Following on from the Islay peaty blend we have a sherry matured whisky from The Macallan. The gentlemanly contrast to the rough diamond 20 something yesterday.
The Macallan distillery is owned by the Edrington group who also own Highland Park. This premium producer has a great reputation for quality sherried whisky.
The distillery opened in 1824 in Craigellachie, Moray. That is to say the owner at the time was persuaded to purchase a distilling licence in 1824 for what was then two stills in a wooden shed. From that early beginning the distillery has been expanded as new owners invested in the plant. Through the good times new buildings and stills were added. Today Macallan as 21 stills (14 wash, 7 spirit) which are each quite short and stumpy. This gives the new make an oily dense texture.
The Macallan distillery make a huge deal about their sherry casks. They believe that the best method to get the most out of their oil new make is to tightly define and specify the characteristics of the wood and therefore barrels used to mature it.
They are, they say, the only company with a “Master of Wood”. This person is responsible for the supply of quality sherry casks for filling. The Macallan team have complete control over the casks they buy. They know every detail of the barrel from the day the tree was felled to it arriving in Scotland. The marketing however talks about the barrels being “seasoned” with sherry. This to me is a red flag although perhaps wrongly.
To me “seasoned” suggests the time the barrel had sherry in it was short and the quality of that sherry was not that great. It was a flavouring for the wood rather than a product to be sold in shops in its own right. What I want to be hearing is that these barrels were used to lovingly mature some of the best and exclusive quality sherry made in Spain today. Quite a difference from “seasoned” then.
Also of note is Macallan use the low-yield Golden Promise strain of barley. In fact 90% of all golden promise barley grown in Scotland ends up in the stills at Macallan. Golden promise is said to give the spirit a very desirable weight and texture.
So on paper the marketing would lead us to believe Macallan do whatever it takes to make the highest quality whisky possible. With this 12 year old sherry oak expressions lets see if that translates into my experience.
The 12 year old Sherry Oak we are trying is natural colour like all Macallan’s and is bottled at 40%. The price tag is a very surprising £69.80 and can be found here. At that price it better be quality but lets see what happens.
Colour – rustic orange
Nose – big big bouquet of syrupy winter fruits and damp warehouses
Palate – slippery in the mouth almost running down your throat before you swallow. sweet dry oranges. preserved oranges in time
Finish – a surprisingly short finish with more fruity sherry flavours which are pleasant enough
I am bored. It is very pleasant and I could enjoy this is a stiff social situation but at this price point you just cannot be bored you need to wow’d. This is the real problem with Macallan and Highland Park just now. The prices are out of control, you are paying so much for a basic simple whisky. There is simply no value here at all. To me this is an excellent £25 whisky experience but a dreadful disappointment for £70.
Sadly, the problem is not even limited to this one bottle here is a quick fire list of overpriced core Edrington expressions containing age-statements which should be at affordable price points in my opinion.
Its like an age statement is a premium product these days:
- Highland Park 25 year old – £336.50
- Highland Park 21 year old – £142.70
- Macallan 18 Fine Oak – £299
- Macallan 21 Fine Oak – £295
Granted the Macallan’s I believe are discontinued because recently Macallan has come the house of NAS but that level of supply/demand inflation is extraordinary.