Mar 262018
 

I’m not sure you know that for my day job, I’m an Organizational Consultant. One of the things I find most fascinating is seeing how companies recover (or attempt to recover) from bad business decisions. There is little doubt that the move away from age statement to “color levels” in the sorry 1824 series did little for Macallan’s reputation. And seeing the 12 Year Old Double Cask come into the market, as well as seeing that the Sherry Oak and Fine Oak have not really been completely phased out, but rather we’ve seen the Sherry Oak series make a comeback to markets from which it’s been removed. All this is augmented by this cask strength limited release and represents a clear backtracking by Edrington, all but admitting that the 1824 move didn’t work.

Image result for macallan distillery

This post also marks the testing phase of the new world class Macallan facility. I have not yet seen it in operation, and will obviously report when I do.

The Classic Cut is a limited edition, so this does not signal the permanent return of the popular cask strength editions (either the 10 year old or the NAS) of old. Style wise, by the way, this is anything but the “classic cut” of Macallan, but as you’ll see in the conclusion, it does deliver. This whisky was fully matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European and American oak casks, both of which are very prominent on the nose.

 

Photo Credit: theliquorbarn.com

Macallan Classic Cut – 2017 Edition Cask Strength (58.4% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Copper, slow beads peeling off a very sturdy necklace.

Nose: While very clearly a Macallan, it’s much lighter on the sherry than the old style Cask Strength editions. Nevertheless, the sherry is very present, without overpowering the spirit. Dried fruit and cinnamon mix with a warm vanilla and a hint of freshly ground pepper. The vanilla is almost at the vanilla custard point, and the wood spices are quite inviting. It’s not old whisky, but it’s not that young either, and I’d guess it’s around the 10 year old mark. With a bit of time in the glass, I also get a very nutty note, together with some fresh stone fruit, namely peach and plum, and some red berries.

Palate: Thick and syrupy, with spice and a sweetness. The cinnamon and pepper make appearances, suggesting both the European and the American oak. The palate on it is very pleasant, if not overly complex.

Linger: Summer fruit sweetness and spice interplay on the tongue, with the mildly dry sweetness reaching all the way into the gullet, where the gentle spice takes over.

Conclusion

While the old Cask Strength editions were true sherry bombs, this is a lighter version of it, that’s much more connected to the actual spirit. I expected it to be not as good as the old versions, but it isn’t. It’s definitely a different style of whisky, but it’s an excellent specimen of the new style, and is not a bad dram at all.

So far, I’ve only seen this expression in the United States, where it’s quite reasonably priced.

 

Jan 072017
 

Yes, I know….Yet another travel retail NAS expression being pushed at us by whisky companies’ marketing departments in a never-ending procession of boring, indistinct, and uninspired expressions. Yet, even within such a plethora of blandness, they are bound to be some expressions that are worth your time and effort and I’m happy to report that I’ve actually come across one of them in this expression from Glenmorangie.

Photo Credit: brandpackaging.com

Glenmorangie’s legends series currently holds three expressions, one of which is indeed exemplary of the trends currently awash in travel retail. The Duthac is named for the legend of St. Duthac, the patron saint of Tain, is finished both in Pedro Ximénez and in virgin oak was so uninspiring that I didn’t even bother taking notes of it. I did taste the Tarlogan in an airport, but tasting a tiny bit out of a small plastic shot glass isn’t enough to really form an opinion of it. I will say that as a serious lover of Glenmorangie in virgin oak (recall both the Astar and the Ealanta) I expected to be blown away by the Tarlogan to the extent of having to buy a bottle right there and then, but that didn’t happen. So the jury is still awaiting a further, more conducive, encounter with the Tarlogan. Now enter the Tayne. I rarely buy any whisky at the local duty free shop at TLV, as they’re wildly expensive on most things, and I usually prefer to save my free liter to bring in a bottle of my choosing from my destination. But my wife went to Bucharest on a quick trip on business, so I figured using her free liter wasn’t a waste. I found the Tayne for $80, and figured I’d give it a whirl, as I do have somewhat of a soft spot for Glenmorangie.

The Tayne’s “legend” is built around  a Spanish galleon which supposedly sank, laden with gold bullion, in the Tayne Firth.

Here’s the legendary Dr. Bill Lumsden on this expression:

 

Photo Credit: whiskyauctioneer.com

Glenmorangie Legends Collection – Tayne (43%)

Appearance: Rich Amber, quick thin legs running down glass with a viscous residue.

Nose: Creamy and malty with toffee and faint orange peel, some dried apricot and honey. The nose has a dryness – maybe even a chalkyness, with a fruity sweetness underlying it. The empty glass smells of canned peaches.

Palate: full-bodied and very nutty, some citrus zest, with some fruit puree (probably the Gerber peach and apple). There’s a gentle spice, definitely with pepper but also little bit of a gentle clove, though not quite as strong of a wood spice influence you get in an Oloroso Sherry cask.

Linger: spicy on the tongue with the sweetness some faint dry fruit, top of the gullet has some spice in the insides of the cheeks are somewhat dry. The linger is medium in length.

Conclusion

This is a very pleasant every day dram. It’s an easy drinker, as you would expect from Glenmorangie, yet definitely gains a special character from the Amontillado sherry finish. Dryer and spicier than the Glenmorangie Original, this expression definitely stands on its own merit and for the $80 I paid for a 1 liter bottle, I think is a pretty good value for your money.

Nov 052016
 

I recently visited Glen Garioch, and while a full account of my visit will be written, together with my tasting notes for the ‘bottle your own’ casks available at the distillery, today I’d like to put out my review of the second chapter of the Renaissance project by Glen Garioch, which I tasted at the distillery. You’ll find my review of the first chapter here.

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The distillery was offline from 1995 to 1997, and when the distillery came back into production, the peat (albeit at a relatively low level 5-10 ppm) was gone together with the floor maltings. With the fruit coming to the forefront of the new house style. And here’s where the Renaissance series come in with an interesting concept. The official PR states that Glen Garioch wants to show the evolution of the house style, thus “The hearty Highland character of Glen Garioch has been captured in an exciting quadrilogy, charting the journey of the malt’s current house style as it matures over four years. The result is an anthology of four exclusive editions – 15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds – entitled the Glen Garioch Renaissance Collection, of which each will be released annually.”

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The first chapter was released in August 2014, and the second chapter appeared two years later, in September 2016. I hope the third chapter will appear next summer, keeping to the yearly release schedule.

The second chapter was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks, and is presented at cask strength of 51.4%.

Glen Garioch Renaissance Chapter 2 (51.4% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Light bronze, slow legs peeling off a long lasting necklace.

Nose: Creamy sherry, orange blossom and clove. There’s a strong maltiness – the sort you smell in a warm mash tun, with cherries, red berries a hint of kiwi fruit and a honey sweetness, together with some dried apricots and a hint of vanilla. The empty glass holds strong notes of maltiness and orange blossom with vanilla.

Palate: Dry mouth feel with sweet spice, and the pepper strengthening as you hold it. Fresh cherry, dried fruit and honey on the front of the tongue.

Linger: Warm and peppery on the back of the tongue, a lot of cereal in the aftertaste with bitter notes not quite of citrus rind but maybe the residual oil you have on your hand after peeling a yellow grapefruit. The mouth remains dry, bitter and malty with a hint of espresso.

Conclusion

The maltiness really comes through in this dram, which is less dominant in Chaprer 1, yet they clearly are made from the same (spirit) cut 🙂

The Renaissance Chapter 2 is currently available at the distillery (£85), and will surely be making its way to stores soon enough, hopefully in time to find its way under many decorated trees.

Apr 072016
 

The Macallan has moved almost wholly into NAS whisky in recent years, although a harbinger of change has appeared recently in the form of an upcoming 12 year old release called “Double Cask”, probably trying to get Macallan back on track with an age stated sherry matured whisky. The difference is that while the old 12 year old is matured in traditional sherry casks, and the Fine Oak series is mostly ex bourbon casks, these new casks are sherry seasoned European and American oak. The proof, of course, is in the liquid, and I look forward to seeing if it might, indeed, rectify the downward sloping course the distillery has taken in the past few year.

Double Cask Label As Shown on the TTB Site

Double Cask Label As Shown on the TTB Site

Again, on its own, NAS is neither bad nor good. I’ve stated time and time again that each whisky is judged by me on its merits. Some NAS whisky is good (like the Macallan Oscuro), other is not so good (like the Macallan Ruby) or just downright terrible (like the Macallan Gold). This is no different than age stated whisky, which can be anything from terrible to utterly divine.

The Rare Cask is part of the 1824 series, to which the current core range belong. In Macallan’s description of this whisky it’s stated that “Combining Spanish and American sherry seasoned oak casks, a high proportion of them first fill”, kind of sounds like the 12 year old Double Cask. I very much hope the 12 year old will be better than this expression.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Macallan Rare Cask (43% ABV)

Appearance: Bronze, thin legs.

Nose: Classic sherry nose with sultanas and some mild wood spices. But there’s also vanilla and a lighter sweet note. Chocolate and dried fruit meet, with some cereal.

Palate: Spicy rather than sweet. The spice is quite a bit more than was expected. A lot of oaky bitterness, but not balanced in the way that the nose would suggest. Pepper, even some cayanne with a wave of sherry but without substance. Bitter, but unbalanced.

Linger: Medium with pepper and a mild drying, with an annoying ring coating the top of the throat. Some bitterness, but not the type that makes me love a whisky.

Conclusion

Another NAS Macallan, and sadly rather disappointing. This isn’t young whisky, at least for the most part. The nose is fabulous, but the palate and linger are very disappointing.

Feb 092016
 

Glen Garioch stands near the east coast of Scotland, about 25 miles from Aberdeen, in the area known as the Eastern Highlands. In this rather large part of Scotland, there are currently only five active distilleries (Glen Garioch, Glencadam, Ardmore, Royal Lochnagar and Fettercairn). The relatively near past saw four more distilleries that drowned in the 1980s whisky loch (Glenesk, Glenury Royal, North Port/Brechin and Lochside).

However, in yesteryear, the area was full of distilleries forever lost, and since I have said much and more about Glen Garioch, and you all know I’m quite fond of this distillery, so I’d like to focus on one of the ten other distilleries lost before 1945. I will say that this number includes some distilleries in Perthshire, at the time considered part of the Eastern Highlands. Other counts may be a little different, but either way, the distilleries on the list were around once, and are no more.

I’d like to pay tribute to one of those distilleries, who’s memory is still held dear with a whisky bar bearing the same name in Glasgow. The Bon Accord distillery (named for the password used by Robert the Bruce’s forces in Aberdeen in 1308) was opened in 1855, basically taking over the buildings and equipment of the Union Glen Distillery which had gone belly up in 1853. Alfred Barnard reported that the twin pairs of stills could produce some 1.14 million liters of spirit per year, making the Bon Accord one of the largest distilleries of the time.

Photo Credit: mcjazz.f2s.com/

Photo Credit: mcjazz.f2s.com/

The Scotsman 25th of February 1885

The Scotsman 25th of February 1885

By 1896, it was renamed North of Scotland Distillery Co. Ltd by it’s new owners, Dailuaine-Talisker Distillers Ltd (so had it survived the 1910s, it would have probably been closed by UDV in 1983). The distillery went up in flames several times, including a really bad one in 1885, and another in 1904, of which it was reported that it burnt for over 12 hours, and that the fire came off the ground “as from a huge Christmas pudding … the flames swirled and twisted with lightning like rapidity into the most extraordinary forms imaginable”. There is acutally a picture of that fire:

Photo Credit: mcjazz.f2s.com/

Photo Credit: mcjazz.f2s.com/

The distillery apparently produced quite a decent malt, the last of which was produced in 1910, after yet another fire. It was bottled for export as Cock-o’-the-North (not to be confused with Cock O’ The North Liqueur) which made a brief appearance some time back.

So I raise today’s very modern dram to the memory of the Union Glen/Bon Accord/North of Scotland distillery!

The concept of the Renaissance series is an interesting one. The official PR states that Glen Garioch wants to show the evolution of the house style, thus “The hearty Highland character of Glen Garioch has been captured in an exciting quadrilogy, charting the journey of the malt’s current house style as it matures over four years. The result is an anthology of four exclusive editions – 15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds – entitled the Glen Garioch Renaissance Collection, of which each will be released annually.”

Photo Credit: whiskyonline-shop.com

Photo Credit: whiskyonline-shop.com

Glen Garioch 15 Renaissance First Chapter, 12,000 Bottles (51.9% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Amber, slow legs peel off slowly from a pretty sturdy necklace.

Nose: Heather honey, caramel, cinnamon and clove, and a hint of citrus peel. The nose is dry and chalky, typical Glen Garioch, with some sherry notes .

Palate: Thick and viscous, much more sherried on the palate, with a lot of wood spices (mainly cinnamon). The oak is noticeable too. It’s a little like biting into a bittersweet chocolate praline with a sour cherry filling (that’s much less sweeter than the liquor they put in the pralines.

Linger: Spicy all over the mouth, then a sweetness washes over the tongue, giving way to a bitterness, with a hint of 85% bittersweet chocolate. The sweetness keeps creeping up in waves.

Conclusion

This is Glen Garioch in form. A complex and rewarding dram, which will have you wondering when the 16 year old, chapter 2, will come out.