Diageo Special Releases 2011 with Charles MacLean (part I)...

Yesterday was the the last day of Oslo Whisky Festival. It was hell of a fun for the entire time. Thanks to our host Chris Maile for everything. I have tons of notes to sort out and it looks like it will take a little bit more time than usual to get organized since I will be on the road for another three weeks. There are so many names to mention and so many drams to review.

Anyway let's start today with my first post... Without any doubt the biggest highlight of the Festival for me was the master class with Charles MacLean. We tasted five of seven whiskies Diageo released as their special releases for this year. The focus of the class was the different influences of American and European oak casks on maturation. Nearly one and half hours we compared tasting notes and discussed how the type of the cask used in aging process effects especially whiskies of older age. So, here is part one of my notes:

Rosebank 1990 21yo (53.8%): It's one of the oldest Rosebank bottlings that I am aware of and a mix of American and European oak casks. But it can be seen from it's color that they were 2nd or maybe 3rd fill casks. Color: Pinot Grigio yellow, hay like. Nose: Grassy and citrusy. Fresh lemon peel, chamomile flowers, cut grass. Brisk and refreshing. Palate: Creamy and citrusy deserts like lemon meringue pie or key lime pie and lots of vanilla are the first notes hit the tongue. It evolves with extremely pleasant fresh floral notes. Finish: Pretty short and sharp but definitely memorable. Overall: It's a very satisfying spring dram with a soft floral touch. I always had a soft spot for Rosebank but this particular expression is one of the best ones I tasted. Perfect for an outdoor afternoon session.

Port Dundas 1990 20yo (57.4%): If I am not mistaken this bottle is the first grain whisky bottling of Diageo's special releases. After spending first three years in ex-bourbon casks the whisky got transferred in equal portions to new European oak, new American oak and first fill ex-bourbon casks, aged seventeen more years and then blended together for bottling. Color: Very dark amber, almost brown. Chestnut honey. Nose: Warm sticky toffee pudding. Could be easily mistaken with a bourbon at a blind tasting. Chewy, spicy and sweet. New wood barrels are very dominant. Molasses and decayed dried fruits are showing up at the end. Palate: I immediately associated the palate with rye whiskeys. It reminded me new style young American rye whiskeys matured in mini barrels, like Hudson's Manhattan Rye Whiskey. Peppery new wood notes, mouth covering burnt brown sugar, nutmeg and cloves. Finish: Dry, long, sweet and spicy. Similar kind of a feeling your tongue gets after a finishing large portion of very sweet syrupy baklava. Overall: Definitely a rare experience, especially for whisky enthusiasts who are not familiar with American whiskey. One of a kind whisky. It opens up beautifully with a few drops of water.

Tasting notes for the other three will be posted soon...