Macallan Cask Strength

With student loans being a hot topic, I’m sure some American readers will have heard of the phrase: College has gotten more expensive but it hasn’t gotten any better. Well, I say whiskey is like college. It’s getting more expensive, but it’s not getting any better.

I feel like Macallan is the right brand to associate with this idea. There was a time when being a college graduate meant success. There was also a time when going to college was not so expensive. Student debt could be paid off rather quickly. You’d get a job, work off your debts and you’d live a good life. Life was so much easier. What happened to college? Is this a case “if isn’t broken it doesn’t need fixing” went wrong? Have too many people graduated from college? Are the incentives not enough to attract the best candidate for professors?

It’s become scarily apparent that being a college graduate these days does not guarantee success. You may graduate with debt that takes years to pay. You may involuntarily end up working in an industry you don’t like and has no relation to your degree. Does a degree still bring the same value to the table as it did before? Has the availability of alternate paths to success lead to the fallen perception of college? Or did the fall of college’s quality lead to alternate paths? Are too many people also just going to college today?

At the beginning of my whisky journey, some veteran whisky collectors served as semi-whisky mentors online. Like going to college. They told me that there was a time when Macallan was more affordable and was good enough to die for. I’m sad I missed out on that era.

Like the assurance of good jobs we were promised, the top of the line quality sherry casks are gone. With those, go the ex-sherry cask only matured Macallan. I remember those times when Macallan 12 sherry locally available at $40. Now, the Macallan 12 year sherry oak can’t be found. If you do find one, it’s about $70 to $80? What can you easily find now? Double Cask? Triple Oak? What happened to their obsession with quality sherry casks? Did “obsession with quality” turn into an obsession with profit?

Where did all these ex-bourbon matured and double matured releases come from? It slowly became apparent to me that buying Macallan these days does not mean you get good quality whisky. Just like graduating with a degree means doesn’t mean you will get a good job. Its legendary prestige is still there like the reverence a college degree brings. But does it have the same value as from back then? I leave it up to you.

Drinking Macallan used to show you were a step above the run of the mill blended Scotch drinkers. Just like you were told you could go to more places than the normal high school graduate. It used to mean you were sophisticated and was higher up in society. The first time I had heard of Macallan was in my teens when uncles talked about how this was the choice of the corrupt and higher up corrupt government officials.

Those are no longer the case. Is the boom of the spirits industry to blame? Did people just get smarter and become aware? Did some fans not like the shift in direction of Macallan? Are other sherry bombs like Glendronach to blame? Do I hear malternatives? World whisky? You may ask yourself, “Should I have gone for the suggestions of some whisky geeks?”

We are still being told, if you go to college you’ll increase your chances of having a good life. We are still being advised, if you buy Macallan, you’re buying premium. Premium what? Whisky or packaging? Ask yourself, is paying the higher price always the better option?

I was only able to catch a good glimpse of Macallan’s age of quality when I tried and bought this beauty of 60.1% abv Macallan Cask Strength NAS back in 2014. I was told, I bought it at just the right for the price at $100 back then. I think it was discontinued sometime 2013. I’m told by Macallan loving friends that this is going for around $600 or more now in the grey market. According to veteran collectors, the discontinuing of this was the sign that Macallan sold out, or would sell out. It was a sign for the long time Macallan fans that they indirectly being told to bend over or step aside. It was their time to milk the newbies, who were amazed at the reputation of The Macallan. Those veteran collectors were right. Macallan eventually rolled out the NAS series after NAS series.

Macallan Cask Strength – review

Color: Ruby

On the nose: Big notes of red scents each waiting to slam straights in your face with pink peppercorn, sultanas, cherry jam, oranges followed by jabs of dark chocolate, coffee and Napa Bordeaux wine.

In the mouth: Heavy flavors of red cherries and dark chocolate, melted by scorching flavors of sulfur. Hints of port, grape skin, cherry jam and cappuccino.


There weren’t any surprises here. Whatever you get on the nose is what you get in the mouth. A very straightforward sherry bomb similar to Aberlour Abunadh and Glendronach CS.

This is as good as I remembered it to be. Any sherry bomb lovers who try this will feel the same, but will wonder why Macallan discontinued this wonderful release. I can imagine myself going crazy buying a case or 2 of this 5 years ago. Such was my ignorance back then. I’m glad I moved on from sherry bombs and Macallan. They just don’t do anything for my palate anymore. Had less exposed me given this a review this 4 years ago this would have been a 8/10.

Score: 5/10

CategoriesSingle Malt

John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

  1. I was fortunate enough to have my whisky epiphany in 1994 and enjoyed the benefits of the 80s whisky loch for many years. With far less hype than today, the iconic Macallan 10 was clearly a cut above most other stuff around, when 40% abv wasn’t considered inferior. It sold for £20 and 18yr olds abounded for twice that. Notions of cask strength whisky in a period of new recovery for the industry were limited to a few brands at this time as there wasn’t the same demand as today’s clamour. The early cask strength Macallan I tried a few years later reflected this, inasmuch as it was a far less refined beast (rough, I found, when compared to a cask strength Bowmore – I was expecting the opposite), clearly put out there almost experimentally, with little care by the distillers. That said, you could respect it in a warts and all sense – it was just so jarring, in a way that modern 10 or 12 year olds and their respective cask strength siblings are not, that it felt like it may have come from a different distillery altogether. Early days indeed. Your score is pretty accurate for it even in the good old days. Macallan is a different animal these days, but we all change with time. As you point out – Glendronach and others are carrying the banner in that old school Macallan direction and they are doing a very fine job, so it’s not like we’re missing out. Kudos Billy Walker for “discovering” it. Slanjeevaurus

    1. John says:

      Hi Mick,
      Thanks for the comment. Dear lord, whisky from the 80s! Most of the whisky bottled in the 80s and early 90s were memorable. I wish I could have started out that early but I was still very young back then. From what my uncles tell me, the “best” stuff the Philippines had back then was Johnnie Walker.

      I think Glendronach is also past its golden days. The last days of Billy Walker were signs of it imo. Prices were starting to get ridiculous. I really started avoiding Dronach after B. Foreman bought it out.


      1. Good thing about being well over the average age of your readership means I was about and buying the early batch release Glendronachs – (bad news is I’ve got fewer whisky years left – not so smug, now, eh?). I can’t see the new regime paying all that money just to become another Macallan. There will no doubt be great stuff in the future – just depends on whether we can have it for reasonable money. On the plus side, the 15 is back (different but still good) and the cask strength has an age statement! Oh, and there are loads of distilleries out there – chances are a few will have some brilliant stuff. Our task is to find it. Slanjeevaurus.

        1. John says:

          Fewer whisky years left… nothing modern medicine can fix?

          I agree. I doubt Glendronach will be ahead of Macallan in pretentiousness and fame in the near future. But now that theyre under Brown Foreman, I think they will head that direction.

          I’ve mostly given up on whisky. Much of my attention these days are on rum and mezcal

      2. Gary says:

        Hello John
        For those of missed out on tasting the Macallen cask from the pre-2013 years, what today would be it closest replacement that would provide us with the most similar ruby color and taste that would not cost us the farm?

  2. Elliott says:

    I did buy a couple cases of Macallan CS NAS, and used to give them out as gifts when I went to houseparties in NY, or for Christmas or whatever.

    I don’t regret it (OK maybe a little), but at $52/btl at the time, it was an excellent whisky and a nice present 🙂

    I just bought a Macallan Classic Cut (the second one) and it’s just not good. I don’t know what happened to them.

    1. John says:

      Giving out Mac CS NAS at house parties? You were ballin’!

      It’s still a good whisky but my palate has just graduated from one dimensional sherry bombs.

      Classic Cut… a classic story of a sell out company cutting the quality.

  3. Welsh Toro says:

    I used to work for a high end hi-fi retailer in the late 80’s and I was introduced to single malt by my manager. (He also introduced me to real ale and fishing.) One of the perks was presents from sales reps and they would give us vintage port and whisky – mostly Macallan 10. This is Macallan aged in paxarette barrels and a ton of flavour. It used to get quaffed down fast with very little appreciation apart from a smug sense of knowing it was good. My first bought bottle, entirely at random because I liked the look of the bottle, was a G&M Port Ellen no less. I was all set to become a connoisseur at a very young age in a classic low cost era. However, my life curve-balled and I entered higher education as a young mature student. One bottle at a time, usually Port Ellen (until the price started to creep up) Back then it was far more difficult to have access to the staggering choice we enjoy today unless you lived in Scotland. Collectors would have to establish a close relationship with a wine and spirits retailer or have driving holidays in Scotland.

    Anyway, I’m in agreement regarding the state of Macallan. There’s nothing special about them anymore apart from the fact they offer very poor value for money. It’s the same for everything coming from Edrington Group. I refuse to pay large sums of money for mediocrity or even good stuff. I’ve been drinking long enough to have an idea in my mind whether a drink is worth it. No Macallan is worth it anymore.

    1. John says:

      Hi WT, safe to say you are spoiled on Port Ellens? That’s one hell of a 1st single malt. Mine was a Glenmo 10. How different is paxarette aged whisky from sherry?
      Manila doesn’t have any good brick and mortar stores, for my standards at least. So I don’t know what’s that like. hehe

      Agreed. Macallan is not worth it anymore.

      1. Gary says:

        Hello John
        For those of missed out on tasting the Macallen cask from the pre-2013 years, what today would be it closest replacement that would provide us with the most similar ruby color and taste that would not cost us the farm?

        1. John says:

          Hi Gary,
          I’m not the right person to ask as I’ve “given up” on Macallan. I know no longer buy any of their new releases. I have friends who let me try their new releases such as CONcept and I think they’re not worth the price.

  4. Greg B. says:

    Wow, $600 each in the gray market? I may need to dig the two unopened bottles out of my archive. I first had this when it was packaged in the previous white cardboard sleeve and it was good value. I bought the ones I now have in the red sleeve just prior to it being discontinued when a store decided to clear it out, so I got it at around $50 a bottle. We have discussed the Macallen on Malt numerous times – how they lost their way in the face of exploding demand, how they have gone for status-symbol luxe imaging and profits over product quality, and how their new high-$ range is more for displaying than drinking as a result. This makes for a nostalgic memory of when Macallan was made to be enjoyed, not looked at.

    1. John says:

      Hi Greg, time to get rid of those Macallans and make good money out of them!
      $50!? That’s a steal! But I guess most of whisky back then would be called steals compared to today’s prices and quality.

  5. RolexWhisky says:

    The 80’s and 90’s Macallan are just magic juice. I got this one in my bunker and the price keeps going up. I got hold of a 2003 Macallan 30 and the color on it is to die for. I hate all this NAS whisky that is hitting the market I feel like they are just taking advantage of this new wave of whisky drinkers that were probably drinking vodka 2 years ago.

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