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Managers' Choice

by Gavin D Smith, 05/10

Continuing its programme of offering a single cask bottling from each of its operational malt whisky distilleries under the 'Managers' Choice' banner, Diageo has recently added a second batch to follow up on its earlier release of whiskies from Cardhu, Glen Elgin, Linkwood, Mortlach, Oban and Teaninich. The second set of bottlings feature Blair Athol, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glen Spey, Strathmill and Talisker.

Diageo's Dr Nick Morgan explained when the series was first unveiled last autumn that "Members of our sensory team, including Jim Beveridge, Maureen Robinson and Craig Wallace were asked to pick three casks from each distillery. The brief was to ensure they carried the 'DNA' of each distillery's character, but also that they offered something different, and in particular, characteristics not associated with the 'standard' distillery bottlings. No brief was given on age.

"Having selected three casks from each distillery, we invited managers and site operations managers to get together at Blair Athol distillery to arrive at a consensus on the individual casks we would bottle."

the whiskies

Blair Athol, Manager's Choice 1995 (Scotland)
This Bodega Sherry European oak cask bottling has a rich, fruity nose with figs and faintly herbal notes. Softer, spicy, fudge notes when water is added. Malt and spice on the palate, with dark chocolate whisky liqueurs. Intensely fruity and chocolate-y with water. The finish is medium in length and drying, spicier when diluted, with lingering orange marmalade. (570 bottles) 54.7% ABV, 70cl, £200.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Cragganmore, Manager's Choice 1997 (Scotland)
This is another Bodega Sherry European oak cask bottling, which is fruity and mildly smoky on the nose, with hints of vanilla, soy sauce and Sherry. Rich in the mouth, with lively spices. pepper and orange. Much spicier than ‘standard’ 12-year-old Cragganmore, and fruitier with the addition of water. The finish dries slowly, with a whiff of smoke. (246 bottles) 59.7% ABV, 70cl, £250.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Dalwhinnie, Manager's Choice 1992 (Scotland)
A refill American oak bottling with quite a reticent nose. Mildly herbal and Sherried. Medium-sweet and spicy in the mouth, with digestive biscuits and citrus fruits. Oranges and lemons. The addition of water elicits a slightly smoky, honeyed spicy quality. The finish is medium to long, with lingering spices, notably cinnamon, but ultimately dry. (270 bottles) 51.0% ABV, 70cl, £250.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Dufftown, Manager's Choice 1997 (Scotland)
From 'rejuvenated American oak', the nose is fragrant, sweet and gently spicy. Rich, substantial and warming on the palate, with mixed spice and fudge. The finish features a persistent note of ginger, accentuated when water is added. (282 bottles) 59.5% ABV, 70cl, £200.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Glen Spey, Manager's Choice 1996 (Scotland)
Matured in a new American oak cask, this is delicate and fragrant on the nose, with vanilla and spring flowers. More notes of resin appear with time. Fresh fruit in the mouth, with malty notes developing. The finish is short to medium in length, with butter and fudge notes at the end. (276 bottles) 52.0% ABV, 70cl, £200.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Strathmill, Manager's Choice 1996 (Scotland)
From a new American oak cask, this has a fragrant nose, with quite intense floral notes, notably violets. Old Spice after-shave lotion with the addition of water. Comparatively big-bodied, syrupy and sweet on the palate, with sherbet and spice. The medium-length finish dries steadily, with ginger. (300 bottles) 60.1% ABV, 70, £200.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Talisker, Manager's Choice 1994 (Scotland)
A Bodega Sherry European Oak cask fill, with a lovely nose of warm, worn leather and exotic spices. Peatier with the addition of water. Early citrus fruits on the palate give way to sweeter apples; then characteristic Talisker peat and black pepper come through. Sweeter and nuttier with water. The lengthy finish exhibits lots of smouldering peat and insistent spices. (582 bottles) 58.6% ABV, 70cl, £300.00, specialist whisky merchants.

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