Dec 112014

Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating my birthday, and start my 46th orbit around our local star. Incidentally, my birthday dram (to be reviewed tomorrow) will also be my 500th single malt. In the meantime, we’ll be closing out my 45th year with a review of the Macallan Ruby.

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The Macalla Ruby is comprised of 100% first fill European oak sherry casks. I can understand those who prefer it as the best of the range, and still find it to be much flatter than the Sherry Oak 18, which presumably it’s supposed to replace. I wasn’t impressed, and gathered from the people at my table at the masterclass that this sentiment was shared. You’re drinking a Macallan sherry bomb and not loving it…something is really wrong here.

Before getting to my notes on the Ruby, I’d like to share my overall impression of the series. It seems that Macallan made a conscious choice to hit the lowest possible denominator in order to sell as much whisky as possible. As someone who has had a decent selection of the older Macallan, these expressions were but pale shadows both to the highly acclaimed Sherry Oak series and to the the Fine Oak series. Right after the Ruby, I had a dram of the Fine Oak 21, and the first thought that crossed my mind was “this is a Macallan”….

While never having been a huge Macallan fanboy, I had a lot of respect for the whisky they produced, and never turned down an offered Macallan dram. I can honestly say that I would very likely skip all the 1824 series expressions, with the possible exception of the Sienna, if offered outside a professional setting (like a tasting or an event where a toast was required and only one of these was available). I’m saddened to see a distillery which was the standard bearer in the industry stoop so low. Again, I want to be clear that this isn’t about age statements as I have given excellent reviews to NAS whisky (like the Edrington owned sister distillery’s Highland Park Dark Origins).


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Macallan Ruby (NAS, 43% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Bronze with a reddish tinge, slow to form legs.

Nose: This is more of a sherry whisky than the others in the series with notes of dried fruit, susultanas, cinnamon, warm Christmas cake, dry wood, wood spice and a light balsamic tinge. The nose is, nevertheless, rather light.

Palate: Mouth coating and dry, with wood tannins and sweetness mixing. Curiously, the spices are lacking from the palate, making for a rather shallow palate.

Linger: Medium-long with a dry effect on the sides of the cheeks and some latent sweetness.


While not impressive in any way, it’s drinkable whisky. It lacks depth of flavor and would not rally make any sherry bomb aficionado lose his head. Should you pay  £125 for it? I think the answer is self evident, considering that you could walk out of a store with the far superior Glenfarclas 21 and still have 45 quid left with which you could buy a bottle of (again, far superior) Glendronach 15, and still have money left to take the tube home.

I’ll conclude this series with the words of the Kaiser Chiefs in their so aptly titled song “Ruby”:

Due to lack of interest
Tomorrow is canceled
Let the clocks be reset
And the pendulums held

I fear this is where Macallan has gone. I hope someone there will have the good sense to stop the madness!


Dec 102014

The third expression in the 1824 series is the Sienna. The Sienna has more European oak and more first fill American oak than the Amber and the Gold. We’re not at 100% first fill sherry, but we’re getting there. The casks are sherry seasoned with Oloroso Sherry. It’s worth noting that these casks were never actually used for actual sherry, rather these are casks that were seasoned with sherry. If this interests you further, I recommend Billy Abbott’s (@cowfish) excellent blog post series on sherry casks (so far two of the three were published) and here is the link to the first post.

Sherry Casks Photo Credit:

Sherry Casks
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Macallan claims to import most of the sherry casks coming into Scotland, which together with the expansion we discussed yesterday, promises a wide availability of these four expressions.

Continuing what seems to be a theme for me, I liked this expression better than the top expression of the range, both of whom I had twice at the Whisky Show, and took notes on both occasions. So with no further ado, let’s take a look at the tasting notes for this whisky:

Macallan Sienna (43% ABV, NAS, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, darker shade than the Macallan Amber.

Nose: Oranges, dried fruit, a bouquet of flowers, notes of vanilla and ginger. Green apples and sugared apples.

Palate: Very consistent with the nose with oranges, spice and dried dates. This expression has an oily feel and is rather dry.

Linger: Medium with notes of sweeter citrus, honey, cinnamon and gentle clove.


This is the best expression of the rather pale range. The oranges are lovely and I liked the consistency between the nose and the palate.

Last night I had  dram of Balvenie, and it dawned on me that I might like this expression because it’s a lot like the basic flavor profile of Balvenie!

What a sad thing to say about a once great distillery…











Dec 082014

The Amber is the second rung up in the 1824 range. In this expression, second fill sherry casks still get mixed in, and the casks are a combination of American and European oak casks. I mentioned that this series is to honor of the new distillery that will replace the current facility. The current Macallan facility has two separate production plants. Plant number one has five wash stills and ten spirit stills, while the number two plant has two wash stills and four spirit stills. Both facilities will be closed when the new plant comes online in 2017 with a capacity higher be 60 percent, of around 16 million liters of pure alcohol and at a cost of £100 million.

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The new distillery will have 12 wash stills and 24 spirit stills (up from 7 wash stills and 17 spirit stills today) and with a look taken directly out of J.R.R Tolkien’s shire, the roof of the distillery will feature five small hills and will be covered in grass.

It looks like it will be a great place to visit 🙂

In the meantime, we’ll check out the current production of the stills in the old plants, zeroing in on the Amber:

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Macallan Amber (40% ABV, NAS, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep gold, thick legs.

Nose: Soaked white raisins, warm spices, a perfumy orange, white bread toast, dried fruit. This is sweeter than the Gold with more honey and gentle citrus.

Palate: Honey, sweet spice and vanilla in a more oily delivery than the Gold, with bitterness toward the end of the palate.

Linger: Pepper and spice with a rather long lingering sweetness.


The sherry is more pronounced in the Amber. It’s a better expression yet it two flaws.

The most obvious one, of course, is the ABV. What’s up with that? Secondly, the bitterness at the end of the palate is out of place in this warm and sweet dram.

All and all, it’s not quite what we were hoping for….