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  • Writer's pictureTien Chew

Rare Whiskies For Rare Occasions

There are times when something has gone so extraordinarily well in your life that the only way to mark such an occasion is with a good old fashioned celebration. Whatever that occasion may be, I know what I would want to drink to enhance any joyous moment – whisky. But not just any old off the shelf whisky will do, oh, no. It would most ideally be a special bottle.

As luck would have it, I recently sampled eight rare single malt scotch whiskies from Diageo's 2020 special releases. With limited quantities in Malaysia, buyers will want to secure and save a bottle when that special occasion strikes. Trust me; it will be worth it. And hopefully, with this guide, selecting a bottle will make it all the easier for you.

Now, let's start with the youngest of the lot.


Talisker 8 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

This may only be bottle number one and the youngest on the list, but it's definitely my favourite. I love most of the Talisker range, and this eight-year-old whisky is no exception. Aged in refill casks and then finished in pot-still Caribbean rum casks (a first for the distillery), this bottle has an ABV of 57.9% and a distillation year of 2011.

Its appearance is light gold, with the oceanic tinge of dried seaweed and salt on the nose, a signature of Talisker's maritime character from the Isle of Skye. Other aromas the distillery notes include bold fruit sweets, traces of charred meat, and smokiness, and they are spot on. On the palate, expect a soft, smooth texture with a bold taste – a little salty, sweet, and a long, peppery and lightly smoky finish. And every drop does a superb job at balancing all these elements together in one masterful creation.

There are only 102 bottles available in Malaysia


Cardhu 11 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

Distilled in 2008 with a 56% ABV in Knockando, Speyside, the Cardhu 11 years old is made from refill casks and new and ex-bourbon American oak hogsheads casks. It was my first time trying a Cardhu bottle, and its sweet character took me by surprise.

Described as having "smooth and honeyed layers with notes of spiced oak", this medium-bodied whisky had the earthiness of wood and fresh fruit notes such as green apple on the nose. The first sip revealed a creamy, mellow mouthfeel with a semi-spicy, semi-buttery profile evoking sweet pastry. A long finish, with hints of white pepper, extends this warmth.

There are only 102 bottles available in Malaysia


Lagavulin 12 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

AAs an ex-smoker, the smoky and intense flavours of Lagavulin have never appealed to me. While enthusiasts rejoice when a 16-year-old bottle appears, I despair, for I find the peatier the whisky, the more I recoil at the taste. But, this is all just personal preference. So, it comes as no surprise that I found this to be my least favourite of the eight rare whiskies I tried.

Distilled in 2007, this medium-bodied Scotch has a pale gold appearance and a mild, unusually ashy aroma (even for a Lagavulin, I'm told) with fruity notes of hard candy. On the palate, this natural strength (56.4% ABV) whisky was soft and smooth in texture with a dominating smoky flavour that ended with a hint of salt. The smokiness intensified and then slowly retreated with a long, peaty finish. I was informed that this bottle was made out of its purity of cask expression alone, made from refill hogsheads and butts selected for their quality.

There are only 702 bottles available in Malaysia


Singleton 17 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

This 17-year-old whisky is the Dufftown distillery's first-ever release from 100% refill American oak hogsheads. Taking on the appearance of pale yellow gold, almost akin to dry white wines, Singleton's entry in the 2020 special releases collection is a light-bodied whisky, even if it sits at 55.1% ABV.

The sweetness of honey and light floral notes heavily pretty much sums up this whisky's nosing, followed by a smooth, almost creamy texture in the mouth with an intense yet sweet taste. The finish was long enough to allow the whisky's spicy notes to linger, akin to the heat of weak chilli.

There are only 102 bottles available in Malaysia


Cragganmore 20 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

This 90s kid has quite the attitude. Its deep golden hue sets the tone for a bold whisky to come. Distilled in 1999 using refill and new fresh-charred American Oak hogsheads, this bottle of Cragganmore has a 55.8% ABV.

Its maturity has resulted in the whisky having a deeply wooded aroma, with fruit-forward notes of ripe pear, melon, and green banana. I'm told that being partly matured in new, charred American oak imbues the whisky with sweeter aromas than Cragganmore's regular expressions. On the palate, the whisky had a delightfully smooth texture, with a taste rich with oak, hints of fruity sweetness, and a touch of citric zest. A long, velvety finish reveals a dry and peppery ending. If I had a bottle, I wouldn't mind having a dram alongside mapo tofu.

There are only 72 bottles available in Malaysia


Mortlach 21 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

This was a real treat. The Beast of Dufftown achieves a bold yet incredibly smooth whisky that's finished in fresh-toasted Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso seasoned casks. With a deep golden hue and at 56.9% ABV, this 21-year-old had soft, rounded aromas of baked buttery pastries, sultanas, and a hint of acidity. This Scotch produces a velvety texture and a taste that fills the mouth with dried and spiced fruit, tannins, and peppery spice, even at natural strength. The end may have been a little dry, but its long finish gives you time to really savour the whisky's fruit notes and warming glow across the palate. Perfect for an evening dram.

There are only 48 bottles available in Malaysia


Dalwhinnie 30 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

Diageo told me that what lies in these bottles are some of the last drops of a 1989 Highland classic from Dalwhinnie, a complex deep golden coloured whisky (51.9% ABV). On the nose, repeated whiffs revealed a bouquet of herbal notes, surprisingly scents of young wood, butterscotch, and a presence of boiled sweets. The initial sips brought to light its creamy texture, with an overall slightly bittersweet taste that crescendos to a spicy and welcoming warmth. This sweet-spicy profile gives way to a long, cosy finish that gives you time to admire the whisky's complexities.

There are only 102 bottles available in Malaysia


Pittyvaich 30 Years Old

Photo: Diageo

The tasting ended on a high note with another 30-year-old Scotch, this time by the only ghost distillery on the list – Pittyvaich. This gem was distilled in 1989 in Dufftown and matured in refill casks before finished in first-till ex-bourbon casks. At 50.8% ABV, the whisky has a bright exact gold hue. Tropical fruits reminiscent of pineapple, ripe banana, and papaya dominate the nose, while an oily, smooth texture makes for a creamy vanilla-sweet entrance in the mouth. In fact, the whisky was so superbly balanced, it was easy to enjoy without any water at all, although a drop did enhance its smoothness and sweetness. Unusually, the finish is short and sweet, with a light, dry and gentle spiciness to welcome you into the night.

There are only 102 bottles available in Malaysia


Those interested can email Moet Hennessy Diageo Malaysia at to find out the current availability of the 2020 Special Releases.

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