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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
– Words & Tasting Notes: Curt
– Photos: Curt
“A few years back … the good folk at Macallan began sourcing ex-bourbon barrels from the US.”
That’s what their marketing at the time suggested but not completely true. Yes, they began to market the Fine Oak range around 2004, but in order to have a 30yo expression they must have been sourcing those ex-bourbon barrels for much longer than “a few years back”. 😉
Truth is they’ve had ex-bourbon barrels (some?/many?/most? “seasoned” with sherry) in their warehouses all the while they were singing the praises of ex-sherry (European oak) casks. All of that time the ex-bourbon barrels were used in blends while the ex-sherry casks were used for the single malt releases. All they did in 2004 was to start bottling the ex-bourbons as single malts.
Yes, you are of course, correct. I used the term ‘a few years back’ loosely and only mentioned 2004 as launch date for series. Absolutely correct in that their acquisitions would have begun much sooner.
The latter comment you added though was quite poignant. I hadn’t rightly considered that was the case, but it makes perfect sense, seeing as much of the distillery’s output (surprisingly) still supports several blends. It’s simply logical and cost-effective.
BTW…corrected afore-mentioned ill-wording. 😉
Oooh, Macallan newmake. Would sure love to try that.