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Exploring the Evolution of Diageo Special Whisky Releases: From Tradition to 2023's Spirited Xchange.

The Diageo Special Releases have woven a narrative of tradition and trend, evolving over decades into what we now experience as Spirited Xchange in 2023. But let's rewind a bit to understand the roots of this collection and how it has transformed over time.


Two decades ago, when the Special Releases first graced the shelves, they were less about brand storytelling or custom labels. They stood out for the exceptional whiskies they contained, cherished by collectors for their quality and rarity. Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves in a slightly different landscape.


The 2023 edition presents us with a theme of 'Spirited Xchange,' an exploration of global influences on Scotch whisky. This shift in focus from the intrinsic qualities of the whisky to a broader cultural narrative is evident in every aspect of this collection.


Each whisky in the 2023 Special Releases comes with bespoke label art, created by diverse global artists. These labels are not just decorative; they are visual tasting notes, aiming to immerse the drinker in the cultural exchange of flavours and craft.



The aura of exclusivity once synonymous with the Special Releases has gracefully transitioned to Diageo's Prima & Ultima range, paving the way for a fresh perspective in the current Special Releases.


The essence of 2023 collection lies in its unique approach, offering a captivating exploration of whisky that transcends boundaries. Each bottle invites you to embark on a journey, merging the heritage of some of the world’s most esteemed whisky distilleries with a contemporary twist. Extending beyond the realm of liquid itself; it's a celebration of cultural and flavour collaborations, weaving together narratives of tradition and innovation into beguiling tasting experiences.


The Spirited Xchange collection introduces us to eight single malts, showcasing unusual cask finishes like tequila añejo, Chardonnay de Bourgogne, Kanosuke, and Pinot Noir. While this may be seen as a departure from the series' core identity, it also opens doors to new flavour profiles and experiences.


Among the highlights of this collection is the Singleton of Glendullan 14 Year Old as well as the first single malt release from Roseisle Distillery.


Savouring the Singleton


Upon nosing, the initial impression is of creaminess, with hints of grass, apples, honey, and apricots adding depth and complexity.


The palate surprises with a dense mouthfeel, where notes of apricots and peachy highlights dominate, complemented by an earthy undertone that adds intrigue. Adding water further enhances the poise and balance via fruity notes counterbalanced by nuances of fig and olive crackers.


The finish, medium to long, introduces oak spice and more fruity elements, culminating in a refreshing mineral water note.


What adds to this expression’s allure is the influence of the Chardonnay de Bourgogne finishing casks, adding ripe yellow fruit with the subtle spice of French oak.


Behind the captivating label and the exquisite liquid lies the hand of an artist, Pierre Mornet. Hailing from the realm of contemporary French illustration and painting, Mornet's work is a fusion of intricate patterns, meticulous attention to detail, and a palette of bold, vibrant colors. Drawing inspiration from the elegant movements of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, his creations are not just visuals but narratives in themselves, weaving stories through his art, much like the Singleton does with its flavours.


Unfolding the Origami Kite: Roseisle's Debut in Art and Whisky


A surprise awaits within the Diageo Special Releases—the introduction of Roseisle 12 Year Old, christened 'The Origami Kite.'


This unveiling not only marks Roseisle's premiere in this exclusive collection and our first exposure to the distillery, but also represents the distillery's inaugural official bottling, granting enthusiasts a peek into its diverse character and versatile spirit.


Aged in a well-calibrated mix of first-fill ex-bourbon and refill casks, flavour-wise this expression runs the gamut from creamy creme brulee to subtle spice notes, all wrapped in Speyside elegance.


Clocking in at a robust 56.5%, this debut gracefully balances lush, fresh orchard fruitiness with underlying creamy vanilla sweetness and the tantalizing nutty-spicy allure of the Highlands.


What tickles the nostrils unfolds like a herbal garden, then transitions gracefully to a medley of apples and plums. Soon after, notes of melon, nectarines, almond paste, and a hint of coconut weave in, all resting on a foundation of fresh wood essence.


On the top of the mouth, things turn delightfully creamy and bursting with notes of green apple, orange, and lime, complemented by a generous dash of spice, with hints of marshmallow, cotton candy, and subtle spices adding nuances to create a harmonious blend. The finish brings all individual facets together with a touch of velvety goodness, making each sip a gentle baptism that reveals layers of rich grassy tones.


Adding an artistic flair to this Roseisle's narrative is Ryoko Tamura, a masterful illustrator and designer nestled in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. Tamura's work, steeped in traditional Japanese techniques, weaves intricate tales through captivating artworks that echo a harmonious blend of Scottish and Japanese influences. Her creations, often adorned with nostalgic imagery and motifs, bring a unique depth to the visual representation of Roseisle's inaugural journey in the Special Releases lineup.


In conclusion, while the Diageo Special Releases have evolved into a more visually immersive and thematically driven collection, they are bound to continue to intrigue and captivate whisky enthusiasts worldwide. Whether one prefers the old guard of rarity or embraces the new wave of storytelling, there's a dram in this Spirited Xchange for every palate and perspective.


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Words by AW.

Photos courtesy of Diageo.


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