The Macallan 1824 Series
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+
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