In summer of last year, drinks giant Diageo announced and released its inaugural Prima & Ultima whisky collection, a series of 8 collectable bottles of rare and luxury whisky produced at its Scotch whisky distilleries.
It has now released its second Prima & Ultima collection, and its 8 bottles sourced from Auchroisk, Brora, Convalmore, Glendullan, Lagavulin, Linkwood, Mortlach and Talisker were sold collectively at £23,500 ($32,720), a bit more expensive than last year’s $25,000 batch.
Though registration has closed for anyone that wanted to purchase one of the 376 available packs, the first set of the collection will go to auction tomorrow at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong between until September 24th. Proceeds from sale will go to humanitarian charity Care International. Some individual bottles of the whiskies may also be sourced with a little luck.
With this final pack made available soon, here’s a preview of what to expect from the whiskies, as well as some information as to what makes each one stand out. This year’s collection was overseen and curated by master blender Maureen Robinson, who’s been at Diageo for over 40 years.
Here’s my usual reviews disclaimer. These reviews reflect my personal views on the whisky and that these are not requested nor considered official by Forbes in any way. The samples for the Prima & Ultima whiskies were sent to me, but opinions are always my own.
Here’s a guide to my scoring system. I grade whiskies out of 10 to the nearest half-point:
0-4 – Avoid this bottle
5/5.5 – Barely passable
6/6.5 – Decent enough, not really for me, but you might like it.
7/7.5 – Good
8/8.5 – Extremely good
9-10 – Absolutely superb
The whiskies are listed in alphabetical order:
Auchroisk 1974, 48.7% ABV
Description: Auchroisk (pronounced ‘oth-rusk’) was originally built to produce whisky that would go into blends. However, this is actually the first ever cask filled at the distillery, a single European oak butt, that now is also the oldest whisky from Auchroisk ever bottled as well.
Nose: Baked apples and oak hit first but then takes an herbal and fragrant turn towards aniseed, fennel, and celery dipped in peanut butter. Dried hay also makes an appearance.
Taste: It’s an orchard fruit and honeyed explosion to start, before a gradual transformation into something more bitter, including grapefruit and cacao nibs.
Overall: Tickles the same sense of satisfaction as certain sweet ciders. 8
Brora 1980, 49.4% ABV
Description: Brora closed up shop in the 80s (though it has since been recently rebuilt) so any old Broras that are released come from a limited stock. This bottle is a mix of three hogshead casks filled when Brora was producing peated spirit.
Nose: Barbecue chicken and teriyaki sauce combine nicely with leather, but standing out beyond anything else is a definite and robust whiff of cherry-scented children’s markers. The smoke is also very soft here.
Taste: Sweet barbecue flavors are also involved here along with that soft bonfire smoke, but a waxy mouthfeel emerges to combine with salted liquorice, and coconut and gorse bushes add a new fascinating layer.
Overall: It grows slowly but keeps going for a while, and stays classy throughout. 9
Convalmore 1984, 48.6% ABV
Description: Convalmore was one of the distilleries that was closed down during the last whisky bust in the 80s, and has since become popular with collectors. This is the last 1984 whisky from Convalmore Diageo have, which comes from three American oak hogsheads that were filled a few months before the distillery was shut.
Nose: It’s very doughy, almond croissant comes through and sticks around as pineapple, cocoa, and caramelized onions introduce themselves.
Taste: Peaches dipped into turmeric come through first, but also pears, parsley, lemons, and sharp tangy olive oil are added to the mix.
Overall: Like a fresh summer salad that has also managed to acquire some oaky richness along the way. 9
Lagavulin 1992, 47.7% ABV
Description: Five freshly charred American oak casks were filled with Lagavulin, and then blended together for this release almost 30 years later.
Nose: Black olives, mango chutney, toasted almonds, and coriander all emerge nicely. The smoke is an almost perfect balance of bonfire, smoked mackarel, and antiseptic.
Taste: Sunflower seeds, pineapples, sunflower seeds and elderflowers are nicely undergirded by green onion freshness. Everything is then wiped out by tsunami of smoked ham, ashes, and bonfires.
Overall: The initial mouthfeel is packed with all kinds of goodness before everything is beautifully demolished by complex smoke. 9.5
Linkwood 1981, 52.9% ABV
Description: This whisky was originally part of a trial where refill casks were moved into four American oak casks seasoned with Pedro Ximenez sherry. It marks one of the first times that Linkwood’s whisky was moved into a different cask for the purposes of flavor experimentation.
Nose: The creamy, bonfire-roasted marshmallow aroma that emerges is the glue that holds together grapes, graham crackers, oak, and green tea.
Taste: The cream stays and keeps serving as mortar that wonderfully unites other elements, in this case blackberries, coca cola, Twizzlers candy, and plenty of tannins.
Overall: Tastes like the halfway point between whisky and Cognac. 8.5
Mortlach 1995, 52.4% ABV
Description: Nicknamed ‘The Lone Wolf’, this 25 year old whisky comes from a single European oak butt that has been seasoned with both Oloroso and PX sherry, which is quite a weird thing. Given that this is similar to what was done with last year’s P&U Mortlach, it’s possible the lone wolf has a pack after all…
Nose: Rum and Raisin and ripe melon descends into ripe melon, pepperoni and leather. Caramel is also being freshly boiled up on a stove. Milk oolong tea also adds both an flowery and creamy tang.
Taste: Leather and cherries introduces a mouthfeel not unlike dense rye bread. Rooibos tea tannins combine with dark chocolate and cloves as well.
Overall: A fierce but rewarding Mortlach. 8.5
The Singleton 1992, 60.1% ABV
Description: Singleton is one of the oddest single malt brands out there as three different distilleries help produce it. This specific release hails from Glendullan, and consists of whiskies that were reracked into two ex-Madeira fortified wine barriques for 14 years before bottling.
Nose: Though a bit musty at first, the nose rapidly expands into white chocolate, tangy fruit, and nutmeg.
Taste: It’s a rich mouthfeel that delivers plenty of creamy and custard notes. Mango, paprika, and white pepper also come through nicely.
Overall: Cream, spice, and everything nice with a bitter twist at the end. 8
Talisker 1979, 47.5% ABV
Description: Who can object to ancient Talisker? Four refill American oak casks were selected for this bottling. Unlike most Talisker, it was matured at the distillery itself on Skye.
Nose: Fresh and sweet. Peaches, basil, and cucumbers are there but menacing undertones of seaside brine and a slightly antiseptic smoke pull things in a different direction.
Taste: The smoke emerges more here, a combination of smoked salmon and bonfires, though the seaside element still holds. The oak is also more prevalent, but mint, black peppercorns, ginger and lemon peel all manage to have a say too.
Overall: Phenomenally balanced between salty, smoky, and fresh sweet flavors. 9