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