If you’ve ever walked into a liquor store and seen several scotches lined up on the shelf, you’ve probably seen The Classic Malts Selection. Sometimes they’re on a little wooden pedestal, each bottle with a small plaque that identifies it (as if you couldn’t tell from the bottles) as one of The Classic Malts, sometimes they’re just shown together on the shelf. If you’ve ever wondered what makes them Classic Malts, it’s because the original set of six were all owned by Diageo. The original were Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Cragganmore, Oban, Talisker, and Lagavulin. Since then, the Classic Malts lineup has been increased to include Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Kockando, Royal Lochnagar, and The Singleton of Glendullan. Again, they are all owned by Diageo, which is why they were added to the Classic Malts selection. 🙂
This year, they’ve also released some 2010 Limited Edition releases in time for the holidays. Here’s the list along with their descriptions:
- Auchroisk 20-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $175) – The most northern Speyside distillery, Auchroisk is located near a well that provides clear and soft water, which in conjunction with lightly peated malt and high profile stills produce the light, sweet taste of Auchroisk single malt whisky. Fewer than 6,000 individually numbered bottles of this rich, smooth Special Release are available worldwide.
- Caol Ila 12-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $79) – This distillery is situated on the shores of the Sound, a spot originally chosen in 1846 partly because of the pristine water from Loch Nam Ban, which still provides its main supply. This is the fifth limited release of unpeated Caol Ila and the first at 12 years old. Fewer than 6,000 bottles have been released worldwide.
- Cragganmore 21-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $205) – Nestled on the banks of the legendary, salmon rich River Spey, Cragganmore is, for many, the home of the definitive Speyside malt. Fewer than 6,000 bottles of this fruity and fragrant complex single malt are available worldwide.
- Glenkinchie 20-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $189) – This award-winning Lowland distillery was founded in 1834 and has the esteemed title of “The Edinburgh Malt” due to its close proximity to the capital. This expression is only the second cask strength expression. Fewer than 6,000 individually numbered bottles available worldwide.
- Glen Spey 21-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $185) – Founded in 1878, the quaint Glen Spey distillery is located in Speyside on the bank of the Rothes Burn. The Glen Spey single malts are light-bodied with floral aromas and a silky dry finish. Fewer than 6,000 individually numbered bottles of this rich, smooth Special Release are available worldwide.
- Lagavulin 12-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $109) – Founded in 1816 on Lagavulin Bay, Lagavulin is the essential Islay distillery. With some of Scotland’s smokiest malts, the portfolio boasts dense, complex and powerful flavors. This savory and energetic expression is only the second cask strength expression.
- Talisker 30-Year-Old Special Release (SRP $349) – Talisker is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye and from there hails the fourteenth limited release of the famed whisky. All of the bottlings of this series show intense smoke with a smooth and sweet salty depth and traces of the single malt’s characteristic chili pepper. This expression is the oldest and rarest expression from the distillery. Fewer than 3,000 individually numbered bottles are available worldwide.
- Caol Ila The Distillers Edition (SRP $65) – Double matured in Moscatel Wood, the whisky offers a brilliant, clean and refined taste with great balance.
- Cragganmore The Distillers Edition (SRP $65) – Double matured in Port Wood, this sweet and deeply fruity oak-smoked malt gives a long, dry finish.
- Dalwhinnie The Distillers Edition (SRP $69) – Double matured in Oloroso Wood, the whisky offers a rich, spicy nose followed by flavors of heather and peat and a dry, oak-dominated finish.
- Lagavulin The Distillers Edition (SRP $99) – Double matured in Pedro Ximinez Sherry Wood, this powerful, peat-rich, and sweet whisky is both distinctive and distinguished.
- Oban The Distillers Edition (SRP $99) – Double matured in Montilla Fino Sherry Wood, the whisky offers a delicate yet rich, fruity sweetness.
- Talisker The Distillers Edition (SRP $69) – Double-matured in Amoroso Sherry casks, the Sherry keeps back Talisker’s usual pepper, replacing it with luscious sweetness – ripe, juicy fruit and vanilla
From the looks of it, you have a set of Special Release and a set of The Distillers Edition. The Special Release category features scotches with new age statements and a slightly different finish (Caol Ila with its first 12 year old expression, Glenkinchie is a cask strength). The Distillers Edition features different maturation barrel compositions, finishing in Port Wood or different Sherry Wood barrels. I think the different finishes will add an interesting twist to old favorites.