Diageo’s 2019 Special Release Whisky collection launches at Hotel Esplanade, showcasing ten sought-after cask strength whiskies from ghost distilleries, rare single malts, and more.
As someone who loves whisky – but doesn’t really know much about what goes on behind the scenes – I’ll admit that the mention of ghost distilleries filled my mind with visions of clanking chains and decaying castles in the Scottish highlands. The reality is not quite as spooky, but shares the same melancholic romance as a gothic ghostly tale.
Ghost distilleries are distilleries that, despite producing high quality whiskies, weren’t able to survive the ebb and flow of the industry and had to shut up shop, leaving casks and crates unopened. Fortunately for whisky lovers, groups like Diageo, step in to preserve these impeccably crafted whiskies and, when the time is right, makes them available to whisky lovers around the world.
Understandably, these incredibly limited edition releases are highly sought after by collectors and enjoyers alike, and every year Diageo releases a collection of whiskies from ghost distilleries, as well other rare single malts from boutique distilleries still in operation, all at undiluted cask strength. Each year’s collection release garners a huge amount of excitement among whisky lovers, and I got to share that excitement at this years 2019 collection launch at the newly reopened grand dame of St Kilda, Hotel Esplanade – aka The Espy, for old timers like myself.
And it couldn’t have been a better space to experience the rich history of the collection. Recently reopened and renovated, Hotel Esplanade has seen its own ups and downs since it first welcomed seaside revellers back in 1878. Through the years, luminaries like American author Mark Twain and French actress Sarah Bernhardt have walked the many hallways and staircases of the Esplanade. In more recent decades, local and international acts such as Nick Cave and The Whitlams cut their teeth in the band room, paint flaking from the walls with each pounding base beat. With each nook and shadowy corner still echoing with this creativity and mystique, it was the perfect place to evoke the ghost distilleries of yesterday as we sampled the collection.
This year’s Special Release Whisky collection brings together an eclectically curated list of ten impressive whiskies, with one in particular standing out as particularly exciting among aficionados: The 48yo Carsebridge. Bottled at a now defunct distillery in 1970 in the Scottish Lowlands, and with only 1,000 bottles available worldwide, the Carsebridge is a real boon for collectors. Sophisticated and subtle, with delicate floral and oaky flavour, competition for this natural cask strength, single grain Scotch whisky is high. Operating as a distillery since 1799, the closure of Carsebridge in 1983 was a loss to the industry, but thanks to the forethought and preservation mindedness of Diageo, you’ve still got a chance to try this amazing drop.
This year’s collection also features a Inchgower 27yo from Speyside, as well as a Highland origin Oban 21yo bottling, among others. Needless to say, a bottle from the Special Release collection is a worthy investment for whisky fans. Diageo’s team have ensured each bottle on offer reflects the unique character of it’s distillery and region, the people who created it, and the skilled craftsmanship that makes each whisky unique.
This very limited collection will be available from specialist whisky retailers in April.