Dec 082015
 

Macallan Fine Oak 17 y.o.066 (2)

43% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Hmmm…tough one.  While much of the world mourns the loss of age stated expressions in the Macallan range, it’s somewhat tougher to get too weepy over the current scarcity of most of the Fine Oak releases.

For those who are maybe not so up to speed, the FO line-up is built around the idea of vatting together bourbon and sherry-matured barrels.  If I’ve heard correctly over the years, this is something Macallan has always engaged in, but for this series the ratios are skewed heavily in favour of using drastically more affordable bourbon casks in the mix than sherry butts.  Financially sound, of course, but not so sound in terms of preservation of reputation.  Let’s face it…Macallan built it’s monolithic name throughout the years by way of the deep and rich complexities of their heavily-sherried malts,  Unfortunately, with few exceptions, the Fine Oak range which hit the shelves in the mid-2000s never quite delivered to the standards set by its ‘redder’ brethren.

This isn’t to say we judge our whiskies based on colour, name or any other such triviality, but the reality is that those sherry bruisers from olden days were magical in a way that Macallan simply hasn’t been able to replicate with their current stocks and contemporary expressions.

While this may seem like merely a bias against the FO series, it should be noted that there are tasting notes here on ATW for more than 25 different Macallan expressions (as of now).  Additionally I have tried many, many more which I’ve not written up.  At this point I can unequivocally state that Macallan’s forte was never the FO expressions.  Mind you, neither is it the current 1824 series.  Sad to see the decline of an empire.

But let’s not veer too far from the point.  Fine Oak 17.  This one is actually one of the better FO releases I’ve tried.  The price point was higher than most were comfortable with, but that’s the reality of both single malt and Macallan.  So be it.  Either way, a decent dram, if not quite exceptional.

Nose:  Green apples and grape skins.  A bit of citrus and maybe orange.  Ginger and vanilla.  Caramelized sugars and a faint whiff of smoke.  Hay, and herbal notes.  Soft spices spice.  Slightly overly woody.

Palate:  A little thin, as we’d expect at 43%, but not a bad arrival.  Fruit-led and slightly tannic as it folds over the tongue.  Poached apple or pear with cinnamon.  More citrus and notes of sugar cookies.  Vanilla fudge.  Still a touch of smoke here (surprisingly).  The finish is a little disappointing; leaving not much more than a slightly eucalyptus note and the wood.

Thoughts:  This lighter style Macallan doesn’t sit quite right with me.  Not as a whisky, I mean, but as a Macallan.  I’m reminded of hearing George Grant speak of Glenfarclas; remarking that they would never release bourbon-matured Glenfarclas, as that is not what the name Glenfarclas is all about.  Macallan should lean a little more heavily on the big sherries, I think.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:05 am
Jan 122014
 

themacallanlogo

A nifty, but now sadly obsolete, run of Macallan that came out some time around the turn of the millenium, I think.  The Travel Series was launched as an attempt to replicate the style of vintage Macallan from several decades in the first half of the twentieth century.

The whisky is a novelty, to be sure, but it’s also a neat little insight into the blender’s art.  Man…what skill to be able to recreate these whiskies from age old samples, right?  Ahhhh…but there’s the rub.  Are they accurate recreations?  Well…not having access to those glorious old Macallans from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s or ’50s, who am I to say whether or not this is a true representation of the style?

At the end of the day though, it doesn’t really matter, because suspension of disbelief is made easier by the fact that these releases retailed for less than $35 a bottle locally.  For that sort of financial investment the free range of imagination will be all I use in the sating of curiosity.  And I’ll consider that well and truly paid for at less than $150 all in for the full suite of releases.  In short…just have fun with it.

While equally lauded (Michael Jackson) and lambasted (Serge Valentin), I’ll happily take the middle road when it comes to throwing marks against these malts.  These are good whiskies.  No, they’re not great by any means, but they are unique…they are well-made…and they are fun as hell.  Think of it like a trip down memory lane…one which you’ve never traveled before.  These malts really do set the imagination to run.  I Love ’em for that if nothing more.

A good mate of mine, J Wheelock, introduced me to these Macallans a few years back when he worked for the brand (Edrington, that is).  For that…and for much, much more…this dram’s for you, J.  Slainte!

T2

Macallan Travel Series – ‘Twenties’

40% abv     500 ml bottle

Score:  86.5/100

Nose:  Somewhat fruitier than expected.  A little bit of apple and peach.  Shortbread.  Tobacco.  Peach is a theme throughout.  Reminds a little of a ’77 Glenisla I’ve tried.  Cherry syrup.  Cadbury milk chocolate.  Nice depth of spice.  Some tart red berry now.  A touch of maple.

Palate:  Immediate disappointment at the thinness of mouthfeel.  Fruity and sweet at first, but dries rather quickly.  Some crabapple.  Slightly weedy floral notes.  Spiced dough.  A bit of very mild peat and smoke at about the three quarter point.

Thoughts:  Good noser.  Not so pleasing on the palate unfortunately.  The flavours are ok, but it’s a featherweight.  Especially as I believe the old style malts to have a bit more heft than this.

T3

Macallan Travel Series – ‘Thirties’

40% abv     500 ml bottle

Score:  86/100

Nose:  Still fruity, much like the ‘Twenties’, but a bit more dry spice now.  A hint of Old Dutch Barbecue Potato Chips (crisps, if you’re UK-centric).  More peat arriving now by this decade.  Spicy figgy notes.  Tobacco, leather and oil.

Palate:  Tobacco.  Chocolate with a dollop of caramel.  Coffee.  Dried fruits.  Chocolate fudge now.  Quite spicy.  Threads of deep dark fruits courtesy of the sherry influence.  Smoked apple skins.  Now a little oakiness.

Thoughts:  Again…better nose than palate.  Sadly, as thin as the average head of hair in a nursing home.

T5

Macallan Travel Series – ‘Forties’

40% abv     500 ml bottle

Score:  88.5/100

Nose:  Peppery peat.  A bit more earthy and smoky now that we’ve hit the ‘Forties’.  Cookie dough.  Quite dry, and almost ashy.  Mincemeat and tobacco.  Slightly barn-ish (maybe horse blanket).  Maybe…maybe…smoked meat of some sort.  Toffee or caramel fudge.  Now there’s more smoke building.

Palate:  Very nice.  Better palate than the first couple, but still anemic.  Like caramel apples for adults.  Slightly peppery and bearing more woody notes now.  A touch of peat and smoke.  Ok…more than a touch.  Kinda tarry.  Arrives with fruits but turns to black coal smoke.

Thoughts:  Not necessarily the most balanced of the quartet, but maybe the most fun.  Some really neat nuances here.  Much more ‘old school’ in character.

T6

Macallan Travel Series – ‘Fifties’

40% abv     500 ml bottle

Score:  88/100

Nose:  A touch of peat and moist tobacco.  Cinnamon, cocoa and vanilla.  A touch of floral notes.  Chewy sweet sherry notes.  A little bit of dust and dunnage warehouse.  Smoked hay.  Yep…still some peat here.  Creamier, fruitier, more depth and more developed than the others.

Palate:  Nice bold delivery.  Feels thicker and more substantial than the others.  A more traditionally gooey sherried Macallan with a heft of very dry cinnamon and clove.  Good long finish with all the right notes lingering.

Thoughts:  Neck and neck with the ‘Forties’ as best of the bunch.  More palatable for the masses too, I’d argue, and closer to the Macallan most folk would now know.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 

 Posted by at 9:40 pm
Dec 022013
 

Master Of Malt – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Late last year (2012), the good folk at Master of Malt launched a new line of independent bottlings.  Perhaps it was a retaliatory gesture aimed at the creative geniuses behind the Dali-esque naming conventions and abstract tasting notes of the SMWS.  Or maybe it was a shot at Edradour in the way of ‘Aha!  We too can dupe the public into spending much on wee 50cl (500ml) bottles!’  Or maybe, just maybe…it was simply because they had access to some really good whisky and wanted to provide another alternative in the ever expansive market of independent bottling.   

Either way, all three scenarios are met head on with the new brand ‘That Boutique-y Whisky Company’.  The niche here is how utterly ridiculous these bottles look nestled amidst the shelves of austere single malt Scotch whisky packaging.  Each label is adorned with comic book-esque drawings artistically reminiscent of a cross between ‘Where’s Waldo’, ‘Tintin’ and ‘Beavis And Butthead’.  The images are not random bits of artistic tomfoolery, however.  They are rather cleverly reflective of the distilleries captured within the glass, and depict some subtle secrets and whisky geekery, sure to have the whiskily-inclined salivating at unraveling all of the hidden meanings.

Now…much like the old adage ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’, it would be a big mistake to dismiss these releases as novelty items.  I mean really big mistake.  As much as the purists may prefer a more…ummm…elegant outward appearance for our snooty tipple’s daily wardrobe, the simple fact of the matter is as mentioned above:  there is some damn good whisky in these bottles.  As soon as these are naked in the glass, all doubt disappears.  We’ll come to some actual tasting notes and details in just a moment.

A little on the bottings themselves…

Each release is wax-sealed, cask strength and non chill-filtered.  Further, in a rather interesting move…they are also non age statement (NAS) whiskies.  If I understand correctly though, these are not single cask releases.  Rather they are built in small ‘parcels’ to a specific desired quality.  *(If I’m wrong here, please correct me).  Either way…the NAS approach will allow Master Of Malt much greater future flexibility in regard to batch variance.  Rest assured, friends…if any of you are naturally cynical about the whole NAS concept (and I know many of you are, especially in light of the whole 1824 deal) …these are not young whiskies.  You can tell just by nosing.

One other point to note:  While other independent bottlers seem to be struggling for some variety in their portfolios, MofM have managed releases from Port Ellen, Brora, Ardbeg, Macallan, Caperdonich, etc.  Neat stuff. 

At this point I am won over.  Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Forgive the quality of photos (or lack thereof).  They were thrown together rather quickly in the  shop.

 

Secret Distillery (Batch 1)045

55.4% abv     486 bottles

Score:  89/100

Nose:  Tobacco and raisins.  Cinnamon and fresh scones.  Some floral notes.  Baking spices.  Fudge and caramel macchiato.  Honey.  Creamy caramel with fruit.  Rich, rich, rich.

Palate:  Surprisingly tart up front.  Followed by big, dark intimidating fruitcake notes.  Then some apple.  Think a’bunadh meets amaretto with a wee splash of Southern comfort.

Thoughts:  A neat one.  Both in character and out of character at the same time.  Like seeing this distillery in another dimension.

*Secret Distillery’s real name rhymes with Ben Schmarclas.

 

Macallan (Batch 3)048

43.4% abv     245 bottles

Score:  86.5/100

Nose:  Bread dough.  Nice spices..and lots of ’em.  Some apple pie, heavy on the cinnamon.  Some old library notes.  Buttery sauce.  A little atypical of Macallan.

Palate:  Creamy and spicy.  A fair bit of dry oak.  Over-toasted marshmallow.  Grape skins.  Bitter chocolate.  Fairly tannic.  Zippy with spice and very pleasing apple notes.

Thoughts:  Not a bad whisky, but the low, low abv makes me think this one cooked in the warehouse for a while.  If this is indeed and older dram…I’m a tad underwhelmed.

 

Clynelish (Batch 2)042

50.6% abv     319 bottles

Score:  92/100

Nose:  Lavender and perfume.  Some pepper.  Nougat and honey.  Lemon poppyseed muffins.  A little orange juice.

Palate:  Wow!!  Old wax and dunnage warehouse.  Just extinguished candle.  Oil lamp.  Charred oak.  Some smoke.  Sooooo old school.  Cinnamon.  Apple juice and skins at the back end.  One of the all time great palates.  Loved it.

Thoughts:  Some disconnect between nose and palate, but they are at least complimentary.  The palate though…gad!…extra points for sure.  Just wow!

 

Springbank (Batch 2)053

53.1% abv     450 bottles

Score:  88.5/100

Nose:  Pickle.  Dust and pine.  A bit of peat, yeah.  Flinty.  Winter wood fire.  Clove and pepper.  Pine sap.  So odd…so unique…so intriguing.

Palate:  Now there’s the smoke.  Kinda oily.  Notes that should only be found in older whisky (wonder how old this actually is).  Some great sweetness meets the machine smoke.  Some figgy notes with honey.  Smoked fruit skins.  Pear, apple and currant.

Thoughts:  Very different for a Springbank.  The pine and pickle notes really threw me off, but surprisingly…worked out just fine in this one.  I liked it.

 

Highland Park (Batch 1)047

44.7% abv     241 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Sweet nose with a great composition.  Tangy jam note.  Peach, orange and lemon.  Warm leather and a very inviting salty note (makes the mouth water just inhaling it).  A touch of oil.

Palate:  Smoke and earthy notes.  Hay.  A mix of green and purple grapes.  Walnut.  Old school heft and some moderately subtle sherry-like tang.  Tart marmalade.

Thoughts:  Balance, balance, balance.  Again…a little out of character, but not too far off the path.  Not bad at all.

 

Bowmore (Batch 2)038

49% abv     292 bottles

Score:  89.5/100

Nose:  Farmy and iodione-heavy.  Rubber, smoke and other such.  Lemon zest.  Damp soil.  Smoky fruits.  Gravel dust.  Dry ash.  Sultanas.  Develops a bit of orange and some creaminess, surprisingly…but only if you give it a bit of time.

Palate:  Oh yeah!  Oily..smoky…earthy, and rich in dark red and purple fruits.  Think Laimrig meets motor oil.  Plum and purple grape.

Thoughts:  A well-earned 89.5.  Maybe even closer to a 90.  This is a neat Bowmore.  These recent profiles that combine jammy fruit notes and industrial oiliness…win.  Just win.

 

Caol Ila (Batch 1)039

45.8% abv     732 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Prickly and briny.  Peat and smoke.  Sweet and citric at the same time.  Orange oil.  Olives.  Candy sweetness.  A dusting of salt and pepper.

Palate:  Very Caol Ila.  Some melon with citrus.  Toffee and smoke.  Oyster with salt, pepper and lemon.  Wet rock.  Ocean shoreline.  oil.  There are some notes that make me think of Kilchoman (if that distillery’s malt were a little more mature).

Thoughts:  Damn decent Caol Ila, but definitely not the best of the indies I’ve tried.  Particularly liked the oceanic notes and oily saltiness.

 

Look forward to future releases.

Thanks to our mate, Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market, for the chance to try these. 

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:19 pm
Aug 122013
 

themacallanlogo

So…after tackling some malts from the Fine Oak range and the Sherry Oak range – not to mention a brief detour to check out the new 1824 series – let’s move on into a few of the more ‘out there’ Macallans.  Think Duty Free, foreign market, one-offs, etc.  If and when you get the opportunity to try any of these, do not necessarily expect to recognize many of these as typical of the Macallan profile.  There’s a familiarity, sure, but these are by no means typical of the core range (or what used to be the core range, for that matter). 

As with the FO and SO features, let’s start here with notes on the Macallan New Make spirit.  Sort of a benchmark, if you will:  

 

Macallan New Make

Notes:  63% abv.  Crystal clear.

Nose:  Slight nuttiness.  Malty.  Fresh bitter fruit.  Rubbery acetone.  Metallic note somewhere in there.  Oh yeah…and some cereals.

Palate:  Fire water.  With a bit o’ citrus.  Estery.  Please put this waxy young thing into the rock tumbler (ahem…a fine sherry bucket) and knock those edges off.

Thoughts:  Unrecognizable as a Macallan really.  Shows you what the distillery’s wood policy really means.  Cool as hell to see this as a new make.

068

Macallan 12 Elegancia

Notes:  40% abv.  Fino and Oloroso casks.  1L for Duty Free.

Nose:  Malty and caramel sweet.  Sugary sherry and a bit of marzipan.  Toasted Marshmallow.  Yeasty rye bread.  Darkest roasted grains.  Peppery spice.

Palate:  Malty and not nearly as sweet as I’d expect from Oloroso influence.  Bit of an oaky nibble.  Some wine-ish notes.

Thoughts:  Maltier than I expected for something called ‘Elegancia’.  Slightly disappointing, but bad by no means.

047

Macallan 1851 Inspiration

Notes:  43.3% abv.

Nose:  Malt.  Kinda dank and dusty.  Citrus and leather.  Fruit and nut.  Clove and potpouri.

Palate:  Wham!  Thar’s that old school charm.  Made the hair on my wife’s arms stand up.  Grains are large.  As is the malty charm.

Thoughts:  Completely out of sync within the Macallan range.  This is not a comment regarding quality…simply an observation.  Good?  Meh.  Drinkable?  Absoloodle!  Weird?  F*ckin’ right!

 

Macallan ‘Whisky Maker’s Edition’

Notes:  42.8% abv.

Nose:  Vaguely yeasty and faintly malty.  Creamy and caramely.  Almond.  A heft of spice and smooooooooth chocolate.  Sweet…sweet…sweet!  Almost red licorice sweet.  Without knowing yet…this must be Oloroso.  And perhaps a smidge of florals in the background.

Palate:  Oaky…fruity…spicy.  Exactly what I’d expect.  Oh…and did I mention sweet?

Thoughts:  A whisky that just can’t quite deliver to the palate what the nose promises.  Comes out closer to a Balvenie than a Mac.  Odd, I know.  Not bad at all though.  I could happily revisit this one a time or three.

 

So, what’s next?  Think we’ll move on into the Macallan Travel Series.  Stay tuned…

 

– Words & Tasting Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 

 Posted by at 7:31 am
May 262013
 

The Macallan 1824 Series

 

themacallanlogo

A couple months back I received an invite to an Edrington event for the Macallan.  Unfortunately, however, scheduling conflicts kept me from attending this gala.  By this point, rumour had been rampant for some time that Macallan was about to strip away the numbers from the bottles of their core range and introduce a new series free of the shackles of age statements.  An industry mate and I shared some interesting discussion on this revamp, and when I asked if he’d be attending, his response was something along the lines of ‘yes…I can’t miss the chance to see Macallan put a gun to their head and pull the trigger’.  My paraphrasing, not his exact words.

This malt whisky equivalent of the Budd Dwyer effect was inexplicable as far as both he and I were concerned.  We both understood the effect those numbers (or lack thereof) could have on an entity such as Macallan.

Several months later I can finally brush aside speculation in favor of honest observation.  Forget the bias.  Let’s use our senses to weigh in.

A few thoughts first, though…

Apparently the new 1824 series is built from malts matured in both Spanish and American oak.  This would mean that Macallan have effectively combined the Fine Oak and Sherry Oak ranges, I think.  This last statement is purely subjecture however, as I’ve also heard there is no influence from ex-bourbon casks.  Either way…they now not only have more flexibility in terms of which casks they can bury in their whisky vattings, but also in terms of cask quality management and/or costs.  All, of course, without bowing to the inflexibility of an age statement.  Call it what you like, but ultimately…it’s a form of blank cheque for the Edrington Group to bottle whatever they like, so long as the color stays consistent.

Color.  Yep.  The new range is built primarily on aesthetics.  Hue.  Tint.  Shade.  Call it what you like.  Macallan is building malts to adhere to the colors they label the bottle as (Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby).  Of course the inherent age of the whisky in the casks does, to a degree, help determine the final color (ergo equation, right or wrong, is darker = older = better), but really?  Really?  This is utterly absurd.  And for that reason…we’re gonna dig in and suss out some truth.

Honestly.  I am 100% behind this enterprise as it stands.  Conditionally.  As long as the whisky in the jar stays uniform in terms of quality…give ‘er hell, Macallan.  I’ll climb on board.  In fact, I’m already singing the praises of a couple of these new endeavours.

A bit of editorializing though:  I’ll go on record here as saying I do expect quality slippage.  It’s just the nature of a the beast.  Huge demand in a booming whisky market…no regulation in terms of age requirements or cask quality…and, let’s be honest, desire for profit margin.  All of these are factors that could lead to an eventual decline in what is, out of the gates, a great dram.  I hope I’m wrong.  Please, Macallan…prove me wrong.

As a final note…apparently the blending team sampled an absolutely mindboggling 30,000 casks to ultimately reach the final components that would comprise this new quartet of whiskies.  Wow.  Think I need a career change.

Alright.  Is it just me, or is it getting awful thirsty in here?  Let’s have a drink.

 

Macallan Gold

40% abv

Score:  82.5/100

Nose:  Malty, creamy and just slightly feinty (smells familiar to anyone who has stood close to a spirit safe in a distillery).  Not a lot of sherry influence showing yet, but it is there in a distant dry fruitcake manner.  Citrus and vanilla. A little bit of mint.  Salty uncooked pastry dough.  A touch of over-toasted oak and pepper.

Palate:  Almost immediately drying.  Apple skins.  Grains and toothpicks.  Deep threads of thick pure honey.  Orange.

Thoughts:  Pleasantly sippable.  Though something of a lightweight.  Not bad for the entry-level consumer.  Should note…no off notes, just youth holding this one back.

094

 

Macallan Amber

40% abv

Score:  84.5/100

Nose:  Creamy.  Still slightly malty.  Much more sherry to speak of now, as we’d expect from Macallan.  Some orange rind, or good marmalade.  Coffee and chocolate…maybe a creamy mocha.  Cinnamon.  A little caramel, pepper and ginger…each in dribs and drabs.  Malteasers.

Palate:  Matches (just a far off touch though).  Sweetness develops nicely over the first few seconds.  Raisins.  Citrus furniture polish.  Pleasant, but mild, spiciness.

Thoughts:  Not too far removed from the Gold, but a little sweeter and more ’rounded’.  All in all…quite good.  Not to sound like that one sulphur-obsessed whisky writer we all know, but there is an off butt or two in here.  It’s effect is minimal, and unless you’re sensitive, you likely won’t even notice.

090

 

Macallan Sienna

43% abv

Score:  90.5/100

Nose:  Now we’re getting sweeter and some of those more sassy mature sherry tones.  Nice jammy Oloroso high notes here.  Chocolate and a slight smokiness.  Raspberry and orange (yum!).  Marzipan.  Some mint or eucalyptus now too.

Palate:  Here is that jam-like sweetness again.  Love it.  Spicy.  Eucalyptus here too.  Very nice full arrival with a smooth development from scotch/sherry immediacy into a refined chocolate ganache and red fruit crescendo.  Very drinkable.  Ahem…very.

Thoughts:  With the Sienna, we’ve now moved into the high end.  This is classic and exceptional Macallan.  Hopefully they can maintain this level of quality.

089

 

Macallan Ruby

43% abv

Score:  92/100

Nose:  Awwww…hell, yes!  Cinnamon, orange and dark cherry (my favorite fruit!).  Great jam/jelly sweetness.  Candle wax notes, showing some maturity and nice old casks buried in here.  Nice smells of home baking and spiced stewed fruit.  Chocolate again, but much more ‘high end’ and expensive chocolate.  Heavy toffee, which is gorgeous.

Palate:  Sweet and fruity.  Orange lifesavers.  Cinnamon and slightly over-baked pie crust.  More of those deep, dark dried fruit notes.  Mouthwatering, before slowly drying on the tannins.  An absolutely great oral experience (shhh…keep you comments to yourself).

Thoughts:  Mature and awesome.  Not quite a 93, this is definitely a 92+

087

 

I’ll take a little salt, please.  Something to help me swallow my words.  The new Macallan line-up is good.  Better than good, actually.  Particularly the latter two.

 

– Words, Tasting Notes, Thoughts:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 

 

 Posted by at 11:14 pm
May 242013
 

themacallanlogo

Ok…we’re nearly at the point of publishing reviews for the new Macallan 1824 NAS series.  Before I get to that little bit of fun however, I kinda wanted to knock out at least one more of these Macallan featurettes.  In a previous piece on the Sherry Oak series, I promised at least two, and possibly three, more runs of tasting notes from the Macallan ranges.  Moving on from the Sherry Oak releases we checked out here, let’s take a peek at a handful from the Macallan Fine Oak line.  Here are a few bits of insight regarding this, one of the main branches of the Macallan tree.

A few decades back Macallan decided to have a little fun.  Or maybe it was a cost-savings venture*.  Not really certain.  Already famous for single malt whisky matured in butts from their own Spanish bodegas, the good folk at Macallan began sourcing ex-bourbon barrels from the US.  These barrels were sherry-seasoned, and whiskies matured in these casks were married with other, more typical, stocks from the distillery.  The result was an entire new range for Macallan that since 2004 has run in parallel with the Sherry Oak releases.

*When you consider the price of American bourbon barrels vs the price of Spanish sherry butts…egads!  We’re looking at a difference of (if rumours are correct) around 1000%.  Ouch.

Anyway…the whisky…starting with the new make spirit as a benchmark…

 

Macallan New Make

Notes:  63% abv.  Crystal clear.

Nose:  Slight nuttiness.  Malty.  Fresh bitter fruit.  Rubbery acetone.  Metallic note somewhere in there.  Oh yeah…and some cereals.

Palate:  Fire water.  With a bit o’ citrus.  Estery.  Please put this waxy young thing into the rock tumbler (ahem…a fine sherry bucket) and knock those edges off.

Thoughts:  Unrecognizable as a Macallan really.  Shows you what the distillery’s wood policy really means.  Cool as hell to see this as a new make.

Bottle Shots 2 026

Macallan 10 Fine Oak

Notes:  40% abv.

Nose:  Dusty oak.  Red fruit.  Barley.  A wee bit dry and mildly figgy.  Orange.  Honeyed woods.  Cereal.  Slightly sharp and thin.

Palate:  Again…disappointingly thin.  And a little sharp.  Really?  This is Macallan?  High notes of citrus.  Oak.

Thoughts:  Simple.  Underdeveloped.  Pleasant, but…simply not ‘my’ Macallan.

 

Macallan 15 Fine Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Some orange and just a touch of white pepper.  Lots of soft creamy vanilla.  Grains.  Some light lavendar notes.  Slightly grassy.  A touch of nutmeg and scone.

Palate:  Pie crust with a touch of spice.  Some oaky notes and strong vanilla.  The top fire-toasted layer of creme brulee.

Thoughts:  Clean.  A definite step up from the 10 y.o.  Quite unassuming, but well-made and refreshingly drinkable.

067 (2)

Macallan 17 Fine Oak

Notes: 43% abv.

Nose:  Green fruit skin.  Hint of ginger.  Caramelized sugars.  Oak peeks through as it opens.  Hay and mellow spice.

Palate:  Fruits arrive with a little more confidence.  Oaky and drying.  Everyone leaves but the woods, which arrived late anyway.  Surprisingly drying.

Thoughts:  Fresh and vibrant.  Wife called this one ‘wintery’.  Hmmm.  Not so sure ’bout that, but…it does have a rather refreshing coolness to it.  Really liked this one.

 

Macallan 21 Fine Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Candied or maybe honeyed.  Rising bread.  Tropical fruits.  Hay.  Slightly floral.  Grains.  Sweet buttery toffee.  Honey and a perfect melange of X-Mas spice.  Wood influence at a perfect age.  Sweet.  Orange zest.

Palate:  Unfolds slowly.  Woods arrive first.  Spice and zest.  Buttery baking and drying fruit.

Thoughts:  A lot more ‘electric’ than the rest of the range.  Great nose with excellent balance.  Palate is a little duller than the nose, but still very good.  This one surprised and charmed me.  More please?

062 (2)

Macallan 25 Fine Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Waxy vanilla.  Green and dill-like (basil?).  Aged bourbon cask notes (ghostly fruit and sweetness).  Caramel apple.  Dusty grain.

Palate:  Sharp green notes and wax carry to palate.  Red fruit skins.  Rich and mouthwatering.  great finish too.

Thoughts:  Not even remotely comparable to the Sherry Oak 25, but hey…am I gonna say no to this?  Hell no.  Another good drink and very indicative of how much quality you can see in older Macallans, irrespective of the big sherry maturation.

028

Macallan 30 Fine Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Fruit still seems quite lively.  Vanilla weaving in and out.  White peppered peach.  White cranberry.  Wood shavings.  Grains are strong.  Beautiful restraint.

Palate:  Vanilla carried by mild oakiness.  Bread crust.  Cacao shavings.  Touch of orange.  Fades to a drying finish.

Thoughts:  Don’t think I’d peg this as a 30 y.o.  Mature enough, but definitely wears its years well.  I still gotta go with the Sherry Oak line as a personal preference, but this is bloody great drink in its own right.

 

Alright.  Two rounds down.  Part three will be the Oddballs; a selection of a few slightly more off-the-beaten-path releases from Macallan.  Further…I’ll tackle the Mac Travel series (Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties) as well as the afore-mentioned 1824 series (Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby).  Stay tuned.

Slainte!

 

– Words & Tasting Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:05 pm
Mar 312013
 

themacallanlogo

Many days back (yes…I am occasionally that slow getting these pieces posted) a good mate of mine arranged a very…errr…sprawling Macallan tasting for me.  So sprawling in fact, that by dram number eleventy-three my nostrils were closing, I was seeing two of everything and all my s‘s had turned into sh‘s.  Of course, you gotta wonder what good your tasting notes are by the time you reach this point of hyper-sobriety, so in the spirit of maintaining some sort of integrity here, I insisted on revisiting a few of these that we tasted later in the evening.

As I began typing up my tasting notes I realized that the feature had grown to such obviously unwieldy proportions that I would have to split it into pieces, and showcase the malts in a more logical fashion.  This also allowed me to visit a couple extra for the sake of inclusion.

Part one will focus on the Sherry Oak range.  Part two, the Fine Oak series.  Part three, a few of the Macallan one-offs and oddballs.  (And to honest…I am debating a Part four…we’ll see).  I’ll preface each with my tasting notes for The Macallan New Make spirit simply as a point of reference to highlight the journey from birth to bottle.

In this first segment…some of the malts that helped define The Macallan reputation.  (Or more accurately, I’ll tackle the contemporary descendants of the whiskies that made The Macallan a legend.)  Sherry has long been the distillery’s hallmark, so let’s start there…

 

Macallan New Make

Notes:  63% abv.  Crystal clear.

Nose:  Slight nuttiness.  Malty.  Fresh bitter fruit.  Rubbery acetone.  Metallic note somewhere in there.  Oh yeah…and some cereals.

Palate:  Fire water.  With a bit o’ citrus.  Estery.  Please put this waxy young thing into the rock tumbler (ahem…a fine sherry bucket) and knock those edges off.

Thoughts:  Unrecognizable as a Macallan really.  Shows you what the distillery’s wood policy really means.  Cool as hell to see this as a new make.

Bottle Shots 2 021

Macallan 12 Sherry Oak (Recent Edition)

Notes:  40% abv.

Nose:  Mild mik chocolate.  Nutmeg and almond.  Orange.  Pinecone (NOT pine).  Touch of maltiness (hard to catch until moving the glass away).  Lightly floral.  Fudge.  A little ‘toastier’ than earlier editions.  Dark caramel.  Obviously the sherry is large and in charge at this age.

Palate:  Oaky delivery.  Rich in dark red fruits and the faintest tendril of smoke.  Some deep strong chocolate too.

Thoughts:  Charming enough, but not the giant that Macallan delivers in more aged incarnations.

 

Macallan 12 Sherry Oak (Older Edition)

Notes:  40% abv.

Nose:  Creamier than more recent editions.  Toffee.  Seems to be some malts older than 12 years in this one.  Fruits are more vibrant than in newer bottlings.  Warm cinnamon buns.

Palate:  Not quite up to the soft nose.  Bread dough.

Thoughts:  Substantially different from the latest incarnations, though I know not from whence this has come.  Packaging is different though.  I think there may be a few older casks vatted in here.  Smooth and drinkable.

 

Macallan 18 Sherry Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Rich and chewy sherry.  Soft and refined.  Mild nutmeg and cream.  Muted cherry.  Toffee.  Heather.  Warm leather.  European bread.  Mint.  Nearly faultless.

Palate:  Mildest of dried fruit and rumballs.  Caramel.  Warm melted chocolate and orange.  Oak.  Lasts none too long, but a beautiful top note and denouement.  Man…what exceptional balance.

Thoughts:  Wow…what harmony!  A very young 18…in a good way.  Nose here is bloody brilliant.

057

Macallan 18 Sherry Oak (1981)

Notes: 43% abv.

Nose:  Cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cherry, orange and citrus.  Tobacco.  Old cask notes that suggets there is whisky in here older than 18 years.  A touch of licorice and wax.  Borders on a touch of the trpoical.  Polish.

Palate:  Beautiful cherry and orange rind delivery.  Splashy and juicy arrival.  Wow.  Fruits and maturity.  Moves into lovely wood tones.

Thoughts:  Full sunrise to sunset development.  Lovely all the way through.  If only current exressions were this good.

 

Macallan 25 Sherry Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Rich, oiled leather.  Heavy…so heavy. Christmas cake.  Cinnamon (almost like buttery cinnamon spread). Orange.  Maraschino cherry.  Caramel fudge.  Dark chili chocolate.

Palate:  Oily and rubbery.  Dusty dried fruits.  Great maturity meets fun vibrancy.

Thoughts:  I expected a tannic drying finish, and couldn’t have been more wrong.  Great drink.  Exceptional, really.

064 (2)

Macallan 30 Sherry Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Waxy.  Sherry ebbs into tarry mature notes.  Leather.  Deep-running spices.  Dried apple.  Crushed walnut.

Palate:  Apple skins and winter spice.  Wax and tar.  Long and bitters out slightly…in a pleasant way.

Thoughts:  Sexy.  Brooding and deep.  This…this is what I imagine when I think of the storied reputation Macallan has built itself.  I could linger over this for hours before even sipping.  This is a dram to adore and worship.

 

Macallan Cask Strength

Notes:  59.3% abv.  Bottled for Canada.

Nose:  Heavy sherry and all that usually accompanies.  Demerara sweetness. Christmas pudding.  Fruit cake with heavy marzipan frosting.  Kirsch and dark chocolate.  Well-oiled baseball mitt.

Palate:  Enormous arrival.  Thick toffee.  Sherry wollop.  Fruit skins and mouthwatering juiciness.

Thoughts:  I love this.  The only thing comparable is an Aberlour a’bunadh, which is one of my favorites.  At this point it’s a toss up which I prefer more.

 

– Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:42 pm
Oct 202012
 

Macallan Cask Strength

59.3% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

Let’s not delve into the comparison conversations that always crop up regarding the young cask strength sherry bombs.  They’ve been tackled rather relentlessly to date, and I’m sure that at this point most drinkers and drammers have sworn their allegiance to one or the other.  Or the other.  Whatever.

There’s simply no two ways about it.  This Macallan holds its own and stands on its own two feet, needing no competition as a measuring stick to assert its value.  This is a damn good malt.  Overpowered and bursting at the seams with flavor, this is a whisky for snowy winter eves and late summer nights.  Fortunately…we have stunning examples of both in Western Canada, so there is no shortage of excuses to tip the bottle.  Not that I ever need an excuse to justify indulgence in that aural beauty of the pop of a cork from a bottle of single malt.

First things first…extra points for the absolutely sparkling clean Oloroso.  Love ’em or hate ’em, you have to concede that Macallan get some truly pristine sherry casks to work with.  The inherent perks in having direct linkages to their own bodegas in Spain, I suppose.

Snug in that nest of comforting sherry are deep dark vanilla, toffee and chewy dried fruits.  Fresh fruits, by way of black cherry and concorde grapes.  The nose alone sets my mouth to watering, with its heavy array of branch-bending juicy tree fruits.  Darker nuances like chocolate and shredded tobacco as well.

The palate is chewy and rich in spicy sherry notes of rum-soaked fruit, citrus and vanilla extract.  Some sort of caramel/toffee warmth and cocoa meet pleasant oaky charm.

One of my favorite Macallan’s, to be certain, and a good go-to when it is one of those ‘sweet tooth’ evenings.  This Macallan, I believe, was bottled for Canada (or maybe North America…can’t remember exactly what I had heard), and sadly is to become obsolete if rumours are to be believed.  Snatch up a bottle or three while you can.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:02 pm
Sep 102012
 

Macallan 18 y.o.

43% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Macallan 18.  As revered and maligned as the monarchy.  Weighing in on this one is a somewhat tricky affair that relies on suspending preconceptions and allowing the senses to decide.

The contentious point with Macallan is always price.  Sherry casks are, of course, much more expensive than bourbon casks, but still many question whether what they get in their glass with Macallan is worth so much more than, say Glenfarclas or GlenDronach.

I have my own opinions here, somewhat tempered from what they initially were, but I’ll keep those cards close to my chest and again…allow the drink to work its charm on the nose and palate, bias aside (as much as anyone can).

In all honesty though, this is as near to faultless on the nose as you can get.  Beautifully rich and elegant.  The sherry is vibrant and warm, chewy and very, very soft.  A little bit of chocolate and grape meet fresh cherry and orange.  There’s a dusting of nutmeg and wood spice over creamy toffee.  A hint of heather.  This is a malt to savour over refined vices, like good old novels and great cigars.

The palate brings the mildest of dried fruit flavors, but mouthwatering sweetness as well.  Sweet caramel and warm melted chocolate follow, bringing notes of quality oak.  The finish lasts none too long, but boasts a beautiful top note and denouement.  Exceptional.

It took me a while to fully come ’round to this one, but I’m won over.  Great dram from the royalty of Scotch whisky.

An older edition I’ve tried (1981) is even better than this.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:02 pm
Jul 182012
 

Macallan Fine Oak 10 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  80/100

 

Yawn.  Underwhelmed.  Where is the Macallan of fame and repute that so made the eyes of Michael Jackson (ahem…not that MJ) light up?  Sadly…not here.

This is not a bad whisky by any stretch of the imagination.  It is simply nothing special, and absolutely does not stand up to the Macallan name.  There is a vaccuum of character.  Nothing really ‘off’ here…just don’t expect to be ‘wowed’.

Very Speyside in character (excepting the lack of a nice deep rich sherry wood which may have ratcheted this up a notch or two), with dusty oak and red fruits leading the barley train.  Found this one to be a little dry and figgy as well.  Also on the nose:  a hint of orange…some honeyed woods…cereal…and in all honesty, rather sharp and thin.  Macallan promises so much more.

This pale young’un carries that thinness over to the palate as well, though arrives with a bit more bite than I would have expected.   Not a lot of subtlety.  Youthful and kicking.  The high notes from the citrus here are pleasant however.  It mellows rapidly in the glass and allows the ‘woody’ profile to bully its way to the forefront.  Indeed this seems quite young.  The finish, mostly oak notes, is relatively short.

Overall it comes across as a little too simple, underdeveloped and underpowered for me, but charm finally comes with the balance after 15 or 20 minutes in the glass.

As I said…not bad.

 

Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:10 pm