This inaugural set — part of a new series of collectible vintaged spirits, to be offered by Diageo — centres on eight incredibly rare single malts sourced from four of Scotland’s major whisky-distilling regions. Each bottling is “the first and last of its kind.”

Leaving aside the fact that the whole idea of ‘value’ is relative, Diageo’s latest premium whisky set is arguably one of the most approachable to be released in 2020. This collection — the first in what is hoped will become a long-running series — brings together eight exceedingly rare bottles, drawn from decades’ old casks that have been cellared at iconic distilleries such as Lagavulin, Port Ellen and Talisker.

Though such an assemblage of extra old Scotch is exciting enough, the real sticking point is each Prima & Ultima bottle being the first and last of its kind available to consumers. We bet that the six-figure price tag is starting to make a bit more sense now.

Prima & Ultima
Collectively, the 8 bottlings selected for this release embody nearly 50 years of development in the Scottish whisky industry. Each is drawn from a minute number of rare casks, all with their own story to tell.

Adding to the collection’s already strong desirability is the identity of its curator — Dr. Jim Beveridge OBE. Renowned for a career spanning four decades in the Scotch industry, Beveridge is one of only six individuals appointed to the role of Johnny Walker master blender over the past 200 years. Just some of the bestsellers he’s worked on include the mixology-friendly Black Label Origin Series and special iterations of the house’s world-renowned Blue Label. For this release, Beveridge was inspired to reflect on his own experiences working in the industry, culminating in a lineup that represented “eight distinct pivots in the recent history of Scotch”. “Over the past 40 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness great changes in the industry,” says Beveridge. “Prima & Ultima tells the story of that change.”

Prima & Ultima
In addition to eight cask-strength single malt bottlings, each Prima & Ultima set includes a corresponding number of 20ml samples and limited edition booklet by Dr. Jim Beveridge.

In that vein, each bottle in the collection marks a significant first or final occurrence in the wider universe of Scotch whisky. A 1971 Cragganmore marks the era the eponymous distillery transitioned away from coal-fired stills; a 25 year old bottle of Mortlach commemorates the few remaining 1994 Pedro Ximinez casks left in the world; and a 1984 Caol Ila, explicitly drawn from cask number #5573, celebrates a decade-long hunt for that vessel’s recovery. Expressions from Singleton, Lagavulin, Talisker and Clynelish are similarly weighty in terms of their historical import.

Even if you’re relatively new to the world of Scotch whisky, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Diageo’s latest release is likely to be a desirable one. The combination of rarity, provenance and scant distribution means we can expect to see ‘full sets’ at auction in the not-too-distant future. To drive that point home in no uncertain terms, Diageo has partnered with Sotheby’s for the sale of the ‘No 1’ Prima & Ultima collection — slated to go under the hammer in an online sale commencing on 26 August.

The Prima & Ultima collection is sold in a limited run of 238 sets, priced at £20,000 (approx. HK$195,000) each. Available via online registration from 22 July. To learn more, visit Exceptional Whisky.

Randy Lai
Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.