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
Thanks for that review. I have to say that Macallan is really good at marketing, but also good at disappointing. Example:
I was gifted a couple of bottles of Mac 25 so I opened one (the other one has a certain sentimental value and will never be opened by me, but hopefully by my kids who will not attach the same value to to that bottle because they will be removed from the donor… or they can sell it to pay their kids’ tuition). At 43%, chill filtered…gimme a break! I admit I didn’t really understand whisky at the time (it was 2011), but I really could not tell what all the fuss was about. I think by going to 43% it takes a potentially awesome whisky and dumbs it down.
And as to the whole issue of sherry casks…. are they really “sherry casks”? What constitutes a sherry cask. If it’s a cask that was used to mature sherry for years and is then repurposed to whisky that’s one thing. But some of the Macallan “sherry casks” are virgin oak soaked with sherry for a year or 2 then emptied and filled. I think that changes the maturation characteristics (at least as much as age…) considerably.
So, In vino veritas, but not always “in Macallan veritas”.
I have no idea how good or serious this publication is and I would have posted this under the NAS thing but as it is about Macallan…
“We taught everybody as an industry that the way to judge quality was that age statement,” Bridger says. “And I think we focused on it rather too narrowly.”
“We can tell you every single cask type that we used to create this — which cooperage it came from, what type of cask it was, whether it was first or second fill. All the information is right there.”
But we will not tell you. Sounds familiar (Jeff) ?
I think that is another piece of re-educational writing to make us swallow NAS-ty offerings easier. It is about a new The Macallan Edition No. 1 NAS offering by the way.
Oh, indeed, they did focus on age too narrowly, particularly with young whiskies; the marketing people told them so. “Age matters here, but not over there, depending on what the marketers say”, and the number of people who supposedly know whisky but won’t denounce this bullshit is the single greatest scandal in whisky today, bar none.
Then again, people who go to Men’s Journal for advice on whisky already have bigger problems.
If indeed “single malt Scotch age statements are anachronistic, an overly simplified holdover that argues that a bottle’s rank and value are determined by two digits” they are still, obviously, pretty bloody significant digits. Otherwise why would 17 YO Fine Oak cost $200 and 25 YO jump to $1250? I don’t really care how long it takes them to catch up with their 30YO stocks, because I will never be spending that kind of money for any Macallan. Just give us a decent 12 a 15 and a 17 at decent prices and I might come back to Macallan. I ain’t ever going to be paying $90 for the weakling Amber and certainly not $200 for the NAS Sienna, even though I hear it’s pretty good.
Actually, I’m wrong. The 25YO jumps up to $1840 here in Beautiful BC and the Amber is $105.79 at the till after they add in 15% tax.
Yeah, the whole ““single malt Scotch age statements are anachronistic, an overly simplified holdover that argues that a bottle’s rank and value are determined by two digits” is just a strawman argument anyway; what’s overly simplified is that anybody who knows and cares about age equates it with quality – and, ironically, it’s just about every distiller who equates it with value, as constantly shown by age/price steps.