Today we’ve taking a small video adventure with Macallan national brand ambassador Nicolas Villalon. I really hoped that this video would be educational, accessible, and not overwhelming to a beginner whisky enthusiast… let me know what you think in the comments below or on YouTube!
This blog post has been nine months in the making! It’s a whisky-blog baby! [Scotch] and I were raised to make a big deal out of birthdays. Not necessarily in terms of parties and extravagance but we were raised to spend birthdays as a celebration of family. Because of that, we generally tend to plan for birthdays way too far in advance. Where am I going with this?
Rewind to Christmas of LAST YEAR. Just before Christmas, I found a bottle of Macallan Reflexion at a local DC Costco and knew I had to have it. Not for Christmas but for my 35th birthday so with some saved up cash (and few “benjamins” from the ‘rents) I purchased it as a future birthday gift knowing I wanted to do something crazy for my own birthday (for once, it’s rare that I celebrate myself and as you’ll see in a minute, I still managed to avoid it!)
Fast forward to the second to last weekend in August! I invited a handful of friends to join me in celebrating another year on this planet by sipping whisky with me! (Four of us have August birthdays!) We had a handful of bottles to sample that I’ve been collecting for the last two and a half years (including Pappy Van Winkle 23, Macallan Reflexion, Macallan 21 Fine Oak, Macallan Rare Cask, Michters 10 Bourbon, Glenfiddich 26, Bookers Rye, Highland Park Ice, and Jeffersons 25 year rye). I wanted to share them all with some of my friends.
We blind taste tested the three Macallan’s, which was a hoot, and everyone brought some food (pot luck style) so we were all stuffed and loving life. Getting the opportunity and having the ability to share such wonderful hooch with friends is the whole point of drinking in the first place. I was hoping to create a once in a life time experience that we could all enjoy. 🙂
Anywho, let’s move on to the review we’ve all been waiting for 😀
Hopefully you’re able to find your dream bottle
and enjoy it one day be it thousands of dollars
or tens of dollars.
All that matters is spending time with friends and family 🙂
COLOR: Reddish brownish gold, like lightly used motor oil or toasted cinnamon sticks.
NOSE: SHERRY, the nose reeks of a candied vanilla caramel mixed in with tons of Macallan’s signature sherry bomb.
PALATE: Ridiculously smooth and viscous, it has an ever so slight edge of burn, orange sweet-vanilla marmalade, subdued Sherry spices. You’re rewarded for chewing this delectable dram. It’s like the best of bourbon and sherry melded together with the velvety mouthfeel of some of my favorite pours.
Finish: The Sherry spices are revisited ten fold blossoming into freshly cracked white pepper, sherry, and light touches of oak. It’s just slightly tannic but not unpleasant in any way.
If you love sherry, you probably already love Macallan. This citrus-y vanilla mix is no exception to their family of tasty offerings. The signature notes that Macallan is famous for are all here but in a formula that exudes softness and elegance. The bottle is a metaphor, really.
Is it worth it?
I wonder if it IS worth it. It can be found for $979 on master of malt, $1250 at Costco, and $1900 at total wine. It’s amazing how wide the range of prices are for the same bottle but as always, a bottle is worth as much as you’re willing to pay (see: secondary whisky market). At the end of the day, getting to share such a beautiful presentation of whisky for friends while celebrating a birthday, well, that’s priceless. Even if your buddy’s wife throws back half of her Reflexion pour while trying to “catch up” during the blind taste testing. 😛
I stayed up last night thinking a lot about this topic and how we’re kind of fooling ourselves. If you’re trying to find the worlds best whisky, sorry for the deceiving title, but you won’t find it here. What you will find, is the truth behind what will guide you, to find
the best whiskies of the world.
The three topics that kept me up last night were; Rating systems, Personal preference and Hype. I’ll soap box on each one of these separately.
Rating Systems: Rating systems are great aids for those who don’t know what they want and to potentially find the best versions of a certain whisky in a certain category. For example, using the 100 point scale that many reviews use, you could safely assume that a 95 point Islay whisky, like an Ardbeg Uigeadail, would be an exceptional example of a peated northern Islay whisky. What some may call a “Classic”. Without having tasted it, you can trust that the reviewers have or should have determined that the flavors present in the whisky should showcase that of an Islay whisky, to be at least 95% of the best of that style.
This may take into account the many factors of being a classic Islay whisky, BUT, what if you don’t like Islay whiskies?? What if peat makes you cringe? And even though this is one of the best peated Islay whiskies, you hate it. Then that 95 points means nothing to you.
One way to get a better idea of if your taste buds are on par with a reviewers, is to drink a lot of the same whisky that they have reviewed, to see if you agree with them. But the thing about drinking a lot of whisky is; 1. You could develop a serious drinking problem, 2. A serious loss of money problem or even more seriously, 3. Be able to determine your own personal preference. The industry would like it if they could continue to think for you, aka “Influence” you.
The best thing I’ve learned about tasting and reviewing a lot of whisky, is that you become better at tasting and reviewing whisky. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. Or a better saying in this situation would be, practice makes you more educated. But it doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily. The more whisky you taste, the better ability you have to determine what you like and dislike. After gaining the knowledge of knowing what you like and dislike, e.g. Personal Preference, then you can determine for yourself what is the best, for you!
Many people have this idea that they know what’s best for you. Not just random people, but companies. “Our soap is the best for your shower”, “these crackers will cure indigestion” and “our toilet paper will wipe better for you than any other”. When companies do this, it’s called marketing. When randos do this, it’s called hype.
Both marketing and hype are used to increase the perception of the value for things, often to ridiculous heights. Case in point, the 2013 Yamazaki Sherry cask which was named Best Whiskey in the World by Jim Murray (a whisky reviewer). This rocketed the Japanese whiskey scene, calling for thousands of dollars for the 2013 Yamazaki Sherry Cask and even raising the rest of the Yamazaki expressions to crazy inflated prices. The 12 year expression used to cost $65, now if you can find it, will run you $125. The 18 year expression used to cost around $200 and is now hovering between $399 – $450. Is the whisky good? Sure! But is it $400 good for the 18 year or $125 good for the 12 year? Maybe. It really depends upon how much you’re willing to spend for something that is hard to get and if you enjoy it. I love the Hibiki 21 year. I started purchasing bottles at $199 when I first saw it and I continue to purchase bottles when I find it for $350. When is my stopping point? My wife says, now.
Bottom line, use resources like this blog, other blogs and other reviewers to form a general idea of what it is you want to try. We try to use very easy to understand descriptions in order to appeal to the vast majority. Then, use online sites that sell samples of various bottles of whisky, or go to different bars to try different pours without committing to a full bottle. Determine whether you like sweet, peat, salty, medicinal or any other types of whisky and then continue down those lanes until you find your grail. That is the only way to determine what the best whisky in the world is, for you. And that’s why we love this whisky journey that we’re on.
So, what’s YOUR world’s best whisky??
Greetings fellow scotch lovers! Let’s jump right into this, shall we? Odds are good if you’re here, you are already on the fence about purchasing the newly released “Macallan Edition No 2”. Let us help you make the right decision!
The No 1 was an exercise in wood selections that brought Macallan’s Bob Delgarno’s ability to select tasty casks right to the forefront of our palates. Six first fill casks and two second fill casks have been chosen with seven woods from Europe and one from the states to showcase that classic Macallan taste. On the flip side, for the No 2, Bob Delgarno collaborated with three brothers who run a restaurant that has been the number one restaurant in the world… twice! Reading into the rich history of these three brothers, I feel like [Scotch] should be writing the back story on their restaurant: El Celler de Can Roca.
It’s nifty how the three Roca brothers close their restaurant every august to travel the world and bring experiences back to the kitchen together. That’s fascinating in a handful of ways and probably plays a great part in their cask selections. One of them is a sommelier so I’m sure that plays a huge part too. Along with the chef and patisssier, it makes more sense to look at their barrel selections knowing their roles in their restaurant. All of that said, it should be no surprise that a whisky maker known for it’s select woods, expensive offerings, and brand status would pick such a well known restaurant amongst the world’s biggest food lovers to collaborate in such an endeavor.
Light golden toast. The perfect color toast for warm PB&J sandwiches or perfectly golden grilled cheeses. The fact that the colors are identical for both of these offerings is just another testament to the truth that color really does not matter.
Side by side, the No 1 is much more oaky and sherry spice compare to the floral and fruit apple-y tree fruilty notes of the No 2. As a lover of Glenfiddich’s apple-y line, this dram smells like the best of both worlds! A Macallan sherried Glenfiddich!! Would that NOT be amazing??? Oh wait, that’s what this is!! This type of sweetness on the nose is uncharacteristic of Macallan but certainly not unwelcome. If you imagine that most Macallan tastes “dark”, this would be the “lighter” side of Mac! The No 1 on the other hand, has that sherry, orange-peel spice we’ve come to love from the Macallan.
The No 2 punches the palate with spices at 48.2% ABV but immediately rolls over into sweeter notes. Like a German shepherd that looks aggressive but immediately rolls onto his back for belly rubs! The No 2 has a silk mouthfeel and it slightly tannic. I’m getting ginger notes with something sweet lingering above them. The No 1 has a completely different feel than the No 2, and rolls on the tongue with a feel somewhere between water and milk. The taste of oak rises to the occasion but not in an unpleasant way. It’s like the oak chips that are consumed in a BBQ smoker so it’s more subtle and less like chewing a burnt toothpick. Dark spices like cinnamon and nutmeg present themselves slathered over quite a bit of toffee.
The finish of the No 2 brings some vanilla iced cookies to the surface along with spices. Maybe something like vanilla iced ginger snaps. Man, that’s good and I don’t even like gingersnaps! The finish on the No 1 is, again, okay when enjoyed side by side with the No 2.
Unfortunately, in my mind, this isn’t a competition at all. It all comes down to what you’re in the mood for. If you want nutmeg-cinnamon toffee served on an oak plate, grab the No 1. But if you want vanilla drizzled gingersnaps? I think you know what you need to grab. For $100 a bottle, you’re getting a LOT of Macallan. Based on the price of Macallan’s scrumptious 18, the No 2 is a definite value.
From two power houses with two very different offerings, we bring you one of the best tasting ScotchVSScotch tastings to date. The idea of comparing two chocolatey scotches had crossed my mind a few times but I was really craving some chocolate recently and decided to enjoy that cocoa-y sugar the best way we I know how.
The Signet is made with a blend of some of Glenmorangie’s older whisky (30+ years according to their website) and some younger whisky made from roasted “chocolate” barley malt. It’s called chocolate malt but it gets its nickname from the flavors brought out of the barley not so much the method by which its roasted and dried (which is the real defining factor for making chocolate malt).
Not to be a bore but the the Macallan 18 is made in typical Macallan fashion. Pour a spirit into some magically delicious Spanish oak and voila! Er, something like that. 🙂
The colors are an extremely similar shade of medium roasted caramel but the Mac 18 is ever so slightly darker. It’s almost like comparing two oranges in a bunch. They might differ slightly but they’re both orange! Let’s move onto the nose…
Wow. This is just another reason I’ve fallen in love with comparison tasting and really a reason I think tasting events are more enjoyable (sometimes) than just sitting down with a single glass at home. Both of these pours are rich with velvety chocolate when enjoyed alone but side by side the subtle nuances of flavor really rise to the top. The Macallan reeks of espresso and sherry. No surprise there! The Signet changes from its normally-chocolate-self to a refreshing orange and fruit medley with a mint and ginger overlay.
On the palate, the Signet is spice laden and packs a flavorful punch. Cinnamon and black pepper take the stage with fruit sugar waiting in the wing but never getting the spotlight. It finishes just as fresh as the nose. Minty, light,and refreshing.
The Mac 18 is velvet on the tongue and almost the polar opposite of the Signet on the tongue. Sherry spices usher almost-mandarin-sweet oranges to the front of your attention. The spices that commonly accompany sherry aged scotches are extremely well balanced against splashes of milk chocolate, apples, and just a bit of oak. The 18 finish seems to last and last. Fantastic!
So there you have it!! Have you tried either of these or both of these wonderful offerings? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
We love getting requests for Scotch VS Scotch comparisons. We’ve had the idea to post these for a while but have only recently decided to be intentional about it. Our first installment of the SvS was the Aberlour A’bunadh versus the Macallan Rare Cask. Hopefully this comparison is just as entertaining. We’re sticking with two from the same distillery this time.
Both very oaky… SURPRISE! The 10 contains some typical oak sour notes like a too-young-spirit. The 17 shows sweet notes off the bat and it’s rich in smoke too. The 17 is like fireplace smoke drizzled in sugar.
The 10 is edgy and very forward with its oak infused spices. I hate making references to fresh cracked black pepper so often but oak always brings this out in the reviews. The 10 suffers from an almost bitter edge like cinnamon though. The fruit require a bit of work to taste… subtle behind the oak. The 17 is also full of spices and signature oak offerings are balanced with a sweetness.
Let’s add some water, shall we?
The 17 has turned into quite the fruit sugar drink that teeters the entire time on the line of the oak qualities. What a wonderfully balanced dram. There is light sweetness in the 10 now but it’s become insanely tannic. To the point it’s difficult to decipher flavors. It’s still a bottle of oak infused water. It’s no where near the balance of sweet like the 17. Comparitively, the 10 is unrefined against the 17. Like it wanted to be it’s big brother but barely got halfway there.
The 10 finishes like a champ though. It rolls off smoothly and doesn’t linger like an awkward phone call. It’s cordial and willing to say goodbye. The 17 is smooth, warm, and thick like honey. It finishes like a lover not ready to leave. Sweet smoke lingers if thee is such a thing.
(the post water finish changed a bit drastically)
The 17 finish becomes like melted butter on the tongue but more refreshing than oily.
The tannic ride doesn’t end with the 10. Time to drink a half a gallon of water to deal with this mouthful of cotton balls.
And there we have it. Is the 17 worth the $100 difference? Without a doubt. A wonderfully balanced bottle is a treasure. I’m surprised the 10 is even produced to represent the Macallan Fine Oak line. You’d have to be in love with sour, young oak to really love it. I’d rather spend the same on the standard 12 and enjoy the sherry. Slainté!
We’re comparing a $90 cask strength Aberlour to a $300 macallan. Is there a $210 difference in these bottles? Let me just say off the bat, the packaging, bottle, and bottle topper for the rare cask are worth the first hundred dollars. The bottle is beautifully cut and angled with feminine shoulders donning a low necked top. The topper is one solid piece of metal with a checkered pattern holding the cork. The packaging is magnetically held closed and wonderfully compliments the bottle. So with that very expensive but effective marketing aside, the bottles don’t compare in the presentation category.
Considering the Rare Cask from Macallan and the A’bunadh from Aberlour are both aged in magical Sherry casks, it’s no surprise that their noses are similar but the Abunadh immediately stands out… as its almost-20%-higher-alcohol-content train wrecks it’s way into your nostrils. The Rare Cask reeks of sherry and sweetened vanilla and more… The Abunadh is much more of a sherry with mouth watering orange marmalade and classic sun dried raisins. So though they both scream Sherry, they both have pretty obvious differences in the nose.
The Abunadh at full strength is tannic and heavy handed. Holding it for a while on the tongue may be more dangerous than helpful to analyzing the flavors in the juice. The raisins reappear and pepper finds its way to the middle of the tongue. The alcohol is overwhelming though. Considering cask strengths like this (60%) can be cut in half, you’ve essentially bought two bottles of tastiness. That alone doubles the value of the Abunadh! So it’s really a $180 bottle vs a $300 bottle now! Minus the Rare Cask packaging, this has quickly become a fair fight!! The Rare Cask is much more kind to the palate… soft sherry gives rise to spices and pepper. They’re forward but not overwhelming.
And now we add water!
The Rare Cask was already mellow and the dilution only brings a touch of sweetness to the forefront but it’s still very much a spicy sherry bomb. Macallan knows their fans very well.
The A’bunadh isn’t any less tannic. It rushes to pull the water from your mouth but hold out for the sugar and spice of the Sherry. It might be the side by side reviews of two sherry bombs that’s hurting my objective… I’m betting on that… or the A’bunadh really did just shed its sugar.
The Rare Cask is only slightly oily and lingers like sweet sugar cooking over a fire. A hint of caramelized sugar with a touch of smoke. Burnt sugar edges if you’ve ever had sugar fried into a pancake (like they do on the streets in Korea). The A’bunadh’s finish is manageable and not nearly as lingering. Surprising.
So how do they compare? The Macallan finds sugar and the A’bunadh finds spice. They both find sherry and they both taste amazing! They’re both worth their cost but the A’bunadh makes a great substitute for the Rare Cask as long as you’re not hunting for that extra sugary sweet over smoke over sherry.
Let’s get started.
The parameters we’re using for this year’s Christmas gift list are:
1) A few $50ish bottle options
2) A $100 bottle option
3) A “dream” bottle option.
The dream bottle option won’t be something ridiculous like the Macallan M but something under a grand that is attainable with a good bit of saving. ($20 a week is a smidge over $1000 so it’s definitely a gift you’d be better off planning for)
Glenfiddich 12 ($42)
Dalwhinnie 15 ($57)
Glenlivet Naddura ($90)
Can I do two dream bottle options??
Glenfiddich Age of Discovery 19
Kirkland Alexander Murray and Co bottled The Glenlivet 40
($700 regularly, on sale in DC for $600 right now)
This is the smoothest and almost the most affordable 40 year scotch out there. Oak, cherries, creme, granulated sugar, a touch of pepper, cantaloupe, and just a touch of smoke. WOW oh WOW oh WOW.
What didn’t make my list and why…
Macallan Rare Cask ($300)
This would definitely make the dream bottle list but we haven’t done a formal review on it so it will have to wait until next year at the soonest.
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie ($66)
This actually replaced my Glenfiddich 19 as my nightly sipper after I purchased it. It’s an amazingly balanced scotch. I’m not even a fan of peat but level of peat and smoke in this tasty morsel mixed with actual fruit flavors equals an AMAZING daily dram.
As always, enjoy responsibly with friends!