Note: This event took place on the 1st of December, 2010.
Laughs were easy tonight. The audience, 102 strong, was there to have a good time and J. Wheelock’s casual demeanor helped to make a relatively formal event feel both comfortable and familiar. A gift he has. I mentioned similar thoughts regarding J’s approach in a review of a tasting he put on for Highland Park last year. Edrington has an ace in the hole here with someone whose skill is matched only by the sincerity of his passions for what he presents.
This particular event, much like the last, was a case where class won out. The visuals, those of both Willow Park and Edrington, were warm, dark and cozy. The ambience was set from the moment of arrival. Everyone was greeted at the entrance with a glass of the Famous Grouse on ice and instructed to mix with bottles of ginger beer on the tables to create what they had deemed “the Ginger Grouse”. Not bad. Not particularly my thing though. Regardless of preference and palate, it was a great welcome.
The presentation began with some history on the distillery, region and malts, and was peppered with humorous anecdotes and shared personal experience. These are the pieces that come together to make these sorts of tastings worth attending (of couse, the whisky doesn’t hurt either, I suppose). Many enthusiasts will never step foot on Scotland’s shores, let alone be allowed into the inner sanctum of some of the distilleries, so these insider insights are both entertaining and enlightening.
As the presentation unfolded we began to work our way through the lineup of malts that had been laid out for us. Quite a range, really, and one that afforded a good look at the varied portfolio of the Macallan. A few brief notes (several of these will be reviewed in the coming days) to give you an idea:
Macallan Sherry Oak 12 y.o. – Slightly oaky. Sharp purple fruit and honey. Sherry brings a touch of baking spice. Caramel apple. Peppery grape/raisin on the palate. Thin feel.
Macallan Fine Oak 15 y.o. – Typically Speyside-ish. Tangy fruit, vanilla, fresh greens and smoked wood. More floral and woody on the palate than the nose. Somewhat weak in the delivery.
Macallan Sherry Oak 18 y.o. – Complex maturity. Toffee with cinnamon and sherry. Oak is an anchor. Smoked apple skins. Spices creep to the front on the palate. Figs and cloves. Best Macallan I have tasted to date.
Macallan Fine Oak 21 y.o. – Quite peppy and fruity. Sweet caramel and vanilla. Mixed tropical fruits. Big citrus notes. Nice arrival that builds to a head of creamy orange fruit and sugars. It is the peppery woods that linger. My wife referred to it as quite wintery fresh (my words, not hers).
Macallan Fine Oak 25 y.o. – Stunningly sweet toffee notes. Mild and mature fruit. Mildly floral with a hint of pepper. Touch of peach and sugary biscuit. Hint of smoke on the palate with a bit of an apple bite in the finish. Almost bitter. Much better nose than palate. Great nose, in fact.
Macallan Fine Oak 30 y.o. – Mature and dignified. Beautifully balanced fruit and caramel. Again…dry apple finish. While good…age does not win out here though. The 18 year old is better.
Gotta be honest. I have made no small secret of my uncertainty regarding Macallan. It was never an issue of not liking the whiskies…more like being underwhelmed with what I had tried. Did this tasting alleviate that? Well…yes and no. We tried some great whiskies, the 18 in particular being quite spectacular. We also tried a couple that were beyond what most in attendance would pay for a bottle. Both tasty and rewarding.
However…I have to stand behind the conviction that Macallan’s price point is simply too high. The 12 year old is nearly $80 and the 18 year old hovers around $175.00. At the end of the day I promise you can find better malts for less. Does this make these bad whiskies? Come on…of course not. Quite the contrary. I simply expect more for less, and can’t think of another brand out there that is pricey across the range as the Macallan. I’ve said before though…value is subjective, and obviously many others out there see things in a vastly different light than I.
Back to the evening…
To close out an already great night, J. asked everyone to take home the Macallan tumblers that had been placed in front of each setting. A nice token and one which Edrington has done at both events I have attended.
This tasting was nifty for me. For the first (but hopefully not last) time my wife actually attended with me. Can’t think of anything that could have made the night better.
This will certainly not be the last event I attend put on by the Edrington group. A great tasting. Look forward to the next.