Last year, Diageo debuted the first edition of Prima & Ultima, a series of magnificent, incredibly rare single malts.
The inaugural release is drawn from Scotland’s most precious whisky reserves, including Mortlach, Talisker and Lagavulin. As the first or last of its kind, each cask-strength bottling represents distinct pivots in the history of Scotch. Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, one of the world’s most distinguished whisky makers, personally selected the eight vintage bottles.
For the second collection, Maureen Robinson, Diageo’s master blender with over 40 years of experience, handpicked eight outstanding spirits that honour the sunrise and sunset of some of Scotland’s most eminent names. “This is a selection of very special single malts – some that have never before seen the light of day and others that are the fleeting and final examples of their kind,” she says. “Each bottling shares a glimpse into the history of Scotch and one that I am honoured to have witnessed in person.”
This year’s Prima & Ultima gathering sees new appearances from ghost distillery Convalmore, Auchroisk and Lagavulin. Other additions include a Brora 1980, The Singleton of Glendullan 1992 and the Linkwood 1981. The latter two are from pioneering whisky trials that explore different maturation processes.
Each set is accompanied by eight unique glasses, engraved with a bespoke design that reflects the story behind each cask. Individual 20ml samples of each whisky are also included with a booklet of personal stories told by Robinson. Ahead, the master blender shares with us her curation process, the highlights of the collection as well as the stories behind some of the bottlings.
How do you decide what goes into the second release?
Prima & Ultima brings together some of the most special examples of firsts and lasts from distilleries across Scotland so each whisky we choose as part of our release needs to follow this. Other than that we are able to hand-select the bottlings that we have the strongest connection with. It was difficult as throughout my 44 years at Diageo I’ve had the privilege to work with an incredible variety of single malts. My aim for this release was to develop a line-up that evoke rich personal memories and capture the ongoing and ever-unfolding story of Scotch. My selection came from the heart and I’m very proud of it.
How is the Second Release different from the first, in your opinion?
Prima & Ultima is a reflection of our personal stories in whisky. Jim has worked very closely with the people and communities at each distillery so his stories reflect this. Over my 40-year career at Diageo, I’ve had a hand in many pioneering trials, testing new blending and maturation techniques, so I’ve approached it from that angle and experience.
Do you have a favourite bottle?
These bottles hold a special place in my heart but I have to admit that there are two that stand out for me: The Singleton of Glendullan 1992 and Linkwood 1981. Both are double matured and show how diverse finishing can be. The Glendullan is fresh and lively whereas the Linkwood is rich and sweet. Both are absolutely delicious.
Which bottle in the range will be the most well-loved?
Talisker is a very well-loved brand. This bottling comes from the last four 1979 refill American Oak hogsheads that spent their time in the storm-lashed warehouse No. 4. If you’ve ever visited Talisker, you’ll know exactly which warehouse I’m referring to. When you enjoy a dram of Talisker 1979 it transports you to the supremely rugged Atlantic coastline, bringing fond memories of the beautiful Isle of Skye.
Pinpoint a bottle that is the most fascinating, but may not be everybody’s cup of tea.
The Brora distillery closed in 1983 and very little of its whisky now remains. We kept the three hogsheads for the second edition of Prima & Ultima. They are the very last of our 1980 casks, distilled during the golden era of peated Brora. Stored separately for safekeeping, we have reunited them for this final 1980 release.
There’s a booklet of your personal stories as part of the collection. Can you tell us one?
The Auchroisk 1974 is the very first cask to be filled at the distillery when operations began on 15 January 1974. I have been keeping this first cask for many years, for its character as well as its rarity. It is remarkably rich and spicy, with fruity aromas and smooth flavours that have evolved so well. After 47 years I think this unrepeatable bottling, which is also the oldest in the second release, is something of a miracle.
Asking for the whisky investors – how do you know a whisky is special for the future?
The nature of Prima & Ultima is that each whisky will forever celebrate a special place in time, acting as either a first or last for a distillery and holding the key to a unique story. Even as time moves on, these bottlings will be remembered for the special place in history each one holds.
Only 376 full sets of the Prima & Ultima Second Release are available for purchase, directly through the Diageo Rare and Exceptional Singapore Private Client Team. Whisky collectors can register their interest at Diageo’s Rare and Exceptional website.