Macallan Edition No 2

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 48.2% | Colour: Copper
Nose: 7.6 | Palate: 6.4 | Finish: 6.2 | Overall Score: 6.7

I started off writing a long-winded opinion piece on how I feel about Macallan. But I chose not to. There’s no point. They’re a whisky that was once known as the Rolls Royce of whiskies. Now it’s more like a Toyota Prius, if you ask me.

I even had a wonderful distillery tour a few months ago where we tasted some really old, precious liquid and met with amazing people and so I find myself feeling just a little guilty about running them down.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to love this whisky. I am in love with the older stock. Anything bottled in the early 2000s was just stellar. But try getting your hands on that now. There aren’t enough gold doubloons in this world.

And the newer NAS stuff is just so predictable. It’s almost like I can see into the future when I open up a new release from them, especially Travel Retail, which is where I found this.

So here I am. Nosing this nicely packaged Macallan which has cool story behind it. Three Spanish chefs, the Roca Brothers, and Bob Dalgarno got together and created this whisky. I don’t know what role the brothers had in it but thats what the literature says.

Then there’s the casks. So many casks. Tevasa European Oak, Diego Martin European & American Oak, Jose Miguel Martin European Oak and Vasyma Oak. I’ll be honest this is the first time I’m hearing these names. I’m not a big fan of using so many casks to make one whisky. But I’m not Bob, so what do I know.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 48.2%

Nose: Blood oranges. Warm sherry. Vanilla. Bob does know how to create a nose, I’ll give him that. Red apples. Clove. Hint of oak. Gets drier over time. Dry fruits. Forest potpourri. Toffee. Cinnamon. Dry figs. A hint of cherries. This is a pretty damn good nose. What I would like to smell in a sherry-influenced whisky. 7.6

Palate: This is where my troubles start. Solid nose, so-so palate. WHY? Even though it has a nice texture it doesn’t work for me. Something acrid here. Oranges. Oak. Cinnamon. There’s something bitter. Red apples. Nutmeg. It’s not horrendous but I wish it was spectacular. 6.4

Finish: Black tea. Cinnamon. 6.2

Overall Comments: So there you have it. Like so many Macallans of late it makes some strong promises but fails to deliver.

Overall Score: 6.7


Macallan 12 Double Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 40% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 7.5 | Palate: 7.4 | Finish: 7.3 | Overall Score: 7.4

First up, apologies for the radio silence (for the two people who may have noticed). A lot’s been happening since I got back from Islay last month. Mainly I’m running a 16km obstacle race in December and, thus, have no time to indulge in alcoholic activities. Most of my time has been spent running around my neighbourhood or lifting heavy objects in the gym.

But enough about my fitness regimen. Let’s talk whisky.

Mention Macallan to my group of whisky friends and it causes a minor uproar. Raised voices, gnashing of teeth and foaming at the mouth are just some of the things that happen. And for good reason, mind you.

The last five years have not been kind to the brand thanks to some, in my opinion, heavily flawed product development strategies. Absurdly positioned expressions coupled with NAS on top of silly prices really upset the loyalists. This whole thing with colors (Sienna, Ruby, Gold, etc) was a disaster. After years of preaching that color meant nothing they went out and played right into the hands of the stereotype. Dark whisky is better whisky. Terrible.

Select Oak and Whisky Maker were totally lacklustre. Travel retail meant for the casual drinker with no idea of taste.

This was followed by the Rare Cask release. This is the one that really irked most of my friends.Rare Cask? Shut up already, they said. Pure marketing spin with good PR and a snazzy launch should not detract from the fact that it’s an average whisky begging for much of your hard earned money. I tend to agree.

And so I was without expectation when I poured out a stiff measure of their newest release.

A vatting of European & American sherry oak it’s aimed to sit right in between the Sherry Oak (one type of cask) and Fine Oak range (which used bourbon, European & American sherry). So two casks instead of one or three. This just might be interesting.

I did note there was an age statement on it. Twelve years it said. Not bad, I thought. At least it’s not a bloody NAS.

What’s that? It’s only 50GBP? How the hell did that happen? Why am I not being milked? Surely it must be absolutely terrible and Macallan have realised that. There can’t be any other explanation for that.

And at 40% I was expecting the worst.

Nose: Hmmmmmm. It’s not bad. Quite delicate if you ask me. Light sherry. I like the softness which I think is coming from the American Oak. Honey. Lots of it. But very light. But lots of it. Raisins soaked in the same honey. Sweet lemons. Like a limoncello. Hint of oak. Vanilla. Now some tropical fruits. Mangoes. Touch of while melon. There’s not a whole lot to complain about. So I won’t. 7.5

Palate: Very light bodied. Again extremely sweet. Thanks mainly to the honey. Clove. Lots of it. More than usual. Definitely the European Sherry casks. Oaky. Very juicy now. Granulated white sugar. Late arrival of tropical fruits. Mangoes. Papaya. Touch of melon. And, of course, vanilla. It’s not magnificent but I’m not gagging either. 7.4

Finish: Medium. But then grows in stature. Sweet. Vanilla. Drying. Fruits. 7.3

Overall Comments: Let’s start with the good. Age statement. Good. Price point. Good. Overall experience; satisfactory. This is as adequate a whisky as you can find. It does not demand much from you. And so it expects that you don’t demand much from it either. It’s not the huge disappointment that I was expecting. But then I have seen Macallan scale some mind-boggling heights and this is no where near that. If I was on holiday and I had a bottle of this I would drink it first thing in the morning. And then go find something to challenge my palate.

Overall Score: 7.4

Macallan Rare Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Colour: Old Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

OK so let’s give credit where credit is due. When Macallan do something they do it in style. Have to give them props for that. And they seemed to have pulled out all the stops for the launch of their newest NAS, the Rare Cask.

Set on the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab Hotel, in Dubai, is the newly opened bar Gold On 27, which I’m sure you’ve figured out by the name, is pretty lavishly done up in gold. This was to serve as the venue for this rather glitzy affair headlined by the Edrington Group Creative Director Mr Ken Grier.

I managed to sneak five minutes with him during the course of the evening and found Ken to be an instantly likeable chap. And looking at how Macallan is being perceived today in the world I’m confident he’s doing a stellar job.

Which now brings me to, what I consider, a serious problem in the world of whisky today. Stellar marketing to push average products to wide-eyed consumers. Now I’m in marketing as well and have, at times, been guilty of doing the same.

It is, after all, the look that sells. I get it.

But whisky evokes certain emotions that few other products do. It’s constantly being judged across an enormous gamut of subjectiveness. And each opinion is a sum of so many influences.

Which brings me to the moral dilemma I’ve started to face of late. Is something so subjective really bad (or good) just because I like it (or hate it)? I honestly don’t have the answer to that.

Take Dalmore for example. I think Richard Paterson is one of the best marketers of his era. Taking, what I feel is, a mediocre product at best and doing a fantastic job positioning it as an ultra-premium brand. I may not like that whisky but I have seasoned whisky buddies who swear by it. Are they wrong? Am I? Again, I don’t know.

So I feel that this Rare Cask is treading that ever shrinking line between being genuinely good and being wonderfully marketed. Do I think the whisky is good? Sure, it’s not bad. It’s not the magical elixir made from the tears of a thousand angels, mind you, but it’s certainly drinkable.

Is it over-compensating by being packaged in a lovely bottle and experienced at the world’s most prestigious venue? I certainly think so. Is Bob Dalgarno, their esteemed Whisky Maker, under constant pressure to churn out premium expression after expression despite depleting stocks of well aged whiskies just to satisfy both the Marketing and Finance department? You bet he is.

Made from a selection of casks which the official literature liberally describes as being rare, exquisite, never before, never again or exclusive (among other buzz words) and employing a mix of European & American first-fill sherry barrels (not all, mind you) my sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Honey. Vanilla. Grated ginger. Nutmeg. Strong Oloroso sherry. Almonds. Touch of oak. Hint of citrus. Cloves. Red grapes. Green apples. A fair amount of spiciness. There is some masala – the nice kind. Dark chocolate. I like the nose. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t blow me away but that’s fine. I don’t think it was meant to. 22/25

Palate: Medium bodied. A little oily. Plums. Raisins. Those Christmas spices again. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Clove. Chocolate. Dark oranges. Christmas cake or fudge. Almonds. Toasted tobacco. It’s not as good as the nose. I would have preferred a more full bodied approach. 21/25

Finish: Medium. Quite oily. Cinnamon. Bitter chocolate. Could I have done with a bit more? Sure. 21/25

Overall Comments: I was sat with Ken Grier when tasting this so I might be a little biased by his good natured attention towards me as we shared this dram. Forgive me, I’m human after all. Otherwise the tasting camp was divided down the middle. Haters and lovers. Unsurprisingly the haters were part of my whisky club. The lovers people I had just met who were out enjoying an evening of decadent whisky tasting. Which sort of amplifies my point of how insanely subjective this matter is. I think the world would be a better place if the snobs chilled out a bit and the casual drinkers gave their whiskies a little more attention instead.

PS I would also like to ride a pink unicorn that pees only The Macallan 1946.

Rating: 85

Macallan Whisky Makers Edition

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Distillery/Brand: The Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 42.8% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

I drank this whisky for the first time with Mr Bob Dalgarno, Macallans’ famed whisky maker, when my whisky club hosted him not too long ago. He was a wonderful and pleasant guest and the whiskies weren’t too bad either.

The one thing that stuck with me as I interviewed him for my YouTube channel was essentially how hard his job is. To match color, taste and maintain consistency in all his whiskies without any caramel is quite an astounding feat.

Add to the fact that he started his career at Macallan as a warehouseman and then worked his way through every stage of whisky making – mashman, brewer, stillman, warehouse supervisor, operations manager – to finally join the panel which selects casks for bottling in 1994 you can be sure he has my respect.

Known as the Whisky Maker he set about creating this one-off NAS expression exclusively for travel retail. When asked about the curious 42.8% alcohol strength he told me that prior to January 1980 the standard bottling strength used to be 75 Imperial Proof before it was dropped to the current 40%. This is a homage to that era.

Using a combination of European sherry-oak balanced by American sherry & ex-bourbon this whisky has a number of ages in it but apparently none younger than 12. I will take his word on that. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 42.8%

Nose: Quite crisp. The sherry is quite sharp. Hops. A touch malty. Bitter chocolate. Milk chocolate. Hazelnut. Praline. Lots of oak. Gets earthy after a while. Jute bag. Barley. Then fruity. Orange peel. Red apple. Red grapes. Then spicy. Ginger. It’s not a bad nose. It started off nice and crisp but the slight maltiness threw me off a little. This could have been perfect. But it’s not. 22/25

Palate: When I first had a sip of this at our tasting I was floored. It tasted absolutely amazing. However, I’m now convinced that the mood and the setting had a huge part to play in that. Quite thin. Lots of oak. Cinnamon. Peppercorns. Almonds. Hazelnut. Bitter marmalade. Clove. Feels a little raw for some reason. It shouldn’t. But it does. 21/15

Finish: Long. Coffee. And that oak again. 22/25

Overall Comments: I’ll be honest. I liked it a lot better when it was Bob and myself sharing a drink. Not so much right now. Though, I must be honest. My friend and I pretty much killed this bottle while watching a horror movie at his house. Not sure if I liked the whisky too much or if I was just using it to take the edge off.

Probably the latter.

Rating: 86

Macallan 18 Year Old Fine Oak

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Macallans’ reclusive Mr Bob Dalgarno and came away immensely impressed with his humility and his considerable skill as a whisky maker.

The Fine Oak series is his baby and I recall him telling me that after the Sherry Oak all eyes were on him to come up with a new type of expression. His idea was something that would drastically change the way Macallan matured it’s spirit. Traditionally using only sherry casks the Fine Oak range uses ex-Bourbon, ex-European Sherry and ex-American Sherry casks.

The experiment paid off and catapulted both Bob and Macallan into whisky royalty. Now only third behind Glenfiddich in global single malt sales Macallan deservedly enjoys its place as the malt to be seen with.

Using only 16% of the spirit cut for maturation I guess one could begin to understand the price tag this whisky demands. Unlike other ‘premium’ status symbol whiskies (like Blue Label) which the connoisseur will avoid Macallan manages to walk the fine line between consistent quality and packaged prestige.

Before I share my notes let me tell you this 18 year old is quite possibly the smoothest delivery you will ever experience in your life.

Nose: Dark jam. Marmalade. Cinnamon. Dry fruits. Almonds. Malt. Crisp grass. Melted butter. Vanilla. Honeycomb. And the richest of sherries. Quite a lovely nose.

Palate: As I let the spirit cascade into my mouth my eyes actually widened at the unexpectedly smooth texture. On the sweeter side the flavors are perfectly balanced. Light honey. Marmalade. Very mild peppers. Oranges. Vanilla. Figs. Prunes. And that luxurious sherry yet again. Brilliant.

Finish: Medium. Touch of oaky fruitcake.

Bob is a gifted individual and a passionate one at that. And this 18 year old is testament to that.

Rating: 93

Macallan Select Oak

Macllan SelectOak

Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 40% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 21 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 81

I have had the pleasure of meeting Bob Dalgarno, the man responsible for crafting these Macallan whiskies and I have to tell you he knows his stuff.

The painstaking procedure he goes to ensure consistency of color, flavor and taste is mind boggling. Macallan whiskies have no added color which makes it even more impressive. But what I like most about Bob is that he’s an honest guy and calls a spade a spade.

Which makes me want to believe even he realizes that this is not one of his finest creations.

The spirit has been matured in three different casks – Spanish Sherry, American Oak that held sherry and ex-Bourbon. That is a lot of work for an entry level single malt but, unfortunately, it doesn’t translate into greatness.

Nose: Very vanilla sweet. Sherry raisins on oaky cinnamon and clove peppers. Lots of warm toffee and raisin butterscotch. Hints of chocolate and black salted apples. It’s not a bad nose mind you.

Palate: Tragically weak. Simply fails to excite. The chocolate and dark honey are shadows as are the cinnamon and pepper spices.

Finish: What finish?

Now let me tell you something. I am notoriously against food pairings because it doesn’t let me enjoy my whisky properly but with this one I am willing to make an exception. If you want this whisky to taste brilliant pair it with a tiramisu cake. It will knock your socks off.

To get your socks back on go back to drinking it neat.

Rating: 81

The Naked Grouse


Distillery/Brand: Famous Grouse
Region: Scotland
ABV: 40%
Color: Deep Gold

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 23

This little beauty was slipped in as a mystery malt at a single malt tasting recently and everyone was asked to identify it. My guess was The Macallan which made me only half right!

This is a lovely no-nonsense blend from Famous Grouse using arguably two of the most famous malts in the world – The Macallan & Highland Park. It is so no-nonsense that it doesn’t even have a label choosing, instead, to go ‘naked’ as the name suggests.

Nose: With malts matured in first-fill sherry casks the nose has a really rich and deep sherry influence. Lots of gooey rum topf and fruit cake with a raisin sprinkle followed by dark oranges, prunes and oaky almonds. A Christmas delight!

Palate: Not as delicious as the nose but quite tasty still. Cinnamon sticks on dark fruits and oaky oranges drizzled with a spicy chocolate syrup. I think it could have done with another 6% to really jar the taste buds into ecstacy.

Finish: Quite decent. Not very long but long enough, I suppose. The same dark oranges and spicy cinnamon.

This is a seriously good blend. Not only is it delicious it is an impossibly good deal in todays’ day and age.

Get a case of this (won’t cost you much) and enjoy it for a long long time.

Rating: 90

Macallan Oscuro


Distillery/Brand: Macallan
ABV: 46.5%
Colour: Old Sauternes
Region: Speyside

Nose: 24
Taste: 23
Finish: 22
Balance: 23

The Macallan Oscuro is the premium expression in the new NAS Travel Retail exclusive clocking in at around $1000 a bottle. Stiff price to pay I feel but it does have sprits that are well over 25 years old. So maybe?

The heavily sherried nose is big, bold and full of oak with a touch of leather. This is followed by a healthy smear of marmalade on a piece of burnt toast with a side of chocolate and over-ripe bananas. One could easily get carried away with this nose. It’s quite beautiful.

The delivery is equally bold with the sherry and oak once again in the fore. To give them company are lively black peppercorns strewn on a steaming chocolate fudge cake. A big slice for me please!

The finish is medium-long and carries the flavors through with the woody black peppercorns still bouncing around in your mouth.

I feel the strength of this whisky is how true it stays through out it’s journey. It’s weakness is its’ unusually high price tag. But, hey, what do I know about marketing?

Rating: 92

Macallan Fine Oak 15


Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Pale Gold

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

I’ve been on a recent quest of collecting Macallans ever since I met (and interviewed) their highly likable whisky maker Bob Dalgarno. And the real reason I truly appreciate the Fine Oak series is because I know first-hand what goes into creating these exceptional whiskies.

The Macallan nose is what Speyside is built on and this 15 year old stays true to that. First a bowl of white melon and vanilla pods drizzled with a lovely golden syrup. Then a delicate garnish of lavender petals with a touch of clove. Finally a sprinkle of soft chopped nuts.

The palate continues it’s journey of sweet honey but this time with a touch of lemon, barley and cloves. However, the white pepper is a smidge too strong for my liking.

The finish is strong and dry with a nice clove after taste.

Rating: 89

The Macallan 12 Fine Oak


Distillery/Brand: Macallan
Region: Highland
ABV: 40%
Colour: Pale Straw

Nose: 23
Taste: 24
Finish: 22
Balance: 23

This is what every Highland single malt should taste like. Delicate and sensitive as well as bold and courageous.

Incidentally this is one of the first single malts I had ever bought and I think it was the reason I fell in love. Familiar aromas of honey, vanilla and hints of coconut remind me of why I got into malting in the first place. Robust barley lightly dusted with brown sugar and then rubbed on bright green pears makes this nose possibly one of my all time favorites to come out of the Highlands.

The velvet delivery is almost perfect as it starts off honeyed followed by black pepper and cinnamon. Swish it around your mouth and you can discern the deftest of dark chocolate and a drop of citrus.

The medium to long finish is dry and quite oaky – I think that’s where the Fine Oak comes into it’s own – with a touch of nuts and an eyebrow raising stick of clove.

I have to admit; this malt makes me happy.

Rating: 92