The Macallan 29 year old 1976 Vintage (Cask #11354), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,500
Classic sherry cask-aged Macallan. Antique amber with hints of ruby. Thickly textured, complex, and quite deep, with notes of toffee, ripe pit fruit, raisin, apple pie, dried spice (cinnamon, clove, ginger, and mint), and a wisp of smoke. An exceptional, multi-faceted Macallan!
Amber color. Richly textured (great mouth feel), with vanilla fudge, nougat, ripe citrus, and ginger cake leading to a complex, spicy finish. Great depth on this one. Well-polished. My pick of the lot.
Antique amber. The darkest and most decadent of the four. Quite viscous and soothing, with well-layered notes of apple pie, marmalade, and maple syrup balanced by dried fruits, ginger, polished leather, tobacco, and resinous oak. One to sip and savor very slowly. (This whisky is much better than the last ultra-premium release, the Macallan 55 year old in the Lalique Decanter, and thousands of dollars less.)
Another of the Fine Oak series (aged in both bourbon and sherry casks), which will debut in the U.S. in March. Of the five Fine Oak expressions that will be in the U.S. (10, 15, 17, 21, and 30 year old), this is my favorite, slightly besting the 15 year old. Lovely sweet notes (creamy vanilla, light toffee, marshmallow, shortbread, and a kiss of honey) are accompanied by bright fruit (multi-layered citrus) and potpourri of dried spices, along with a hint of nut and wisp of smoke. A very refined and sophisticated whisky.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company 29 year old (distilled at Macallan), 43.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $560
This has the poise and physique of a classic sherried Macallan. Hazelnut, mixed peel, peach cobbler, and wood spices form a delightful olfactory combination. Warm, weighty sherry notes bathe the mouth with ginger loaf, milk chocolate chunks, and espresso in support, lilting toward a lip-smacking finish of peach melba and amontillado sherry. It’s increasingly rare to find a top-quality aged independent Macallan, so don’t miss out.
Amber-chestnut color. Aromas are very mature and so thick, one almost needs a knife to cut it. Notes of dried fruit (orange, lemons, pineapple) and wood spices (especially clove), with more than a suggestion of peat smoke. Thick, enveloping texture-like a warm coat on a bitterly cold day. Very mature. One can easily deduce this is a very old whisky-the woodiness is evident on the palate. But it is not in excess. There’s plenty of dried fruit, enticing wood spices, and peat to keep the palate entertained, all the way through to its very long, dry finish.
The Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak (2017 Edition), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $294
The latest annual limited release is classic and sure to please true aficionados of Macallan. Stewed fruit and old leather on the nose, along with ripe cherries, gingersnaps, and black pepper, before orange marmalade notes develop. Full-bodied, with fragrant sweet orange, milk chocolate-coated Turkish delight, and faint smoke. The finish yields dark chocolate, cherry liqueur, and more pepper. Long and spicy.
Rising above the tat issued to celebrate the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton was this extremely limited (1,000 bottles) release from The Macallan. The nose is a mélange of rich fruits, marzipan, and beeswax/resin but it lifts with a drop of water to show apricot and heavy florals. The palate isn’t overly grippy, with more orange peel, almond, and characteristic oiliness. A malty/nutty smooth finish makes this a great one. £150 (Not available in the U.S.)
This 2017 release includes spirit from three sherry-seasoned hogsheads and three butts, some of which had previously held a peated whisky. The nose offers familiar dark chocolate, dried fruit, sultanas, and ripe cherry notes, with a whiff of woodsmoke. More dried fruits on the rich palate, with coffee grounds, ginger, and sherry merging with subtle peat. The finish is luxurious, with smoky raisins and pleasing wood spice. (40 bottles for U.S.)
Solid amber color. Flavors are seamless, silky smooth, and rich, with notes of dried fruit and flowers, toffee, subtle spices, and delicate nuts. A great after dinner malt, but universal enough to drink anytime.
Deep amber color. Complex aromas of lush fruit (orange, lemon, red currant) and oak spices (cinnamon, clove, and licorice). Rich, silky body. Great balance and depth of flavor, with complex fruit and wood spices similar to its aroma all wrapped in toffee and vanilla fudge. Very long, evolving, and satisfying finish.
Deep amber color with crimson hues. Incredibly rich aromas of fruitcake, toffee, dates, roasted nuts, with a hint of cocoa powder and other spices. Rich and thick in body. On the palate, there are evolving notes of chewy toffee, ripe fruit (oranges, golden raisons), chocolate covered nuts, multigrain toast, and polished oak. Long, soothing finish.
This is my favorite of the three. For about $20 more, you get a richer, much more complex whisky than the 10 year old, and it is more balanced than the 21 year old. This 15 is drier than the 10, with lovely floral and spice notes (cinnamon, coriander, dried orange peel, lavender, rose), balanced by honey-laced complex fruit, and a dry, dark chocolate/orange marmalade finish.
Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak (2018 Edition), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $320
Like previous releases, this was matured in sherry-seasoned oak casks. Jaffa oranges, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and dried fruits on the nose, plus warm leather. The palate is rich and spicy, with more orange, vanilla, and burning logs. Smoky sherry, ginger, dried fruits, and seasoned oak in the full finish.
Macallan’s 18 year old expression is, for me, the highlight of its regular sherried range. Deep amber in color. The nose is rich and heavily fruited: fruit cake, mulberry, a little moist gingerbread, the bloody depths of molasses. On the palate, dried fruits — more figgy than raisined — while the natural oiliness in the spirit balances the boisterous tannins from the European oak. A singed note on the finish (an extension of the molasses?) completes the picture. Balanced and complex.
The Macallan Masters of Photography 1989 (Release 3, Cask #12251), 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $2,750
Dark mahogany with ruby glints and a green rim. Lots of highly-polished oak as we move out of the woods and into a silent country estate. Wax polish and masses of whisky rancio. Sherry-soaked oak, dry leaves, currants, and ripe blackberry. Highly concentrated, but the fruits push their way through only lightly-resisting tannins. There’s a hint of smoke and Seville orange bitterness on the finish. My pick of the quartet. Excellent. 285 bottles.
The third release in Macallan’s annual Edition series—which focuses on aspects of cask influence—was matured in a mix of European and American oak casks. Figs and apricot jam, vanilla, Jaffa oranges, and cinnamon on the nose. The palate is silky and offers a big citrus fruit hit, Bit-O-Honey, then creamy milk chocolate. Milk chocolate persists through the long, fruity finish, with attendant sweet oak.
Adelphi 14 year old 1997 (distilled at Macallan), 51.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $117
Here is Macallan in full-blown masculine mode. Initially it seems tight and (sherry) cask driven, but soon you are taken into a winter kitchen with scents of venison, and appropriate rowanberry edges adding a sweet and sour fruitiness. That wild berry note is given another nudge by a whiff of burning juniper. The palate shows it to be thick with a quivering mass of black fruits, and a finish of molasses and licorice. A feast. £75
Rooted in the earth and redolent of late autumn. There’s a plummy thread that runs through this range; here we’ve gone to prune, mixed with dried cherries, and a sweet/savory edge whose whiff of heavy rose petal is reminiscent of Barolo. Robust, yet sweet. Heady, like chocolate-covered Turkish Delight. The palate has oloroso notes alongside Assam-like tannins. One to have with water on the side. Classical in structure and aromatics, but that vinous sweetness is new. £120
Two oaks are better than one in this single malt, which marries whiskies matured in sherry-seasoned casks of both American and European oak. The sherry imparts aromas of raisins, figs, hazelnuts, blanched almonds, candied orange peel, and leather. A backbone of vanilla sweetness on the palate supports layers of ginger and white pepper, dark chocolate, leather, raisins, toasted hazelnuts, and orange oil. This Macallan joins the core line between the Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges. Warming and rich without being syrupy, it doubles up on accessibility with its balance and remarkably affordable price for its quality and age. Number 17 in the 2017 Top 20
Seven types of European and American oak casks were used for maturation. Lively on the nose, with orange, malt, sherry, and sweet oak. Initially, a touch hot on the palate, with sherry and cloves, then toffee and vanilla, red apples, figs, and cocoa. The finish is medium to long, with spicy sherry.
Gordon & MacPhail 41 year old 1970 (distilled at Macallan), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $700
On more familiar ground with this G&M bottling of one of Speyside’s most iconic single malts, this is Macallan in full-on sherried form. Highly aromatic with powdered clove, hints of incense and fig, behind which is cacao, Bolivar cigar, and molasses. The palate has immediate smoke and surprisingly gentle tannins — the inherent oiliness of the spirit keeping any grip at bay. Very long, leathery, prune-like (think armagnac), and dense. A classic after-dinner mouth-filler.
This straddles the existing Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges by being a mix of spirit matured in both European and American oak sherry casks. Earthy sherry and old leather on the nose, with toffee, polished oak, and cherry blossom. Medium to full-bodied, with sherry, orange, cocoa, nutty vanilla, and developing wood spices on the honeyed palate. The finish is creamy, with insistent spices, cocoa, and tangy oak.
This limited release was aged in seven cask types—both American and European oak in a variety of sizes—from four Spanish bodegas: Vasyma, Diego Martin, Jose Miguel Martin, and Tevasa. Citrus fruits, ginger, black pepper, light smoke, and rubbery leather on the nose. Ultimately, carnations. The palate is rich, nutty, and sweet, with malt, toffee, sticky sherry, maraschino cherries, milk chocolate, and gentle spice. Long in the finish, with spices and creamy cocoa.
Antique amber color. Aromas of toffee and malt, with interwoven dried fruit, flowers, and spices-a real potpourri. Rich, lush body. Rich flavors of toffee, wood resin spices, and citrus, finishing with notes of malt, toffee, and a hint of leather and smoke.
This is like a blast from the past, with much in common with the sherried Cask Strength of old, and a welcome treat for any fan of the big, sherried Macallans. All the red berry and blood orange notes are present on the nose, along with cocoa and a dusty smokiness. The palate is full, velvety and chewy, with Christmas cake, oranges, and some nuttiness. Nutmeg and cinnamon fill out the mouth feel, before a long and classic sherried finish.
Initially, this is Macallan in effusive Willy Wonka mood, with lots of toffee, chocolate, greengage, and light oiliness. The aroma thickens with water, and with it a more serious mien: brogues buffed to a high sheen. The palate is equally rich and layered, with cereal, black cherry, discreet oak. A complex mix, as befits a gentleman’s dram that every gentleman should have. £95
Scott Selection 1973 (distilled at Macallan), 50.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $230
Deep gold color. Fragrant, floral aroma, with a potpourri of dried spices, especially vanilla and nutmeg. Creamy texture. Flavors of creamy vanilla and caramel, becoming dry with subtle spices and just a hint of fruit.
Even drier and expressing more of the complex floral and spice notes found in the 15 year old. However, by the time the whisky reaches mid-palate, the dried fruits, dried spices, and general wood notes become prominent, preventing the whisky from revealing other sides of its usually multi-faceted personality. It’s still a very fine whisky, but not as good as the 15, regardless of price.
Released exclusively for the U.S., this is the first bottling in an annual series celebrating what Macallan terms its “…unrivalled commitment to the mastery of wood and spirit.” Matured in oloroso sherry-seasoned American and European oak casks. Confident Christmas cake aromas, plus quite assertive oak. Honey, toffee, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, and lively oak on the palate. Gingery wood notes in the medium-length finish.
When approached from light to rich, you can see how the driver of the range is oxidation rather than just the addition of wood. Here are stewed black cherries, red plums, and blueberries, but with the purity and freshness of Amber and Gold. The mental image is of a country house in autumn: clay on boots, candle wax, resin, allspice, peels, those perfumed fruits, and the whiff of an artist’s palette. The tannins are supple. Best with water on the side. £66
The Macallan Coronation (Spanish Oak Cask #190952), 55.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $567
Bottled as 350 ml twin-pack along with the American oak version, this is deeply resinous, with clove, shoe leather, high-grade engine oil—an Aston Martin workshop, not a back alley garage—alongside dried fruits. Similar in tone to some old Caribbean rums with liqueur chocolate and Friar’s Balsam. The tannins yield slightly, showing chicory and raisin. ‘Old style’ Macallan, and another which, while strong, is best neat. £350
Triple Cask replaced Macallan’s Fine Oak range in 2018, and was matured in a combination of European and American sherry-seasoned oak and American oak bourbon barrels. The entry level 12 year old offers a relatively light, zesty nose, with citrus fruit, vanilla, and ginger, while the palate yields more citrus fruit and vanilla, honey, sweet oak, and dark chocolate. Cantaloupe and wood spice in the finish.
Scott's Selection 30 year old 1974 vintage (distilled at Macallan), 52.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $230
Quite fresh and lively for its age and loaded with fruit. You’ll find bright fruit (tangerine, passion fruit, lemon) followed by subtle, sweeter fruit (coconut, honeydew melon, banana, and apple crumb pie). Resinous, minty oak notes and a hefty viscosity give the whisky some structure, while floral notes (lavender, rose petals) and gentle vanilla expose a softer side to the whisky. Dry, oak finish.
The whisky is quite fruity (green grape, orange, tangerine, and dark cherry), with balancing notes of vanilla, roasted nuts, and a hint of peat. Dry, lightly spicy finish that lingers. It is complex and nicely balanced for a whisky of this age. Still, I feel the 15 year old Fine Oak edition is better and, at $65, one-tenth the cost.
People tend to moan about Macallan having lost its mojo. Not here. This is a vatting of different sized American and (mostly) European oak casks, so no surprise that it’s oak-led, but Macallan is a heavy distillate and it needs oak to prosper fully. Here you get rosin, marmalade, green fig jam, and the power of concentrated oils. The palate is powerful and supple, with some clove, ginger, and yet more chocolate. Substantial and well worth checking out.
A vatting of sherry casks from (apparently) royally significant dates with an outturn of 2012 (get it?) bottles. Auburn in color, it has a fruit compote nose mixed with citrus, and a little hint of gravy browning in the background. This mix of the exotic—oil of clove on the tongue, the sweet and light grip—makes for a very intriguing, concentrated, and layered palate. Think of Turkish Delight and crystallized ginger. Try the distillery shop for stock. £350
Amber mahogany color. Its 50 years of age are evident in the nose-there's plenty of resinous wood spice notes (especially clove). Also on the nose is citrus (especially orange), a potpourri of dried fruit, light toffee, and a hint of smoked nuts. The body is thick and viscous. The palate expresses flavors similar to its aroma, finishing dry and long.
The Macallan Masters of Photography 1991 (Release 3, Cask #7023), 50.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $2,750
This time we’ve got Macallan in savory mode, even a little balsamic. The spirit shows its hand more than in the 1995, with typical Macallan heft. Now you are deep in a forest of yew and larch with a dark chocolate bar for sustenance. Maturity has brought out leather alongside clove and resin. The palate shows a similar tomato note seen in the 1995 cask, with positive bitterness and wedding cake. Though grippy, it has great balance. 285 bottles.
Murray McDavid 16 year old 1990 vintage (distilled at Macallan), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
Finished (or ACE’d -- additional cask enhanced -- as they say) in a Madeira cask. Soft in texture, and deceivingly seductive in nature. Pleasingly sweet (honey, caramel, aromas of sticky toffee pudding) with lush summer fruit and gentle spice notes emerging towards the finish. A soft, pleasing Macallan with everything in balance. Nicely done.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company 30 year old (distilled at Macallan), 46.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $604
Ebony colored whisky with dark aromas of dense fruitcake, fresh fig, Medjool dates, sultana, and Christmas spices of nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon, though a struck-match note lurks within. The treacle-thick palate has Coca-Cola, clove, aniseed, eucalyptus, sultanas, leather, blackcurrant, black cherry, dried fig, and raisin. The currant-bun finish is tannic and woody; tastebuds flinch and recoil. This is a grizzled old-timer best left to adventurous souls.
The Macallan Masters of Photography 1996 (Release 3, Cask #10019), 55.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $2,750
Light amber. A very clean, mealy, and creamy nose with real sweetness and a belt of vanilla before things settle into the realm of cooked fruits enlivened by masses of peppermint. The oak shows itself as hot sawdust and a little cedar. In the mouth, that sweetness continues to alternate between a prickly feel and sweet fruit syrups, while Macallan’s oily earthiness anchors it both on the tongue and to the distillery. 285 bottles.
Straw gold. Well rounded, with fresh vanilla, berries in cream, caramel custard, toasted oak, and gentle dried spice. A really nice everyday, anytime dram. The best price/quality ratio of the range. (Price is per 1 liter.)
Mackillop's Choice 1974 (distilled at Macallan), 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
Style: Speyside single malt scotch Color: Bright gold Aroma: Rose petals, lavender, vanilla, soft fruity esters. Palate: Creamy vanilla and a touch of honey up front, becoming gently fruity with a soft maltiness. Clean, delicately complex finish of polished oak and soft floral notes.
Montgomerie's 13 year old 1989 Vintage (distilled at Macallan), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $45
Straw gold color. Aromas reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers, honey, soft fruit, and vanilla. Light to medium in body but mouth-coating. Honey, flowery fruit gum drop flavors, eventually turning dry and gently spicy, with a polished oak finish.
Murray McDavid 9 year old 1997 vintage (distilled at Macallan), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
An interesting application of Macallan, aged originally in a bourbon cask and then in Ridge Zinfandel barrels. Quite sweet and full-flavored, with ripe, jammy fruit, beach plum, subtle (yet deep) toffee, and grape skin, all laced with honey. Dynamic, fun, and carefree.
Mackillop's Choice 14 year old 1989 vintage (distilled at Macallan), 58.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $75
This expression is atypical for a Macallan whisky-the standard Macallan line is aged in sherry casks, while this one is aged in a bourbon cask. Absent the sherry, this isn’t as sweet or rich. Rather, it’s more delicate and gentle. The whisky is very clean and creamy, with lovely floral notes (lavender, heather, rose), intertwined with spices (especially vanilla), and fruit (baked apple, pineapple, coconut). Delicate, pleasing finish. One of the better non-sherried whiskies distilled at Macallan. (Bottled exclusively for retailer Wine on the 9.)
Soft fruits are to the fore here; think of cooking green plums, fruit syrup, a hint of sultana to add to the sweetness, and then a hint of beeswax. There’s even a little of Macallan’s occasional earthiness, here akin to the damp sand floor of a sherry bodega. This is the transition point in the range with a similar weight to Gold but greater sweetness and the beginnings of Macallan’s mysterious savory edge. Have neat, with water, or ice. £45
Clean with the warming, sensual aroma of yeasty freshness that you get from freshly-baked bread. Stir in some almond butter, a little hay. The palate shows that it has substance behind this very open nose. Here is thickness, tongue-clinging oils, and a vibrant lemon note bringing to mind boiled travel sweets, before the dry maltiness comes through. With water — and it’s best lightly diluted — we’re looking at pastries. £36
The Macallan Coronation (American Oak Cask #190950), 58.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $567
Bottled at 350ml. as a pair with a Spanish oak version (and probably sold out at source), here you get the merest glimpse of Macallan’s meatiness (shepherd’s pie) before flowers and apple blossom take charge. Lifted, yes, but never delicate. Water brings out cereal and mealy pudding, with barley sugar on the end. £350
The Macallan Masters of Photography 1995 (Release 3, Cask #14007), 59.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $2,750
With the hue of pigeon blood (a ruby, not a dead bird), initially this seems closed, but richness develops, mixing stewed Assam tea, chocolate biscuit, raisin, damson jam, and a whiff of tomato puree. The oak gives it the character of a Barolo Chinato. A knife and fork are needed to consume it, but for all the big tannins, there’s dark rose petal and the bittersweet edge of licorice. Dry, rich, and hermetic. For the hardcore sherry lover. 145 bottles.
Full gold. Oily in texture, with ripe barley, front-loaded toffee, honey-drenched citrus, fallen orchard fruit, and a full complement of spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove). Gripping, resinous, slightly hot finish. The flavors don’t meld together here as well as the other three expressions, but it’s still a fun ride. (Price is per 1 liter).
Master of Malt Darkness! Macallan 15 year old PX Cask-Finished, 52.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $185
The Darkness! series involves finishing in specially-made octave (50-liter) casks. This has positive Macallan character with some oil (putty even) and touches of malt and turned earth, but also a scented, cognac-like fruitiness with added spice. Water adds a little sherried cheesiness. The palate shows some nutty, oxidized flavors to begin with, but then in the middle the PX flumps onto the tongue, slowing and dampening the drive. Pleasant enough though. £110/500 ml
Signatory 14 year old 1990 vintage (distilled at Macallan, Cask #16294), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
Aged in a refill butt, and very pale in color. Very fragrant -- fruity and spicy -- with notes of vanilla, lemongrass, ginger, sultana, citrus zest, key lime, and green grapes. There’s a floral component, too (rose petals?). A very delicate Macallan, and quite suitable as an aperitif. (749 bottles produced.)
A nicely honeyed malty foundation is balanced by fruit on the front of the palate, with a pleasingly dry, spicy finish. It would benefit by being bottled at 43%, like the older two expressions. It is simple, straight-forward, and unpretentious, as one would expect in a 10 year old whisky.
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Macallan) 21 year old, 51.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $101
Full gold. A solid middle-weight Macallan with some putty/Play-Doh, and even after this length of time, a certain youthful airiness. This slightly lean aspect gives way to an almost suety richness. When neat, the palate is a little jumbled: caramelized cask-derived notes, cereal, oiled jackets. Water improves things, releasing an aroma akin to Chenin Blanc, then cooked pear and a big hit of sugared almonds on the back palate. £69
It’s young Macallan. There’s a hint of sulfur (from distillate rather than cask), then wet leather, Brazil nut, muesli, dried pineapple, and raisin; even a little rubber, suggestive of youth. That can’t hide the fact that this is a big, deep, oily dram. Water makes it considerably more coherent, showing a substantial, thick palate with some licorice. Ripe, but you can’t help feeling that 12 is a little young for this slow-maturing distillate.
Style: Speyside single malt scotch Color: Gold Aroma: Fresh and youthful. Citrus fruit, honey, vanilla, ginger, and a hint of smoke. Palate: Youthful and on the light side for a Macallan. Notes of citrus, ginger root, honey and smoke. The whisky finishes rather quicky.
Deep, thick nose, with sappy oak, dried citrus, old leather, spearmint, and background leafy smoke. Nicely viscous on the palate, with similar notes as the aroma. But mid-palate the age gets the best of this whisky. The flavors flatten out and the wood dominates through the finish as the leather notes linger. It’s a rare treat to taste a whisky this old. If you like Lalique (and have the money), then this new bottling is worth some consideration, because there are certainly moments of intrigue and pleasure on the nose and beginning of the palate. But I have tasted several other 50-plus year old Macallans, and I can say with certainty that the 50 year old Millennium bottling and the 1946 vintage release were better and can probably still be found for a significantly lower price (Only 420 bottles available worldwide.)