Macallan seems to be the new “luxury” whisky brand. I imagine snobs who were teased about drinking Johnnie Walker Blue Label graduate on to Macallan as a way of saving face among their executive buddies at the golf estate.
That being said, their lofty reputation is somewhat deserved – Macallan makes very high quality single malts with an unwavering consistency. And like Johnnie Walker, they’re also not a fan of age statements when they can get away with it – one of the front-runners in the NASpocalypse, there are many regions (South Africa included) where you simply can’t get an age-stated Macallan anymore. Shame. Shame. Shame.
The Macallan Rare cask is close to the top of the core “1824 series” (the NAS replacements for the traditional 12, 18, 25 and 30-year-old). Like all expensive NAS whiskies, this one has a gimmick in the form of claiming a particularly discerning selection process when it comes to their Spanish casks. Let’s put it to the test!
Diversion! It’s… frustrating… when whisky companies don’t declare, on the bottle, whether or not their whisky has been subjected to caramel colouring. Despite (or perhaps as a result of) being considered a luxury brand, Macallan is also guilty of this – but attempts to close the gap with a weasel statement on their website:
“All colour in The Macallan whiskies, bottled by the distillery, is natural.”
Which I suppose leave wide open the possibility that the Macallan not bottled by the distillery has heaps and heaps of Crayola shoved down the neck of every bottle (for instance, here?) If true, this is Macallan’s version of the old “no added sugar” trick – deceptive, anti-transparency and cheeky as hell.
I’m actually fairly concivinced Macallan doesn’t colour their whisky. But as a rule of thumb, I live by “Not on the label? Not true.” Come on Macallan – if you’re not hiding a dirty little secret, wear that with pride and put it on the bottle!
Unsurprisingly, sherry and malt. But a really appealing spiciness in there too, and something that reminds me of bleach (but not in a bad way, if that’s a thing). And lastly milk chocolate, all held together with a muted, very pleasant alcohol twang.
Take one serving of Glenfarclas (25?), squeeze in some lemon juice, chuck in some sugar… and behold! You’ve got Macallan Rare on your hands. That ever-so-slightly sour citrus fits the sherry foundation like a glove, although the sweeter (and lighter) profile isn’t my style. Tightly integrated, rich and interesting. As always, plenty of raisins, plums, cherries and maple syrup. Great stuff! The finish is long, oily, syrupy – maraschino cherries. Nice!
Don’t do it! Unfortunately, this is where the comparison to Glenfarclas 25 ends – the Macallan Rare shines served up neat. It drowns almost immediately, those tightly weaved flavours starting to unravel and losing the richness that makes it all worthwhile.
Macallan went “full NAS” on this one. But despite the crazy price, the puny ABV (cheeky) and the lack of (reliable) transparency I thoroughly enjoyed the Macallan Rare Cask. Light, rich and rewarding – not quite as good as the Glendronach 15, but in the same ballpark as an equally matured Glenfarclas. Definitely have a glass
with ice and coke after dinner (if someone else is paying for it!)