Nearly 8 years ago I hosted two back to back Ancient Malts tastings at Kensington Wine Market, the first of their kind. The piece de resistance of the two tastings was a bottle of Macallan 50 Year Lalique, the first of a planned six releases in MacallanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s series of Lalique crystal bottlings. Ã‚Â I opened the bottle and tasted it for the first time in an interview with a CBC reporter. The whisky and the tastings were a huge hit. We’ve since done many incarnations of Ancient Malts with more than a few old and rare whiskies some worth up to twenty grand.
Flash forward to 2013, Macallan stunned everyone by announcing that they’d be phasing out age statement whiskies and launching a new line called the 1824 Series. Consisting of four whiskies named for their colours, Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby the range would be lorded over by a fifth whisky, the Macallan ‘M’. When these bottles started trickling into the market late in 2013 I knew we had to set one aside for a special tasting, and so we did.
On the 5th of March 2014 a group of intrepid whisky tasters joined us for a special tasting at Kensington Wine Market. We began by exploring blind a range of six Macallans including the four 1824 Series whiskies named for their colours: Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby. We also threw into the tasting a 15 year old Macallan bottled by Old Malt Cask and Batch 3 of Master of Malt’s That Boutique’y Whisky Company Macallan. My tasting notes on those six whiskies follow:
- Macallan 1824 Gold Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 40% – Ã‚Â Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: honeyed, grassy and citric with some crisp grassy malt; Palate: honeyed and chewy with more citrus notes, grassy malt and some developing dark fruits like raisins and dates; Finish: good length, I find my mouth waters as it dries going from honey and malt to leathery oak. - $63.99
- Macallan 1824 Amber Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 40% -Ã‚Â Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: big caramel and toffee with some new leather shoes; browning apple and Demerara sugars; Palate: medium bodied, and honeyed with some dark chocolate, juicy orange and more new leather, browning white fruits and Demerara sugars; Finish: honeyed and leathery, with fading citrus and more browning white fruits. – $83.99
- Macallan 1824 Sienna Ã¢â‚¬â€œ43% – Ã‚Â Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: candied fruits and spice, Aunt Jemima, Bing cherries and candied orange slices with expensive leather handbags and Eatmore candy bars; Palate: rich and nutty, more Aunt Jemima, marzipan, candied fruits and smooth expensive leather; classic dark fruit notes, licorice and Christmas cake emerge with another helping of Eatmore candy bars; Finish: long and nutty with more Christmas cake and soft leather; Licorice Goodies and candied fennel offer a final flourish. – $159.99
- OMC Macallan 15 Year Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 50% – Distilled: October 1997 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Bottled: February 2013 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Refill Hogshead DL 9458 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: very decadent with soft vanilla and clean honey, floral tones and some chunky malt; some traces of spice and toasted oak; Palate: more honey and vanilla Ã‚Â with warming toasty oak, refined sugar and some tingling sweet spice: ginger candies; zesty orange and lemon moves into candied versions of the same fruits and barley sugars; Finish: light but with good length and more honeyed floral citric malty tones. – $149.99
- Master of Malt Macallan Batch 3 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 43.4% – 245 Bottles – No Age Statement No Cask Type Specified -Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 43% – 100% First Fill Ex-Sherry -Ã‚Â Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: brown and Demerara sugars, fennel and new leather sofas; candied cherries, orange and lemon with candied ginger and some soft vanilla tones; Palate: big and round with lots of honey and toasty vanilla notes laid over layers of fruit and dark sugars; becomes progressively spicier with some chocolate and emerging dark fruits; my mind is going to a bag of assorted Jelly Bellies; Finish: medium length and quite fruity with a toasty vanilla backbone that fades into more assorted Jelly Bellies. – $175.49
- Macallan 1824 Ruby Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 43% – 100% First Fill Ex-Sherry – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: classic big sherried Macallan with rich Christmas cake, leather, dark chocolate and tobacco; musty earthy oak, espresso beans and tobacco leaf; Palate: deep, dark and very fruity with layers of white, dark and citric fruits; more chocolate, grapey fruits and smooth old leather (not as tanic as the nose had hinted) with an almost minty floral kick; the spices pop up last after finally freeing itself from the fruit; Finish: darkly fruity, leathery and earthy with some sweet vanilla and damp tobacco leaf.” – $264.99
After the first six whiskies, participants were asked to vote on their favourite two (with no distinction between an individuals first or second choice) before the whiskies were revealed. The Favourites Were as Follows:
- Macallan Ruby
- Macallan Sienna
- OMC Macallan 15 Year tied with Master of Malt Macallan Batch 3
With the votes tabulated and the winners revealed we went on to the evening’s main event, the tasting of the Macallan ‘M’. Like the whiskies of the 1824 Series, the ‘M’ has no age statement, though there was apparently a quantity of 1940 whisky added to the vatting. 1750 decanters have been bottled at 44.7%, and four others in special 6L decanters (one of which sold at auction for a record setting price of $630,000.00 USD in January). The decanter was made by Lalique, and the packaging was designed by Baron & Baron. The bottle has six faces, one each for the 6 pillars of Macallan.
Macallan ‘M’ Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 44.7% – Andrew’s Tasting Note: Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: raspberry sauce, damp Christmas cake, nutty Oloroso sherry and tingling spices; some hints of vanilla and dark sugars with treacle sauce and chocolate coated coffee bean; melons, pineapple and other tropical fruits emerge with some patience before being replaced by leather and tobacco; and then it is on to the spices, cinnamon sticks, powdered ginger and cardamom; Palate: immediately fruity with flavour tendrils spreading in a bewildering number of directions; classic Christmas cake and nutty sherry notes make way for the finest soft leather and soft cigar tobacco; more chocolate, coffee bean, maple syrup and now some sweet Panda Brand black licorice; the fruits emerge again as the sherry and leathery notes recede showing some orange peel, melons, mangoes and a hint of pineapple; I could go on; Finish: varies by sip, at times a wave of spices rippling across the tongue; other sips fade into soft leather and nutty sherry or old earthy Dunnage sherry notes; but it is always long, complex and fruity; Comments: the haters will say what they will about the lack of an age statement and the price point, that is until they try it, this is one hell of a good whisky.Ã‚Â I wish I could recall more clearly the 50 Year Lalique for comparative purposes, but time has dulled those sense a little. – $3,799.99
It was a fine evening and a great tasting. Most agreed the liquid in the ‘M’ had the characteristics of a very old malt. A silence descended on the room as everyone tasted and contemplated the whisky in their glass. Rather than include it in the voting for favourites, a competition it would have handily won, I asked the participants whether the whisky met their expectations. Without exception, everyone agreed it had indeed lived up to the hype. Not everyone has $3,800.00 to spend on a single bottle of whisky, let alone one with no age statement. But the proof is in whisky to borrow a turn of phrase, and demand for this whisky has been very strong. What can be said about the ‘M’, and my final word on it, is that it is a damn fine drop of whisky!”