Diageo Prima & Ultima Whisky Collection

by Daniel Galyean

Prima and Ultima, the first and the last. This is the first set in a new series of collectable releases of magnificent, incredibly rare vintage single malts. Each is the first and last of its kind, each is drawn from a tiny number of highly sought-after casks with their own story to tell.  

The eight vintage single malts chosen to open this inaugural collection were personally selected by one of the world’s most respected whisky makers, Dr Jim Beveridge OBE. As a scientist and master blender for Johnnie Walker, he’s enjoyed unparalleled access to Diageo’s extensive whisky portfolio. Over the last 40 years he’s worked closely with distilleries in all four major regions of Scotland – Highlands, Islands, Speyside and Lowlands. As the opening curator for Prima and Ultima, he has chosen whiskies that represent eight distinct pivots in the recent history of Scotch. 

Over the past forty years I have been fortunate enough to witness great change in the whisky industry. Prima & Ultima tells the story of this change.


They each tell a tale of heritage and craftsmanship, marking moments in time that make these precious casks, firsts and lasts of their kind. Beveridge marks the moment coal-firing of stills ended in 1971 at Cragganmore by including in the collection the last cask to be filled with whisky made this way at the distillery. The inclusion of three casks of The Singleton of Dufftown from 1988 mark the year when the grassy, fruity flavours were uncovered in The Singleton character from a new slow-craft technique. This complex, rich whisky is the first 30-year-old release of this kind. The existence of prized 1979 whisky from a silenced Port Ellen, stoically maturing for 40 years, also speaks to the end of an era – and is a nod to the spirit of invention that will return when the beloved distillery will open its doors once again.

Beveridge spent time at Lagavulin, learning what gives the Islay malt its purest expression, captured here for the first time in a 28-year-old filled in 1991, and from Scotland’s North East coastline. A 26-year-old Clynelish from 1993 represents a triumph of his inquiry into how this distillery character reveals its renowned waxiness. 

His taste for the exceptional also informs this collection: six standout casks of Talisker with a more rounded and gently peated style to the distillery’s smoky signature have been carefully safeguarded for a moment like this since 1988, the last of their kind. Meanwhile, a 1984 cask of Caol Ila, number #5773 to be specific, was the first of a new style, and this bottling tells the story of a long chase for this cask’s recovery. The final addition to this inaugural number, a muscular 25-year-old Mortlach takes its place as one of the last remaining fill Pedro Ximenez seasoned oak butt casks from 1994.

For the enthusiast, it’s the opportunity to build a collection of rare and historic Scotch on the solid foundation of Beveridge’s expertise – the first time he has curated such a series; for the collector and connoisseur, it’s a gathering of exquisite, one-time-only vintage single malts into an unmissable anthology of spirited tales. There will be an opportunity to own the very first set of the series, when it goes under the hammer for charity at Sotheby’s online auction from 26th August – 2nd September 2020 in London. Bottle No 1 of each of the eight bottlings has been signed by Dr Jim Beveridge and all proceeds will be donated to Diageo’s charity partner WaterAid.  

There are 238 full sets of the first release of Prima & Ultima available, released via an online registration for £20,000 (UK RRSP including UK duties & taxes) open from 22nd July 2020. Each full set of eight vintage single malt cask strength bottlings is accompanied by a limited-edition book of personal stories from curator Dr. Jim Beveridge OBE and 20ml samples of each whisky.

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