E-pistle 2008/18 – Mega-Macallan Tasting (Flight 2)

By Craig Daniels, Australia

E-pistle 2008/18 – Mega-Macallan Tasting (Flight 2)

(The first part of Mega-Macallan Tasting was published in Malt Maniacs #104.)

Flight 2

Macallan NAS The 1874 Replica (45%, OB, Btl. 1996) – I was so glad this was in the tasting as I knew and liked it, but it would also help frame my response to the unknown whiskies.  I suppose revisiting an old favourite in amongst potentially more impressive whiskies is always fraught, but the 1874 didn’t disappoint.  It was actually very interesting to pin it down in style in amongst the continuum represented by the ESC series. The 1874 was a lot closer to the ESC III and ESC VI in style than the others. I must admit that I prefer nosing whiskies at 43-46% and am often the Malt Maniac that gives the lower proof whiskies higher scores, as I think in the cask strengths the spirit can often hide or obscure the true character of the whisky underneath.  The quite beautiful nose has orange peel, orange blossom, honey, treacle, floorwax then toffee and cream.  The palate had a little bit of everything Macallan; citrus, toffee, Christmas pudding, some mint chocolate ice-cream which used to be the marker for Macallan 12 in the mid 1990’s.  This is a truly classy whisky and still one of my favourite Macallans.
Score 91 points.

Macallan 8 yo (43%, OB, Rinaldi Import Bologna Btl. 1983) The sherry in this youngster was exceptional and amazingly fresh.  The spirit was lively and floral and the whole package was very well integrated. I’ve limited experience with young Macallan, but I do remember that the 10 year old 100 proof was a revelation in 1998 when I first came across it.  This one had a deeper sherry profile, almost certainly with first fill oloroso in the vatting.  Lots of muscat and raisins, quite grapey, more grapey than any of the ESC series, but maybe that’s the youth talking.  The palate was also sherry dominated with the wood a bit overshadowed.  The finish had some nuts and some bitter metal.
Score 84 points.

Macallan 12 yo (43%, OB Giovinetti & Figli Import Milano Btl. 1983) This was just like time traveling – I got maniacal about malt in about 1994 and this was so much like what I loved about Macallan 12 that was around in Australia in the mid 1990’s.  Raisins, brandy soaked fruit, cherries, lots of big muscatty notes, clean minty wood and no sulphur.  The sulphur started to appear in the malts bottled after 1998 so this was like a little time capsule and a good one too. Impressive and multilayered with a classic sherry profile. The nose on this was worth over 90 but the rest of the package didn’t reach quite such stellar heights. Score 88 points .

Macallan 1976 Fine & Rare (Unreleased/WIP), a whisky that had not been released at the time we tasted it. This is an interesting whisky and in profile a lot like a cross between ESC I, III and VI mixed with some of the Fine Oak 21 or 25 casks.  It had a nose of candied fruit, toffee and fresh stone fruit (locquats and apricots) with syrup and citrus (mandarin) in the palate with a lingering citric note in a gently tannic finish.  I must admit I found it incredibly refined and an excellent whisky, but it didn’t leap up and smack me in the mouth as a typical Macallan.  I love whiskies from refill sherry from American oak and this is good, but there are plenty of other distilleries doing the same and hence the competition gets a bit more hectic. Score 88 points.

Macallan 1975/2001 (54% Cask#17112 Laird’s Club Australia).  I just love the nose on this one – it has a beautiful and voluptuous ripe red apple and ether/ethyl acetate note along with all the usual Macallan markers (mint toffee oak and chocolate ice-cream, varnish, floor polish and old furniture) and a big and slightly sour maraschino cherry note kicks in after about 10 minutes in the glass. A mega-sherry palate (resin, raisins and fruitcake) with lots of flavour development.  Has some fine tannins (like freshly brewed tea with some fresh peach) and the proof kicks it into another league. The marriage of fresh and lively fruitiness with old wood character is a winning combination.
Score 92 points.

Macallan 1975/2001 (54% Cask#17113 Laird’s Club Australia)  The neighbouring cask is much less well known. The profile is more austere and less fruity. More mahogany, dry cocoa and carob, with a waxy note. There’s some sour wood and quite a lot of dry mint along with more cocoa and dark chocolate, some ferns and resin.  A little bit of sulphur (pickled onions, gunpowder, cabbage water/cooked vegetables) snuck in to spoil the party. Personally I love the bell-like clarity of 17112 and prefer it over the more muddied charms of 17113. By no means poor, just not in the same class as its sibling. Score 85 points.

Am I a Macallan convert?  Not really – I always knew they could make great whisky however I can state that the ESCII has entered my pantheon of great whiskies. I, for one, had never sat down to 12 different Macallans at one time and I must admit that I never got bored nor craved a different style, which speaks volumes for the both the quality and variety on offer. We all tasted something new, we all learnt something and I will cherish the memories for a long time to come.

My thanks go to Shane Kalloglian, a very generous host indeed. Thanks also to Graham Wright who MC’d the tasting, the fantastic team at Astral for providing a truly spectacular venue and who went out of their way to make a bunch of whisky tragics feel welcome and also to Maxxium Australia for supporting the event and giving us a sneak preview of the Fine & Rare 1976.All the photos were taken by Dr Paul Gooding, fellow Malt Whisky Society of Australia member and scientist with a vocation for delivering whisky education and I’d like to acknowledge a truly maniacal colleague in Franz Scheurer for portions of the text.