Monday, August 17, 2009

The Macallan 18 yr old Sherry version - Single Malt Scotch Review


The Macallan Distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland. Established in the 19th century, needless to say, this is another distiller with a long track record and tradition of producing fine single malt scotch.This distillery is well known for producing a scotch which is aged in Spanisk oak casks that had previously held sherry for a couple of years. As I mentioned in my review of the 12 year old, the sherry soaked Spanish wood imparts its flavor into the Macallan spirit that is aged in these casks for many years. The result is a very sherried scotch. If you do not drink sherry and therefore unsure what is meant by this term (sherry), try this whisky and you will come face to face with the flavor of sherry as found in whisky.The Macallan Distillery has what it calls Sherry Oak Series which is comprised of several different scotches that differ in terms of aging. They are: 7, 10, 12, 18, 25, & 30 years old. And guess what? The price adjusts upwards as they progress in age. It will come as no surprise that the quality is commensurate with age too.

Suggested Setting
The Macallan 18yr. old is not intended for barbecues or throwing darts with the guys out in the garage. This is a single malt that should be carefully sampled in the quiet of one's home when all the distractions of life are at bay. Maybe by the fireplace (if you've got one), on a cold winter's night, watching the snowfall cloud the street lights. Having set up the scene, lets move to the actual serving.

Suggested Serving
In a whisky glass or a tumbler pour a small amount and swirl. This is drinking "neat" or "straight up" as others might put it. If your preference is to add water then I recommend distilled water, but only a drop or two. This will open up some flavours and aromas. I would recommend against adding ice. Ice dilutes the scotch and a lot of its complexity and the many nuances of flavours available. If you are a casual drinker of scotch and always add lots of ice or even a cube, there are a lot of cheaper single malts and blends that will meet your requirements. To add ice to this scotch is an expensive proposition because within ten minutes you will have diluted it such that its really distored in terms of what you will taste. If you like the watered down taste, again choose something cheaper like "Famous Grouse", the #1 selling scotch blend in Scotland. By the way, its key ingredients are the Macallan and Highland Park. Add all the ice of water you want to a tumbler of "Famous Grouse" as it only costs around $20 a bottle.

Nose
Sherry and brandy. A fine bouquet that tells you a treat awaits. Nosing this can go on for quite a while. You will not detect much if any peat scents wafting upward.

Palate
Take a little sip and hold it in your mouth for a second. You will note thick, rich sun beams of sherry, concentrated sweet berries like a big Napa cabernet sauvignon (think Caymus or Cakebread) building towards a crescendo of oak. This is a scotch of great complexity, body and above all, concentration of dark fruit flavors.

Finish
The 'finish' is a term referring to how long the flavor lingers and how it concludes before leaving the palate entirely. In this case, the Macallan 18yr old provides the dry yet sweet taste of oak, ginger and smoke lingering long after you have swallowed that tiny sip. The finish is excellent.

General Impressions
This is a high quality single malt scotch. If you are familiar with the 12 year old Macallan, then you can think of the 18yr old as simply having all the attributes the 12 yr old lacks. The 12 has the flavour of sherry and smoke but lacks the sophistication, refinement and dark berry fruit. The 18 delivers what the palate of the 12 yr old promises but can't come good for. If I were to sum up the 18 in a word, it would be "concentration." Concentration of sherry/smoke and berry flavours in an intriguing fashion.

Cheers!


Jason Debly
© Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved.

16 comments:

  1. I am new to all scotch, I've had a glass here and there but only now am I really getting into enjoying what they have to offer as a palette. I have only tried the 12 year old. I agree that it has what I call a full body. A smokey and sweet sherry after taste that suites me well. I can't wait to get my hands on the 18 year old Macallan it really sounds very reach in flavor . Thanks for the review

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  2. The Macallan 18 is a dream. Expensive but worth every penny!

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  3. I was in a bar in Caribou the other night and wanted scotch. The MacAllan 12 is one they had that I hadn't tried. I agree with your review of the 12, though I liked it more than you, especially since I was in the mood to drink. Given that experience and reading this review, I'm going to pick up a bottle of the 18. Thanks again.

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    1. Hi Zebster! Recently I reviewed (March 2012) Macallan 12 once more, and you know what? I liked it a lot more than in the recent past.

      Macallan 12 has improved a lot recently. Single malts go through phases of production where they are firing on all cylinders and other times where the flavors are different and not so great. I guess what I am saying is that no two batches are identical.

      The Macallan 18 is stellar, and if you get a chance, please post your impressions here.

      Cheers!

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  4. I will do that. Hoping to find a bottle this weekend.

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  5. At its going rate (in SoCal, discounted at $149.99), the Macallan 18y has become a relatively horrible buy. We had to pick one up for our tasting group and Ouch ! It's been reliable for years, not my favorite style, so unless one is crazy wild for the creamy, easy-drinking, pipe-and-slippers by the fire style, I'd opt for the M-12y instead. For $38, it gives one much of the same experience and leaves over 100 bucks left over for something one truly loves.

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    1. This review of Macallan 18 I wrote was from three years ago, and I must say that it was better then than it has been lately. I would agree that it has lost some vibrancy and complexity that set it so far apart from the 12. These days it is much tamer and similar in flavor profile to the 12 that the cost differential just does not seem justified. Other writers have speculated that Macallan has suffered from a decline in quality due to trying to maximize supply output to the huge demand. One of my friends feels that the whole distillery offerings are resting on their past laurels.

      However, recently I bought a bottle of Macallan 12 and it was better than it had been for the last few years. As for the 18, I will have to take the plunge sometime and update this review.

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  6. Jason, I had the opportunity, after some fine Mexican food, to stop by one of the better-stocked liquor stores in Central Maine in an attempt to pick up a bottle of the Macallan 18. Unfortunately they didn't have that but they did have the Macallan Cask Strength. I wish I'd grabbed the 12yo, which I knew I liked, because the cask strength is so strong that all you -- or at least I -- notice is the very strong burn, even after letting an ice cube melt. I think if the bottle or box had said it was a 10yo, like it states on their website, I would've skipped it. 60 plus bucks is a tough way to find out the hard way.

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    1. I have had the Macallan 10 years and it is really quite disappointing. In fact, borderline terrible. Leaves and acrid sherry finish that is shorter than the artist formerly known as 'Prince.'

      As for the Cask Strength, I am not a fan either.

      Macallan 12 is very nice and of course so is the 18, just the price is not. I have noticed lately that the 12 has improved somewhat from a few years ago.

      My beef with Macallan is their pricing is awfully steep. $60 for the Cask Strength is theft!

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  7. My all time favorite single malt scotch. I know it may be passe, but I absolutely LOVE this whisky. My desert island dram. If only I could afford it more often! (This may be my 50th birthday scotch, Jason)

    Kevin Bailey

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  8. I agree that in 2012, the Macallan 18 year old was pretty weak. UNFORTUNATELY for me, I still have a bottle of their 18 year old from 1988 and I cannot begin to tell you the differences between the two.

    also, as for the cask strength... i am sorry to see that people look at $60 as robbery... all I can say (and i hope not to come across as too much of a snob), is that your palate is not "refined" enough to appreciate the macallan cask strength... it is some really fine scotch!... take smaller sips

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  9. Jason, Our group held a seating last night wherein we compared current releases from domestic and Scottish markets. Suffice to say that Macallan seems to have (overall) impressed me as having regained some of its glory of decades past. In particular, the domestic 12y and 18y seemed better than in several years if not a decade. The overseas Macallan "Sienna" is wonderful indeed. I think I'll pick up a 12y ($40 US, discounter price) for the home cabinet next time out, in lieu of the my usual next young Glenfarclas or GlenDronach. It sure pays to keep revisiting and retesting old perceptions. Cheers ! JK

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    1. Great to read your observation that Macallan has improved. I have not tried the Sienna and was frankly skeptical, but will now give it a go!

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    2. I visited my liquor store and was shocked at the price of the Macallan Sienna. $175!!!!

      Indeed it should be very, very good at that sky high price.

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  10. G'day Jason,
    $193 down here in Aussie land..... Just been given some Fathers Day presys... $$. Is it worth it ? Should I look for something...ie: in the Glenfarclas range..25yr is $189... As you know... I like the bolder style... Any thoughts ... other styles?
    AL (from OZ)

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    1. I know it's little(very) late but just in case if you are still wondering about it, I personally enjoyed Highland Park 18 more than any other 18+ Scotches. It's the most balanced smooth smokey Scotch I tried in this price range. It's quite pricey in my city as well but definitely best value in that price range so give it a shot.

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