Macallan 12, 2008, PX Cask (SMWS 24.151)


And so ends this week of Macallan 12, 2008s. As a reminder, this is the third of three casks released at the same time by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society this year. All started out as spirit matured in first-fill oloroso butts before being filled into ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and ex-PX casks respectively for two more years. An interesting prospect, this juxtaposition but in reality I was not hugely impressed by either Monday’s ex-bourbon cask or Wednesday’s ex-oloroso. I thought both were overpowered finally by both the oak and the crazy high abv at which all of these were bottled. Will this PX cask finally be the one I really like? I hope so.

Macallan 12, 2008 (63.1%; SMWS 24.149; oloroso + PX casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah, this is very nice from the jump: plum sauce, orange peel, leather and just a bit of oak to frame it all. Brighter citrus emerges after a few minutes in the glass along with some pencil lead and some damp autumn leaves. As it sits further it gets stickier, the oak gets a little spicier, the plum expands further and it’s better integrated still. A few drops of water push the oak back and soften it up a bit: quite a bit of toffee now and some apricot to go with the plum. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, Oloroso Cask (SMWS 24.149)


Here is the second of the recent Macallan trio from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. As I noted on Monday, the SMWS took whisky that had matured in oloroso butts for 10 years and then put it into different cask types for a further two. Monday’s 12 year old spent its last two years in bourbon casks. This one spent two more years in oloroso—in the original casks? in re-coopered oloroso hogsheads? I do not know. Well, I was not hugely impressed by the bourbon cask—too much alcohol and too much oak for my taste. This oloroso cask is at an even higher abv, but will the sherry cover up some of the oak? Let’s see.

Macallan 12, 2008 (63.6%; SMWS 24.149; oloroso casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich oloroso notes (big surprise): raisins, cherry liqueur, dried orange peel, a bit of salt and a mildly beany note. Not much sign of oak on the first few sniffs but it emerges as it sits and gets some air: a big tannic burn that begins to cut through the rich notes. With more time the oak calms down a bit and the fruit reasserts itself (orange peel and cherry now joined by some apricot jam). A few drops of water and there’s much better integration of the fruit and the oak, and there’s some leather too now. Continue reading

Macallan 12, 2008, Bourbon Cask (SMWS 24.152)


This week’s whisky reviews are of a slightly unusual set. This is not just because they’re all reviews of whiskies distilled at Macallan—a distillery I have not covered much on the blog. (Why have I not covered much Macallan on the blog? Well, mostly because the relationship between quality, price and high-concept marketing at Macallan went haywire more than a decade ago.) The set is also unusual as it comprises three independent releases—there’s not so very much indie Macallan out there you see, especially in the US. All of these were bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. What makes them truly unusual is the relationship between them. All originated in a group of 10 yo oloroso sherry butts which were then filled into first-fill ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and ex-PX casks for a further two years of maturation and bottled at the same time (presumably there have been other releases of the source spirit as well). Now you might think this would be a more striking juxtaposition if the original 10 years of maturation had happened in refill bourbon casks—thus allowing the variations from the subsequent double maturations to present on a more subtle canvas—but it should, at least in theory, be interesting to compare the three anyway. First up is the ex-bourbon cask which for some reason was given the name “Albino Rhino”. Continue reading

Macallan 10, Fine Oak

Macallan 10, Fine Oak
I started the month with a review of a 10 yo whisky that is only available in a few markets (the Highland Park 10); here now is a review of a 10 yo whisky that is available everywhere: the Macallan 10 from the distillery’s Fine Oak line. This line was launched in 2004 as Macallan tried to make us forget that for a long time they had tried to get everyone to agree that heavily sherried whisky was where it’s at: the Fine Oak line features whisky vatted from sherry and bourbon casks. I’m sure that at the time the distillery would have said that this offered customers another exciting view at the nuances of the Macallan character; and I’m sure that if I’d been blogging then I would have remarked that it probably also offered the distillery an opportunity to constrain and allocate its heavily sherried stock for more expensive releases (or maybe that’s with the benefit of hindsight).

I’ve tasted the younger whiskies from this line many years ago. They didn’t make a strong impression on me then—at the time the Macallan 12 was easily available at very reasonable prices and I was a big fan. I am curious to see what I make of this one now.  Continue reading

Macallan CS

Macallan CS

Following my review of the Glenfarclas 105, here is another cask strength, sherried beast from the Speyside: this time the Macallan CS (I actually tasted it right after the 105). I believe this has been discontinued. I’ve finished a couple of bottles of this over the years and have always liked it. I expect I will again as this is from a 2010 bottling (which was probably what my last ex-bottle was as well—my spreadsheet says I finished it in December 2011). Of course, these days a lot of Macallan’s whisky is NAS but it’s now mostly all colour-coded as we’re all apparently children. And I don’t think they put out any official cask strength whisky anymore.

I do have to say that the CS always seemed like an outlier in their lineup even before they went to the paintbox series. What I mean is that Macallan has always been associated with drinkability and a mellow palette of flavours (I don’t meant this in a pejorative sense at all) and the CS was always rather unruly. So maybe they also have greater “brand “conformity now across the lineup? I doubt that had anything to do with the decision to discontinue this expression though. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Macallan 15, 1995 (A.D. Rattray)

Macallan15, 1995
This is a somewhat unusual Macallan as it is from a single bourbon cask. Macallan’s own We’re Running Out of Sherry Casks and Need to Change Our Story Fine Oak series, of course, includes ex-bourbon whisky in the vattings but I’m not sure if any of those are from only bourbon casks (the labels all say “Triple Cask Matured”). At any rate, it’s the only Macallan I’ve had that I know to be from only bourbon wood. Now I wait for my readers to tell me that in Belgium and Austria only bourbon cask Macallan has ever been available.

Macallan 15, 1995 (46%; A.D. Rattray; bourbon cask 11251; from my own bottle)

Nose: Mellow fruit–dried apricots, figs, pluots (no, I haven’t forgotten that this is a bourbon cask). With time there’s some citrus and a mild musky note. With more time there’s a hint of toasted wood as well. Water brightens it up, emphasizing the citrus and bringing out more malt.  Continue reading

Macallan 18, 1990 (Whisky Trail)

Macallan 18 Whisky Trail
The Macallan
is one of the most recognizable single malt whisky brands among non-whisky geeks, and the owners have spent a lot of money and time building up the name recognition and the premium associations. It is partly for this reason that many whisky geeks recoil from the Macallan, I think. I know I feel a kind of reverse snobbery about the distillery that Michael Jackson described as “the Rolls Royce of single malts”, but which has come to be more like the Lexus of single malts. But just as Lexus actually makes fine cars, Macallan makes fine sherried whisky. If I am to be honest I have to admit that the Macallan 12 of the early-mid 2000s was one of the malts that made me fall in love with single malt whisky, and I do enjoy the (fast-disappearing) Macallan CS as well, which is perhaps the rare Macallan which can be described as a good value these days. The older Macallans I cannot afford, and the reports I have of them do not make me aspire to afford them.
Continue reading