This is the first Guest post from our friend Phil S. : Originally from London, Phil now lives in Israel with his family – when he doesn’t find himself on an aeroplane. Since sampling his first “proper” whisky at age 16 (it was a 12yo Strathisla), there was no turning back. Willing to try anything once, Phil is no snob when it comes to his favourite drink, housing an eclectic collection of the world’s whiskies, singles and blends among them, and the odd bottle to pay for his retirement.
Last week, thanks to our host finding himself in the wrong country at the wrong time, I was fortunate to find myself with an invitation to the launch of the new 1824 Series from The Macallan. I apologise upfront for not being more prompt with the post – there’s a good reason I’m not a blogger 🙂
The event was held in the relatively new, and swanky Whisky Shop on Piccadilly in London. Conveniently located directly opposite the Ritz, just in case one found one couldn’t manage the journey home. The thing that struck me first was that in keeping with Israeli styles of dress, I was the only person in the room not wearing a suit – I was proud not to let the side down! The shop itself was beautifully set up – the front area showcasing the four expressions in the range, including "flavour bowls" in front of each bottles highlighting the key characteristics of each. The back of the store was closed off with a pianist, but this is where the shop’s regular stock of bottles is kept.
Our hosts loosened people up with a choice of two Macallan "Amber" based cocktails on arrival – one built around Vermouth, the other built around dry orange. I went for the latter, and very refreshing it was, but like everyone in the room, I couldn’t wait to get started on the actual drams.
After a short intro from Chris Anderson, from Maxxium UK the fun began. The evening was led by Joy Elliott, brand ambassador for The Macallan. She gave us all an education in the care and importance Macallan places in its cask acquisitions. Joy dropped in many interesting factual nuggets, such as each Macallan cask taking
a full five years to prepare prior to its use to age whisky. Two years air drying (other coopers will kiln dry), two years holding Jerez sherry, and then another year drying out. Each cask costs a whopping £650 to produce (for a 500 litre butt), which explains some of the premium attached to Macallan bottlings.
The 1824 series is an experiment in "colour" – each cask brings different flavour and colour characteristics – tighter American oak imparting lighter colours and citrus / vanilla flavours, and looser European oak working in those darker fruitier and woody flavours. We also learnt that a whisky’s colour is measured against an industry standard tint chart (I personally never knew such a thing existed), and this helps the marrying process achieve consistency across such large quantities. When you consider that 16,000 litres are shipped off for bottling in Glasgow at any one time, it’s remarkable how they are able to replicate flavours on such a large scale.
The drams themselves were all very enjoyable – all bottled at 40 – 43% ABV. I’ll leave you to read the official tasting notes and those of more expert tasters than myself, but I’d say my own preferences were fairly well reflected in the room. We started with Gold – the lightest of all the drams. This is a wonderful everyday dram, and at £35 for 70cl is very accessible. It goes down smoothly, but leaving a nice mouth feel at the end so it doesn’t disappear on you. Next up was the Amber (£55 for 70cl). This had a lot more punch, with a distinct pepperiness on the finish. This was probably my least favourite – but that’s all relative – it was still a cracking dram. Next up was the Sienna – this was probably most people’s favourite, but at £75 for 70cl, it’s a little on the pricey side to go through as quickly as you’d like, but more involved than the previous two, but not so much that it left your head spinning trying to detect the flavours. Ruby was the finale and was easily the most complex of the bunch.It took a while to dissect, and premium pricing aside, it’s a dram you need some time with, and so wouldn’t necessarily be my "go to" bottle.
If I had to rank them, I’d say the following: Sienna was my favourite, but it’d be Gold that found its way on to my shelf as a regular. Amber came in a very respectable third. Ruby earns its place above all of them. It was undoubtedly the superior dram of the evening – such flavour and complexity, and the colour was simply beautiful – but at £135 it’s really only a special occasion bottle.
On our way out we were handed a very nice goodie bag – containing the all important tasting samples so we could continue the experience at home.
Many thanks to Gal for sending me as his envoy, and to The Big Partnership and The Macallan for hosting a very enjoyable and educational evening.