Nik Keane, global director for malt whiskies at Diageo, said they represented “some of the most sought-after, valuable and collectible single malt Scotch whiskies in the world”.
The oldest in the collection is a Lagavulin at 37 years old and distilled in 1976 – the oldest expression of Lagavulin ever released by the distillers. Fewer than 2,000 bottles are available.
Georgie Crawford, distillery manager at Lagavulin, said: “Lagavulin is probably the most sought-after single malt whisky in production today, universally acknowledged as one of the unchallenged grands crus of Scotch whisky.
“For many years we have been unable to supply sufficient mature spirit to meet worldwide demand. So bottlings of old Lagavulin are exceptionally rare, and this year’s 37-year-old is the oldest that we have ever released.”
As well as the 37-year-old, the Special Releases include a lively 12-year-old Lagavulin. “Its 12-year-old younger brother makes a regular appearance in the Special Releases, and has always been received with huge enthusiasm,” said Georgie.
From the Isle of Skye come 3,000 individually numbered bottles of a classic and sophisticated Talisker distilled in 1985.
From Speyside, an unusually mature example of Cardhu is presented at 21 years old in fewer than 6,000 individually numbered bottles.
Also from Speyside, the 28-year-old bottling of The Singleton of Dufftown is the first limited cask-strength edition of The Singleton in this series with just 3,840 individually numbered bottles.
The very rare Convalmore, from the Dufftown distillery that ceased production in 1985, is bottled at 36 years old, with only 3,000 bottles available. Its last much-acclaimed showing in the Special Releases was back in 2005.
For lovers of west coast single malt whiskies, Oban is represented by a 21-year-old from rejuvenated American oak and a second fill in ex-bodega casks.
Another complex maturation regime lies behind the eighth unpeated limited edition of Caol Ila which this year carries the subtitle “Stitchell Reserve” in honour of the long-serving distillery manager Billy Stitchell, due to retire this year.
“Refill American oak, rejuvenated American oak and ex-bodega European oak have all played a role in creating this special Caol Ila,” Billy said. “It has a firm, clean and fresh style, finishing with aromatic, spicy and drying notes.”
Ultra-rare bottlings from another two long-closed distilleries complete the line-up in this year’s releases. A 34-year-old Port Ellen, the 13th and oldest release from the original distillers, comes in an edition of fewer than 3,000 individually numbered bottles, as does the Highland east coast 35-year-old Brora, from casks filled in 1977.
Nick Morgan, Diageo’s head of whisky outreach, said: “Stocks of Brora and Port Ellen are inexorably diminishing. Each year’s limited-edition bottling releases one more fragment of whisky history that is unique, and can’t ever be replaced.
“This puts Port Ellen and Brora in a different category from most other very old single malts – mainly from operating distilleries – that are on the market, often at very high prices.
“On top of that, Port Ellen and Brora are not merely rare, old and in great demand. They are judged by most qualified commentators to be of outstanding quality, and this year’s edition will be no exception.
“Indeed, many would accept that Port Ellen and Brora are among the world’s rarest single malt whiskies still being released.”