What is the obsession with Macallan? I am of Chinese heritage, and I remember as a child that every time I had to do the dreaded thirteen-hour trip back to the motherland (Hong Kong), we had to bring a bottle of the fine stuff. It always had to be Macallan. It didn’t matter what age, just a Macallan. Apparently the brand spoke volumes! It showed status and wealth to have a few bottles on display, and since we were coming from the home of Scotch, it was the perfect gift for my “greedy” relatives! Well, that or a bottle of Remy Martin XO Cognac…
Personally, to date, I have only tried four from the distillery… The first was a Macallan Sienna that I can’t quite remember, and the other three I will be reviewing here today. One of the reasons why I have not had many is simply because of the price. Sure, I can pick up the “cheaper” ones but things that I have heard and read put me off. I’ve heard so often that “it’s not what it used to be” or “better off splashing out to get the more expensive ones”.
Does that mean the more affordable ones aren’t all that good, and if so, why should I even bother? In addition, it makes one wonder, how can the basic wage folks out there (i.e. me) afford to even try these “more expensive” Macallans? Cough up the necessary moolah I suppose… or perhaps know the right generous folk?! Don’t get me wrong, I could buy one of these ‘premium’ Macallans; after all, I’ve splashed out from time to time on more expensive bottles (usually indie single casks). Just as there are Springbank fanboys, there is an even larger Macallan Mob who will tell me that of course it’s worth it! There must be a huge following for a reason, right? Which takes me to my review, or reviews, I should say. I decided to cover the other three Macallan that I have tasted most recently, as they were really interesting, at least partly due to the expectations of the brand. Will they all live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
Macallan 26-Year-Old Private Cask – review
On the nose: sweet with hints of sherried chocolate drops. Harsher notes of cinnamon powder and orange peel are present. Sourness from cherries and raisins are there after their initial sweet hit. Vanilla notes with sticky toffee pudding come through with creamy caramel. Dundee cake, dense with dark fruit and moist plump medjool dates, play on the senses.
In the mouth: sweetness from the nose comes out in the form of the darker fruits mentioned in the notes above. It is peppery and spicy, but almost too much, as it is really fiercely hot. Salted caramel is there, but the tannins and woodiness cancel that out. It has a really drying chilli burn that is present all around the palate. The finish is surprisingly short with a bitter numbness that lingers into a peppery burn at the back of the throat.
This was kindly donated by the lovely Jess from scotchwhiskyauction.com for a charity blind tasting event I was attending. It was from someone’s own private cask, and the ABV and price are unknown. My initial thought was that it was a cask strength Glenrothes. Since it is from the same stable, I was not too far off with my guess. I believe that given more time to oxidise, and maybe with a splash of water, the fieriness would not have been so present. For me, there was more to dislike than to like with this whisky, hence the slightly below-average score.
Macallan 10-Year-Old Sherry Oak – review
Colour: brown russet apple
On the nose: sweet with toffee and caramel. It is chalky with a vanilla punch reminding me of soft Edinburgh rock crumbling into a sweet powder. There are hints of orange, almost like a light marmalade. Lightly lactic and sour like a strawberry yoghurt. Mixed fruit crumble Is also present, as I get oats, raisins and sultanas. There is a chocolate maltiness to it too that is not too dissimilar to a mug of Ovaltine or Horlicks. Christmas cake comes to mind, and fudgy dates with hints of very ripe strawberries. If you take a deep sniff, it is clean and crisp on the nose, as if it has had a good clear out.
In the mouth: thin, yet waxy and oily. Begins to instantly dry out. It is not too sweet with hints of rubber. As with the last whisky, this is full of hot chilli spice on the tongue and white pepper. If you hold the liquid in your mouth for a while it starts to get a lot sweeter, and slightly bitter. The tannins numbs the tongue with flavours of chewing bitter orange peels. Latex comes in and out every so often with the sweetness akin to juicy raisins and sultanas. The finish is a sensation of eating raw chillies that creates a warming burn on the back of the throat. It is medium-lasting with a drying fruity aftertaste, almost like drinking a hoppy beer.
Thanks to my good friend Fred for gifting a sample so I could do this review. I had seen this bottle before, belonging to another friend; unfortunately, that one would not be opened and will probably be destined for the auction houses of the future. To me, it was average: it wasn’t awesome, but I could happily sip it once in a while. However, after taking into consideration the probable price today, I don’t think I could justify spending that much. Sure, if you love a Macallan and you have the dosh, splash out—but good gravy, don’t squirrel it away; drink it!
Old Perth 1994 23 Year Old – review
This is available from the Whisky Exchange for £150.
Colour: black tea
On the nose: instantly I get lots of sweetness from the likes of toffee, caramel, fudge and vanilla. Milk chocolate is there, with a spicy cinnamon kick. I get the usual Christmas cake flavours with its orange peel, sultanas and raisins. There is a nuttiness there that is not unlike marzipan. Dense Dundee cake is also present and I get a lot of sticky medjool dates. Paint fumes not dissimilar to travel sweeties (all the esters!) with honey and other citrus peels and their oils.
In the mouth: it is sweet with a gooey chocolatey fudge sensation giving it an oily and chewy mouthfeel. With that, there are flavours of sticky toffee pudding. It is somewhat spicy, but not as much as the previous two whiskies. Creamy caramel and vanilla are also there and give way to a more waxy and silky feel. There are hints of salt that gently cuts through that thick oozy booziness. Slightly tannic with lots of chrysanthemum tea and other such herbal teas. The finish is long and spicy with a sprinkling of white pepper. The end is quite silky and smooth with a peppery burning linger on the tongue. The herbal tea flavours I get from the mouth drop off giving it a tannic and slightly bitter feeling.
OK, so I cheated a bit with this last one. Those in the know, however, will be aware that many of these Old Perth bottlings are blended malts of mostly Macallan. This particular one is no different comprising of (in descending order) Macallan, Bunnahabhain, Highland Park, Glenrothes and Tamdhu. I felt that this whisky was well-balanced and not insanely spicy like the Private Cask and the 10 Year Old. This is obviously not an old single malt Macallan, but in my own little world I hope it is close to what they used to be like in the glory days of which I’ve been told. Phil reviewed an Old Perth 22 Year Old (£73) recently, followed by TV and her review of an Old Perth 14 Year Old (£130). At date of writing this, the 23 Year Old can be bought for £150 and whether or not that is value for money is up to you. I had originally given this a score of 8, but when you look at the history of the prices, I had to deduct a point. Is this another case of increasing of prices so that flippers can’t immediately flog them for a profit at auction? It seemed a bit of a ridiculous price hike to me. If I could pick this up at closer to what Phil paid for a similar offering a year or so ago, I’d buy two, because I really enjoyed this effort from Morrison & Mackay.
As for the brand in question, I am still unsure about Macallan, but this is partly due to the fact I’ve technically only tried three, plus one imposter. I will definitely be trying more in the future, but so far, I find them to be quite average. I much preferred the Old Perth blend as it was mellower; my senses weren’t overwhelmed by its fiery side. However, I promise to revisit Macallan soon, as I have heard that recently some of their more “affordable” whiskies have been a lot more promising.
Lead image kindly provided by the Whisky Exchange and there is a commision link in this article which helps cover our staff canteen bill.