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Whisky Review #21 – The Macallan 1824 Master Series – The Macallan M

 

The Macallan M sits at the top of the 1824 Master Series. Second to none, it is considered the most exquisite whisky that has been made by The Macallan so far. The M was sold at an auction in Hong Kong back in 2014 for a whooping USD$628,205, making it the most expensive whisky ever sold. It was thus entered into the Guinness Book of Records afterwards as the most expensive whisky in the world.

The M is born of a collaboration between 3 different masters – Fabien Baron, the legendary designer, Lalique, the world’s finest crystal maker and of course, The Macallan, a master in luxury spirits. The ultimate objective is to create the most sophisticated whisky in the world contained in an beautifully-designed crystal decanter that is exclusive to a lucky few.

Made with spirits that reached far back into the history of The Macallan, it is a luxury whisky that has its roots in the sherry casks that The Macallan favours. These casks are hidden in the deep ends of the Macallan warehouse, maturing for years before they were used for the M. Decidedly different from the rest, the M stood out as the pinnacle of the 1824 Master Series.

Here’s a video from Edrington Group for the M

Tasting Notes: Not available

Comments:
Geek Flora: “Due to the exclusivity of this whisky, we have not been able to obtain a proper sampling for the M. Reviews for the Macallan M were rather mixed, with reasonably trashy comments such as the M tasting like a smoky Johnny Walker Red Label, to fantastic comments of the M as a perfect whisky. We will try it next time and update when possible!”

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    Whisky Review #20 – The Macallan 1824 Master Series – No. 6

    The Macallan No. 6 is the second highest tier of the Macallan 1824 Master Series, and also the last to be released in early 2015. Its rarity only second to the Macallan M, the No. 6 is highly valued and considered to be a highly desirable expression in the Macallan 1824 Master Series.

    The Macallan No. 6 combine the art of Bob Dalgarno, Macallan’s Master Distiller, and the talented craftmen of Lalique, the makers of exquisite crystal decanters. The result – an amazing whisky encaused in a stunning, most stylish crystal decanter make with the finest materials.

    This rich and complex whisky expression is matured in first fill sherry seasoned oak casks that were handcrafted by the master craftmen of Jerez de la Frontera, the cooperage that creates exclusive sherried Spanish oak casks. All the casks that were used in this expression were ordered from this single cooperage in order to create a whisky that is unique and rich in flavour and character. The result is the perfect balance of the quality and character of a classic Macallan.

    Here’s a video from Edrington Group on the Macallan No. 6

    Tasting Notes:

    Colour: Spanish Sunset
    ABV: 43%

    Nose: Raisins, figs and dates march right in at the first sniff, while sultana and toffee apples add texture and depth to this whisky. The flavours of raisins are dominates – dark and rich with great viscosity. Ginger and cinnamon dances at the edges gently. The ginger is slightly dry but the cinnamon is soft. The complexity of the nose is further enhanced by dark chocolate, slightly bitter-sweet but not overpowering as sweet vanilla lingers in the background to complete the sweet profile. (16 points)

    Palate: Taste just like a rich and sumptuous fruit cake with raisins, dates, figs, apple, sultana and orange. Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and the hints of clove follows after while the velvety oak notes softly mix into the palate. (15 points)

    Body: Comforting and luxurious, the whisky envelopes you like a warm blanket. Well-balanced and full of character, the No. 6 feels just like family. (30 points)

    Finish: A long and full finish that is like no other, it is silky smooth and rich. (15 points)

    Total Grade: 76 points

    Comments:
    Geek Flora: “Its almost feminine character connects with me immediately, bringing to mind a warm security blanket. Well-balanced between sweet and spice, this whisky is a frisky lady. Definitely something that you would like to pick up if you have the means to!”

     

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      Whisky Review #19 – The Macallan 1824 Master Series – Reflexion

      The Macallan Reflexion is the next in terms of rarity and price level in the 1824 Master Series. Originally the second bottle in terms of rarity after the Rare Cask, it has been “levelled-up” to the third most expensive bottle in this series after the Rare Cask Black has been introduced.

      The Macallan Reflexion marries the natural colour and the beauty of The Macallan, reflecting the influence of first fill sherry seasoned oak casks. This exceptional expression draws its colour and flavours through maturation in smaller hogshead casks. The smaller capacity allows a greater surface interaction between the spirit and wood, creating an intricate character that is driven by both Spanish and American oak casks.

      The colour of this magnificent whisky is further enhanced by the angular facets of the beautifully crafted decanter, making this bottle one of those precious collections that one would like to have displayed at home. Additionally, the complex flavour of The Macallan Reflexion, which is derived from the excellent casks that were selected by Macallan’s very own Whisky Maker, Bob Dalgarno, adds to the completeness of this expression.

      Here’s a video from Edrington Group showcasing the Macallan Reflexion

      Tasting Notes:

      Colour: Blood Orange
      ABV: 43%

      Nose: Fresh orange and citrus fruits found in an open market meets the nose with fresh zest before fading to fresh green apples. The sweetness rush in afterwards – chocolate, thick fudge, boiled sweets; caramel toffees overwhelms the senses before you get hints of white chocolate truffles. A stunning hint of banana in fresh oak arrives at the end to create a wonderfully complex nose. (16 points)

      Palate: Light citrus zest opens up the palate similar to what it does on the nose before the limelight is stolen by a juicy sweetness of lemon and orange. In the background, raisins, sultana and apples, coupled with a hint of cinnamon and ginger linger. (15 points)

      Body: The complexity of the whisky give rise to a well-balanced and full-bodied whisky. The intense colour, flavour and character of the whisky makes this expression a very enjoyable drink. (30 points)

      Finish: A medium to long soft finish with boiled sweets and a tint of toasted oak. (14 points)

      Total Grade: 75 points

      Comments:
      Geek Flora: “Feels pretty much like the Rare Cask when I first tasted it, but the intense flavours started to come out as I allowed the liquor to linger in the mouth. That intense sweetness reflected the sherry wonderfully. The complexity of the whisky gave me a sense of pleasure as I swallowed, ending the drink with a wonderful sweetness as I finished. Quite a perfect whisky I think!”

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        Whisky Review #18 – The Macallan 1824 Master Series – Rare Cask Black

        The Macallan Rare Cask is a recent addition in the Macallan 1824 Master Series. Unlike all other Macallan branded whiskies today, this is actually smoky! This is the final product of the marriage of less than 100 casks maturing at The Macallan distillery. The Master Whisky Maker kept these casks hidden in the dark warehouse until he decides that they are fit to be released.

        Smoky Macallan is rare by itself, coupled by the fact that the casks that make up this special expression will not be reused, the label ‘Rare Cask’ is certainly very apt!

        Tasting Notes:

        Colour: Autumnal Leaves
        ABV: 43%

        Nose: An strong, intense smell of peat smoke gushes out of the dram. This is followed by the combination of the sweetness of dried fruits, dates and raisins, and the spicy ending of nutmeg and ginger. (15 points)

        Palate: A dry smoky flavour immediately engulfs the palate, with the less intense sweetness of dried fruits. The oaky flavour takes over with taste of nutmeg and cloves. (14 points)

        Body: A balanced body of smoke, sweetness of dried fruits and spices. Reasonably complex, considering this is a special make. (28 points)

        Finish: The finish is medium long with woody smoke, and lingering sweetness of dried fruits. (13 points)

        Total Grade: 70 points

        Comments:

        Geek Choc: “Definitely not as smoky as those from Islay. This is a well-crafted, special whisky from The Macallan, but the price does put me off. S$622.30 from DFS! Definitely can get a much better whisky at this price. Of course, if you are a hardcore Macallan fan, this is not to be missed.”

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          Whisky Review #17 – The Macallan 1824 Master Series – Rare Cask

          The Macallan 1824 Master Series showcases the distillery’s strengths of using top quality Sherry oak casks and the beauty of the whisky’s natural colour.

          The Macallan Rare Cask is the entry level of this series. This expression boasts the combination of spirits from 16 different types of casks – butts, hogsheads and puncheons, from different producers (some of these producers no longer exists). Merging spirits from these Spanish and American Sherry seasoned oak casks, mostly first fill, explains the rich hue and woody flavour. These casks actually make up of less than 1% of those in the distillery, and this whisky is so rare that most of the spirits from those casks that are used will never be used again!

          Tasting Notes:

          Colour: Mahogany Red
          ABV: 43%

          Nose: A rich, yet soft vanilla tingles the nose. The sweetness of raisins and chocolates delights the senses soon after, but not overpowering the fruity combination of apples and citrus flavours. The experience concludes with the spicy balance of root ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. (15 points)

          Palate: The spicy taste hits the tongue, with hints of raisin sweetness, but the oaky flavour engulfs the palate soon after. This is ended by slight vanilla and chocolate. (14 points)

          Body: A fairly balanced body with the sweetness of raisins and chocolates. Sadly, not as complex as expected. (25 points)

          Finish: The finish is medium with notes of citrus zest and old oak. (13 points)

          Total Grade: 67 points

          Comments:

          Geek Choc: “Not exactly a bad whisky, but I would expect something more, given the price of this whisky. It seems the rarity of the casks has pushed the prices up, not the final product itself.”

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            The Macallan 1824 Master Series

            The Macallan 1824 Master Series is a luxury range within The Macallan portfolio. It showcase the top-notch quality of The Macallan’s use of sherry casks and each expression increase in rarity as you go up the tier. All the whiskies in the range are hand selected by their Master Distiller, Bob Dalgarno. The 1824 Master Series is a level up from the 1824 Series that we have shared previously. This Master Series starts with the Macallan Rare Cask, which is one tier higher than Ruby, the last of the 4 bottles in the 1824 Series.

            The luxury range of The Macallan 1824 Master Series are made with first-fill, 100% sherry-seasoned casks. It showcases the 100% natural colour that The Macallan is so proud of, and the beautiful spectrum of colours brings to life the interaction of the peerless spirit and the exceptional oak casks. The Macallan’s unique Six Pillars are definitely at the heart of this luxurious collection.

            The Macallan has taken time to release the 1824 Master Series, starting with the Rare Cask and the Macallan M, before releasing Reflexion and No. 6 to complete the series. The Rare Cask Black was later introduced to the market as a peated expression to contrast the Rare Cask. Each expression is housed in striking decanter, with the decanters getting more and more preciously beautiful as you go up the tier. The angled decanters in the higher tiers are specially made to reflect the “M” in Macallan. The exquisite details of every decanter is as amazing as the liquid itself.

            The rarity of the series can be sum up in an auction house in Hong Kong, where the Macallan M was sold at a whooping USD$628,205!! That’s what we called opulent!

            In Singapore, the 1824 Master Series was introduced through various mediums, including an exclusive launch of the Rare Cask where the public was invited to a tasting session. The whole series were introduced again during the Edition No. 1 launch in Singapore, where The Macallan hosted “Toast the Macallan” event at the Black Swan in 2016. In that event, both the 1824 Master Series and the Edition No. 1 were given equal priority. It was also during this event that they introduced the Rare Cask Black to the general public.

            The exclusivity of the 1824 Master Series makes it hard for normal whisky lovers to have a taste of the exquisite whiskies housed in those precious decanter but getting to know the different expressions is in itself, a great experience.

            Here’s a video that was posted on Vimeo by Macallan’s parent company, Edrington. Enjoy!

            We will speak more of the individual bottles in our next few posts, so stay tuned!

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              The Six Pillars that make whisky distinctly Macallan

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

               

              Whisky lovers who have attended previous Macallan events would know the pride that the company has in its unique “Six Pillars”, the foundation stones for the making of every bottle of The Macallan. For the rest who had missed their events, do allow us to show you why The Macallan is distinctively Macallan.

              The Six Pillars

              Credits: www.themacallan.com

              The Six Pillars are the pride of the company. They are the foundation stones for The Macallan and account for much of its fame and character. They are the symbols of the strong sense of belonging within the distillery and the estate they belong to, as well as the experience they have in distilling and maturing excellent single malt whiskies with distinctive characters. Each of these pillars contribute to the essence of The Macallan.

              Spiritual Home

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

              The Macallan spiritual home is none other than the Easter-Elchies House, built in 1700 by Captain John Grant. It lies in the middle of the Macallan estate and represent their heart and soul that are poured into every single bottle of The Macallan. It is a typical Highland manor house and display various features of Scottish architecture of the period. The Macallan makes use of the vast land they own to cultivate their own exclusive barley variety that will eventually go to make The Macallan. The River Spey, which borders the estate to the south and south-east, provides the water for the distillery.

              The Curiously Small Stills

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

              Keeping with tradition, The Macallan is using stills that are smaller than the rest of the industry in Speyside. In fact, they are using the smallest stills in Speyside! The unique size and shape of the stills give the spirit maximum contact with the copper which the stills are made of, helping to thicken the ‘new make’ and provides the rich, fruity and yet full-bodied flavours of The Macallan. Currently, there are 14 of them on the estate, each of them with an initial capacity of 3900 litres. They are so famous that you can find them on the back of the £10 bank note from the Bank of Scotland!

              Finest Cut

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

              Only about 16% of the spirits collected from the spirit stills are used to fill casks for maturation into The Macallan. They choose what they quote as “the best of the best, the heart of the run”. This small portion makes the selection extremely exceptional. It is the main reason why The Macallan ‘new make’ spirit is rich and full-bodied. At 69.8% ABV, this robust spirit is the start of all Macallan whiskies.

              Exceptional Oak Casks

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

              The exceptional oak casks are the best contributors to the quality, natural colours as well as the distinctive aromas and flavours of The Macallan. It is well-known that The Macallan spends more on their casks as compared to other distilleries in their sourcing, crafting, seasoning and caring for their casks. They have three primary casks – the Spanish Oak Sherry casks, the American Oak Sherry casks and the American Oak Bourbon cask. Each of these casks will give different characteristics to the whiskies maturing in them.

              Natural Colours

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

              All the colours in The Macallan whiskies are natural. As long as the whiskies are bottled at The Macallan distillery, the colour of the whisky will be natural. The colours of the whiskies are derived from the interaction of the ‘new make’ spirit with the oak cask during maturation and hence you can see the difference in the colours from light gold to dark mahogany. Due to the natural colours, it takes great skills from the Master Distiller to achieve consistency for the different bottling.

              The Golden Nectar – The Macallan itself

              Credit: www.themacallan.com

              The Master Distiller and his team nose and taste thousands of samples every year to create all The Macallan expressions that are enjoyed around the world. This task is extremely demanding, and require great skills to recognise a whisky that is ready to be bottled. The exacting task of marrying whiskies from different casks is also a skill that can only be acquired over the years. Both skills are required to create The Macallan, one of the best whiskies in the world.

              Making the spirit – Macallan Way

              Credits: www.themacallan.com

              The above diagram shows the complicated distillation process in which The Macallan creates ‘new make’ spirits. Once the spirits are created, they take the finest cut and put them into either the Spanish Oak Sherry cask, the American Oak Sherry cask or the American Oak Bourbon cask for maturation.

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                The Amazing History of The Macallan

                Credits: www.themacallan.com

                Most of us whisky enthusiasts know The Macallan. How can we not know when it is the third largest selling single malt and the second largest by volume? However, how many of us have actively read up on The Macallan’s past and understand its long and rich history since it was founded in 1824? Not many, we suppose. Therefore, the whisky geeks decided to give all our readers a glimpse into the rich history of The Macallan and at the same time, provide some interesting factors to its previous ownership.

                A Little English History

                Before we even talk about The Macallan, let us bring you back to the 19th century Scotland. Back in those days, the Crown was steadily increasing the taxes for whisky distillers, which eventually drove many of them underground. Illegal distilleries were common and they were making sub-standard whiskies due to their fear of being discovered. However, one region stood out among the rest – distilleries in Speyside continued to produce great whiskies, which attracted even King George IV. As the people began to pressure the government to abolish the ridiculously high taxes, The Duke of Gordon took the lead to champion the cause and succeeded in 1823 to set up a completely new Excise Act. Under this regulation, distillers were given a license to operate in exchange for an annual fee of £10 and a per-gallon duty fee.

                Origins of The Macallan

                Under this new rule, The Macallan emerged from the underground in 1824 when founding father Alexander Reid obtained the license to operate. Alexander leased 8 acres of land from the Earl of Seafield to establish The Macallan. The land included the Easter Elchies House which the Earl of Seafield bought from the grandson of Captain John Grant, the original owner of the house. Since then, the Easter Elchies House is part of The Macallan and remains as its symbol for good, classic single malt Scotch whisky.

                After the distillery was set up, Reid formed his own company, Alexander Reid & Co, with The Macallan under its wings. The whisky distilled in this period was named as The Craigellachie, named after the village that the distillery was located. Reid remained as the head of the distillery until his death in 1847, after which, his son took over the helm until his own death in 1858. During the times when the junior Reid was at the helm of the distillery, he took on partners, James Davidson and James Shearer Priest. The distillery later on fell to Davidson alone when Reid passed on. Davidson was a corn merchant who had made his fortune; and he was the one who established the rule of using only high-grade barley for distilling whisky.

                After Davidson’s death, the distillery was taken over by James Stuart on a tenant arrangement. Stuart became very successful in his career and went on to own and operate various distilleries. After 20 years of operation, Stuart purchased The Macallan distillery in 1886.

                Modernisation of The Macallan

                Credits: www.themacallan.com

                The era of modernisation arrived with Roderick Kemp as the new owner of the distillery in 1892. After buying the distillery, it was renamed as R.Kemp Macallan-Glenlivet to take advantage of the Glenlivet name, which had become world famous by then. The Macallan distillery was rebuilt by Kemp. He added new warehouse facilities, improve the company’s stills and the other buildings around it, including the Easter Elchies House. He also expanded Macallan’s production and set new quality standards such as maturing whisky only in Spanish oak sherry casks. Kemp died in 1909, and his family continued to manage the distillery through a trust until the 1990s.

                During this period, the company underwent a lot of changes due to the changes in preferences for single malt whiskies in the mid-1960s. With the interest of single malt growing higher, the company began to add new stills to its property. The Kemp family wanted to preserve the traditional small stills so, instead of changing to the bigger, industrialised stills that were used by the other distilleries, they doubled the small stills instead.

                As the company expanded further, it needed more financial backing and in 1968, the company went public in order to obtain more funds for expansion. The public funds help the company to grow further and by the end of 1968, its annual sales was more than £822 million. The company began to build a new generation of stills but it keep its small stills model in mind, creating exceptional stills for the distillery. In 1975, the company hit sales of £1 million. At this time, the company began to attract a global audience for its exceptional whiskies and the company made a record sales of £2 million by 1977.

                The restoration of the Easter-Elchies House and the boom of the single malt market

                Credits: www.themacallan.com

                At this time, the Easter-Elchies House located on The Macallan premises was in disrepair, and in desperate needs of restoration. Due to the interest of Scotch whiskies, the company decided to restore the house and let it be the reception centre for visitors as well as the office for its ever-growing international distribution. When it opened in 1977, it was so well received that the company decided to change its name to The Macallan. By the mid-1980s, the popularity of single malt whiskies has prompted a collector’s market, in which The Macallan became one of the most desirable labels, especially after they released their first 60-year old bottling.

                The Take-over

                As a public company, The Macallan has remained strong in the face of aggressive mergers and acquisitions in the 1990s. In 1994, the company signed a distribution agreement with Highland Distillers, knowing that the owners of Highland Distillers are interested in acquisition. However, the time is not yet ripe for a take-over. After the mid-1990s, the Highland Distillers become more aggressive in acquiring a larger stake in The Macallan. By this time, the Kemp family is no longer interested to keep the distillery as well. They practically let the distillery go, which resulted in Highland Distillers to join forces with Japan’s Suntory and obtained 51% of The Macallan. The new venture immediately launched the buy-out of the remaining 49% of the company’s shares. With that, The Macallan joins Highland’s Famous Grouse, the best-selling blended whisky in the UK.

                The Second Buy-Over

                The Macallan was held by the joint venture of Highland Distillers and Suntory for a short period, from 1996 to 1999. By the end of the decade, Highland Distillers became the object for take-over and the company finally agreed to be acquired by the Edrington Group, a privately-owned Scotch company. After Highland disappeared into the folds of the Edrington Groups, The Macallan emerges as one of their core brands. The company move The Macallan to take its place as the next best single malt whisky in the industry by releasing new labels such as the 15-Year old and the 30-Year old. In 2000, the release of a 50-Year old took the industry by storm.

                The Macallan Now

                The Macallan continues to climb the fame ladder in the next 10 years, releasing more rare single malt. In 2001, The Macallan 10-Year old was selected as the official Scotch of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the presiding officer of the United Kingdom lower chamber of Parliament. Since then, the prices of various bottles from The Macallan continue to rise. In 2007, a bottle of 1926 The Macallan was sold for USD$54,000 at an auction. In 2010, a bottle of The Macallan 64-Year old single malt  in a one of a kind crystal decanter was sold for USD$460,000 in an auction in New York. The creme of the crop, however, was The Macallan M, which was sold for a whooping USD$628,205 in an auction in Hong Kong in 2014.

                Controversy affecting The Macallan

                The Macallan was embroiled in a controversy in 2003 and 2004 when it was revealed that laboratory testings of antique whiskies purchased for their own collection at the distillery were fakes. In the final test, it was determined that at least 11 bottles of the whiskies in The Macallan distillery were fakes. That revelation resulted in the decision that The Macallan will no longer sell any of their antique bottles from the distillery.

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                  Whisky Review #01 – The Macallan Gold (NAS)

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                  The Macallan Gold is part of the Macallan 1824 Series and one of the first ageless whiskies from the Macallan. In a bold move to remove the emphasis on age in the whisky industry, the Macallan released a series of ageless whisky that are dependent on colours alone. The Macallan Gold was released in September 2012. It was created from a combination of 9 to 15 years old first fill and refill sherry cask spirit and is a great stand-in for the now defunct 10 years old Sherry Oak and the 10 years old Fine Oak bottlings.

                  Tasting Notes:

                  Colour: The colour looks light gold when held to the light at first, but the slightly burnished gold becomes evident on a closer look.
                  ABV: 40%

                  Nose: Lemon citrus and orange peel hits you as we nose it for the first time. A repeated sniff brings an interlace of sweetness that softens but does not compromise the zest.  As we take a deeper breathe, a hint of vanilla surfaced, followed by dark chocolate with lingering floral and light oak notes. It smells light and sweet, something that Geek Flora might love. (16 points)

                  Palate: The first taste brings citrus and boiled sweets along with subtle hints of ginger and cinnamon. As we rolled the liquid in our mouths, the soft oak tones surfaced followed by toasted apples. (14 points)

                  Body: The body of the whisky is relatively balanced with the citrus and sweetness gelling nicely together to form a light whisky. (30 points)

                  Finish: The finish is slightly sweet and malty with a little dryness on the side. (13 points)

                  Total Grade: 73 points

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