Feb 032015
 

We’ve all been to countless whisky tastings, and they’re mostly good, some because of the presentation, and some despite it. But Macallan’s ambassador to the Middle East,  Patsy Christie, together with Shachaf Koren of Israel’s Edrington Group’s importer Akkerman, had a whole new experience in store for a group of 14 of Israel’s whisky aficionados.

We came to the Bayern, a fabulous Bavarian style Restaurant and Beer Garden in Tel Aviv, and were led up to the gallery, where we were blindfolded and seated at a table, where our hands were were guided to seven Glencairn glasses laid out in front of us. The instructions were as simple as they were intriguing: Find the three whiskys you like best, and tell us when you’re done. What’s more intriguing was the fact that not all the whiskys we were served were Macallans, or even Edrington group products. What an unconventional move!! Kudos to Macallan and Akkerman!

The BLIND Tasting Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

The BLIND Tasting
Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

In the seven glasses were six single malts (wait, six??  Yup, one whisky was found in two glasses…how sneaky is THAT?). Four of them were Macallan’s whisky, and two not. Patsy said upfront that none were peated.
So what did we drink?

  1. Macallan Sherry Oak 12
  2. Macallan Fine Oak 12 (in two glasses)
  3. Macallan Select Oak
  4. Macallan Gold
  5. Yamazaki 12
  6. Glenrothes Select Reserve
Unveiling the Contenders Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

Unveiling the Contenders
Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

My own top three were the Yamazaki 12, The Macallan Fine Oak 12 and the Macallan Select Oak. But more important than the results or the tasting notes is the method: 14 people who understand whisky get totally blind tastings. NOBODY picked up on the fact that two glasses hold the same whisky, and there is a wide variance in the choices of preferred whisky, and all six whiskys were chosen in at least one taster’s top 3.

But Patsy wasn’t done for the night, and out of her magic box she pulled a small bottle, announcing that she’s holding the holy grail in her hand. It turns out that after quite a few years in which she’s been trying to get her hands on some E-150a, she actually got some, and we got to see both its effect in a glass of water, and more importantly, got to sniff it. I will tell you this: IT IS NOT ODORLESS. In fact, it has a distinct smoky/burnt wood smell. It makes quite a mess, so I didn’t taste it, but there’s no way that it has no effect on the whisky it goes into.

E-150a Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

E-150a
Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

So now we turn to the head to head tasting of the two Macallans:

Photo Credit: whiskyjerk.com

Photo Credit: whiskyjerk.com

Macallan 12 – Sherry Oak (40% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Bronze, thin and rather slow legs.

Nose: Sultana raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg, malt, toffee, cherry soda, lightly dusty spices and oak.

Palate: Raisins, sherry sweetness, light bitter oaky notes, spices – very light pepper and allspice with light notes of clove and nutmeg and hints of dried apricots. The whisky is full bodied.

Linger: Light spice in the back of the throat, cherry like sweetness on the tongue and some dryness/tangyness on the inside of the cheeks.

 

Photo Credit: Macallan.com

Macallan Fine Oak 12 (40% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light gold, slow forming and  legs.

Nose: Vanilla and lemon are very dominant. The aromas are strong and pronounced.  Under the vanilla and lemon is a less powerful layer of sherry with raisins and spices and oak wood.

Palate:  Strong and present, spicy and very creamy, almost even oily. Flavors of lemon, pepper, vanilla and bitter citrus with very slight hints of sherry sweetness, never fully realized on the palate.

Linger: Medium and sweet(ish) at the back of the throat with storng peppery spice. Lemon, yellow raisins, wood and vanilla flavors with obvious influence from both bourbon and sherry casks.

 

Conclusion

I’ll start with the picture of the night:

Shhhhhh..... Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

Shhhhhh…..
Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

This is the first time I’m having both drams side by side, and if you haven’t done that yet, you should. There is a Macallan aromatic character to both of them that is in the DNA of the whisky (which I can’t describe other than calling it “the Macallan aroma”, which would be quite unhelpful in tasting notes), and it’s stronger than the specific cask profile in which each was matured. Nevertheless, the Fine Oak pulls toward the spicy and bitter whereas the Sherry Oak takes the spirit to a sweeter and more subtle direction. Sort of like the nerd and the cool kid in middle school 🙂

Several people deserve a hearty thank you for this evening: Patsy Christie and Shachaf Koren of Macallan and Akkerman for a most memorable event, Ofer Ben Or – proprietor of the Bayern and a serious whisky maven – for hosting us so lavishly and Shai Gilboa – photographer and whisky connoisseur – for the pictures.