. The nose is spicy and herbal, with fresh oak and toffee, balanced by a hint of vinegar. Oranges and cooking apples on the buttery palate, with malt and lots of spice. Spice, fudge and honey in the lengthy finish. (fewer than 6,000 bottles) 54.2% ABV, 70, £160.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Lagavulin, 12 Years Old (Diageo Special Releases 2013) (Scotland)
A 12-year-old Lagavulin has become a staple of the Special Releases ranges, and this variant has been aged in refill American oak casks. Banana, black pepper and crumbling peat on the nose, with damp undergrowth and ozone. Initially, quite dry on the palate, with peat smoke, brine and herbal notes, then increasingly sweet and fruity, though a charred, liquorice note persists. The finish is long, with pepper, smouldering wood and plain chocolate. 55.1% ABV, 70cl, £80.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Port Ellen, 34 Years Old (Diageo Special Releases 2013) (Scotland)
This is the 13th release of Port Ellen by Diageo, and the 1978 distillation has been matured in a mix of refill American oak and European oak casks. Last year’s expression had an RRP of £600, which has now risen to £1,500, reflecting the closed Islay distillery’s popularity among collectors and speculators. The waxy nose offers initial savoury notes and wood smoke, giving way to rock pools and citrus fruits. Big smoke and lemon notes on the early palate, followed by brine, honey, old leather and oak. The finish is big and lengthy, with earthy peat smoke, plain chocolate and liquorice. A very substantial dram in classic Port Ellen style. (2,958 bottles) 55.0% ABV, 70cl, £1,500.00, specialist whisky merchants.
The Singleton, Dufftown 28 Years Old (Diageo Special Releases 2013) (Scotland)
Dufftown makes its first appearance in the Special Releases series, and this 1985 expression is one of the oldest offerings from the distillery. Ageing has taken place in refill American oak casks, implying ex-Bourbon barrels, whereas the ‘Singleton’ range (Dufftown, Glen Ord and Glendullan) usually contains a significant proportion of ex-sherry wood-matured whisky in its makeup. Honey, apples and pears on the very approachable nose, with background vanilla and herbal notes. Malt, honey, spice and hazelnuts on the palate, with furniture polish, liquorice and more herbal notes lingering in the background. The finish is drying, with cinnamon and oak. (3,816 bottles) 52.3% ABV, 100cl, $235.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Tweedale, Single Lowland Grain (Scotland)
When batch 4 of The Tweeddale Blend was bottled, brand owner Alisdair Day also bottled two of the component whiskies in the blend from single casks, namely a Lowland malt and this unnamed Lowland grain, aged for 16 years in an ex Bourbon refill hogshead. It has not been chill-filtered. The nose offers toffee bonbons, tinned peaches, a hint of white pepper, then milk chocolate. Spicy and powdery on the palate, with sweet, summer fruits. The finish is medium in length, with mild ginger and plain chocolate. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £55.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glen Garioch, Virgin Oak (Scotland)
The fashion for offering virgin-oak matured single malts seems to be increasing, and Glen Garioch is one of the latest distilleries to offer such a bottling. The virgin American oak barrels in question have been heavily charred, and Master Blender Rachel Barrie says that "Glen Garioch's intense flavour means it holds up well in a new fill cask." The nose offers spicy oak, vanilla and peaches, plus developing floral notes. The palate features malt, cocoa, orange and a hint of cloves. Spicy oak and ginger on the finish. 48.0% ABV, 70cl, £70.00, specialist whisky merchants.
  

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