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
I’m surprised you were coy about weighing in on the question of price, particularly when, quite accurately, you identified it as an issue. As you pointed out, a number of distilleries manage to produce sherried whisky without all the hoopla about premium tradition, and matching price tags, put on by Macallan. It’s particularly paradoxical that Macallan is still among those charging the most for its 18 when it is taking major portions of its range NAS on the basis of the sudden realization that it’s colour, not age, which matters. Macallan 18, by reputation and price, is hardly any less about prestige than is Johnnie Walker Blue. It’s not bias to call a spade a spade.
Personally, I’ve only tried the Sherry Oak 12, the Fine Oak 10 and the Cask Strength, and would recommend them in that order, from worst to best. All are solid whiskies, but only the last is a standout.
It’s taste and smell, not colour, that matter. Colour can easily be manufactured. Ralfy did it on youtube a couple of years ago.
True enough, David, although I’m not sure that Macallan has ever admitted to using E150 caramel. My comment was based on Macallan’s press release, as relayed in Whisky Advocate:
“The Macallan 1824 Series is built on the principle of natural colour, one of our Six Pillars. We believe this approach is both innovative and forward looking in the Scotch whisky industry. This new range has been driven by colour first and foremost with the character derived from the colour. The idea was to look at a broad range of casks which delivered a specific colour, then work with the character these casks delivered. This range moves us aware (I think this should be “away”) from bourbon cask maturation as it is 100% sherry cask matured, but we continue to use both European and American oak.”
An innovative approach to be sure, and they’re obviously using colour as an indicator of other qualities. I’m just not sure how or why Macallan gets to reinvent the chemistry and physics of age-based oak cask maturation. It also makes me wonder, if I bought a bottle of the 18 and one of the 12 and a sample of the former was no darker than one of the latter, would I be entitled to a refund on the price difference?
If color really mattered, then Macallan CS would be the best. Right now outside enjoying CS (with lots of water!). I finally realized I really like this much more with lots of water, which cuts the bite and allows one to really find the sherry. I’ll follow with Corryvrecken with a little less water. Makes for a heavenly combo. The sherry in the Corry really comes out this way and is delightful! Good comments Jeff.
Thanks, Robert. To be fair to Macallan, I think the CS really does deliver at price point and it would be a shame if it were one of the casualties of the new 1824 realignment (but I have read that somewhere). But companies are getting stingier with quality aged malt products. The JW Green, a 15 vat, has disappeared to make room for the far more expensive Platinum blend and NAS bottles are cropping up faster than they can be reviewed. Beyond the spin and testaments to “commitment to quality”, how does the customer know what they’re paying for? And how do they know, once these sub-brands are established, that the contents of the next bottle will be as good, let alone as old, as the last one? The abolition of minimum standards, such as age, will result in a reduction of overall quality and value.
Well presented. I share those concerned. I guess all the consumer ca do is adopt a “try before you buy” approach where possible, and if you find a bottle you like, get a couple of spares for the future.
On the positive side of NAS, I really like/love several NAS whiskies, such as Corryvrecken, Uigeadail, Macallan CS, Ardmore TC, Jura Prophecy, Laphroaig QC (?). Companies could screw those up in time with less quality content, but they could also lessen the quality of aged whiskies by using poor casks, lesser barley, etc. As Ralfy would say, quality drops as demand rises, so everyone else needs to stop drinking Scotch whisky (except myself!). Don’t stress too much over this, Jeff. Just pour another dram, and enjoy the moment!
Jeff…David…Robert…good dialogue, gents. Appreciate you hanging around and adding some insight. The nature of a blog allows the owner to kinda preach, but that’s not what whisky is about. It’s about sharing…drams AND insights.
Cheers. Thanks for always contributing.