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Friday, March 16, 2012

Single Malt Report: The Macallan 17 year old Fine Oak (w/guest reporter!)



Distillery: Macallan
Brand: Fine Oak
Age: minimum 17 years
Maturation: American oak bourbon casks, American oak sherry casks, Spanish oak sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

After yesterday's pricing rant, you're still here?  Great!  You will now be rewarded with some positive thoughts.

As I briefly noted in Monday's post, the Fine Oak series is a newer brand for Macallan.  As opposed to their classic whisky style (spirit matured in only sherry-seasoned Spanish oak casks), the Fine Oak whiskys contain a combination of malts that have been matured in sherry-seasoned American Oak, ex-bourbon American Oak, as well as the sherried Spanish Oak.  The result is a completely different nose and flavor profile, one that lets the malt itself shine through.

Macallan has been pushing its Fine Oak pretty aggressively in some world markets, sometimes more so than their Sherry Oak.  That may be because some folks think the Fine Oaks are more immediately accessible.  That may be true, but that's just opinion again.  The age range for the Fine Oak series is 10, 12 (not in the US), 15, 17 (not in the UK), 18 (not in the US), 21, 25, 30.


James and I concluded the Macallan Taste Off with the 17-year-old Fine Oak.  (It's the lovely one in the champagne glass, above.)  It was enlightening to compare and contrast it with its Sherry Oak cousins, 12 and 18.

The notes!

James:

Color - Amber meets wheat, with a tiny hint of red
Nose - Green grapes in the background, some sherry, cedar chips
Palate - Vanilla, notes of fresh cut grass, brown sugar
Finish - Short; nuts, especially almonds

Me:

Color - Amber waves of grain
Nose - Rummy, salty bourbon vanilla, floral, malty, dusty, paper, caramel, brown sugar
Palate - Lighter texture than the Sherry 18, vanilla, citrus at the edges, toffee, lightly brown sugared
Finish - Medium; toasted, vanilla, sugar cookies


Only twice have I ever paid three figures for a bottle of whisky.  On both occasions, it was The Macallan 17 year Fine Oak.  I've been enjoying this whisky for some time.  To share it thrills me even more.  I've been hoping to do tasting notes on this for so long, thus due to all my drinking practice meditation, my notes above are the more wordy ones.  James and I agreed that between the three Macallan drams, this one was the favorite.

Now, this bottle (in the picture above) was purchased and opened almost exactly a year before our tasting.  And it has had a low level for quite some time.  (You see, it was the whisky I'd save for really good days, and once more prevalent those opportunities recently have become few and far between.)  That low level and the extended time period means that the whisky has gone through considerable oxidation.  So, was it better last year?  Probably.  But it's still great now, thirteen months after its opening.

*sigh*  Here comes the hypocrite.  Yes, it is expensive.  Yes, it is probably overpriced.  But would I buy it again if I had the money.  Yes.

In my defense, it's not as egregiously costly as the Sherry Oak 18:
I'm sighing again, because the price went up this year.  In 2010 and 2011 it was $110, and I nabbed it both times for $104.  Those days are gone.

As always, I'm trying to do my best to ignore price when coming up with a rating.  If I didn't ignore price then yesterday's Sherry 18-year would have taken a sound whuppin'.  But the rating is about the whisky itself.  And The Macallan 17 year Fine Oak sits where it does in the in the Rankings because it is a splendid thing, even after thirteen months of oxidation abuse.  It merges the best elements of the three separate wood finishes into a smooth flawless whole.

I recommend it to any whisky lover, with the disclaimer of its expense.  Try the 15 year Fine Oak first, another great dram.  If you like that one and money isn't an issue, then this is the amber restorative for you.

Pricing - Slightly overpriced at $120-$130
Rating - 94

6 comments:

  1. Good review. I'd agree with the "overpriced" note. But still, I'll pay it.

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    1. Thanks angelsportion! I'll still pay it too.

      Keep up the great work on your site, and beyond! :)

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  2. This was brought up in a few places (namely the Scotch Whisky Reddit) that Macallan Fine Oak 17 is really an 18 year old whisky. Edrington apparently decided that having two 18 year olds was too confusing so they relabeled the less famous of the two. Legally the label is correct but it sure is confusing and annoying. However it does make me wonder why they do bother labeling it with a correct age in the UK.

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    1. You know, I'd wondered why there was an 18 year old Fine Oak in the UK and a 17 here. Apparently Edrington's marketing department assumes there's a difference in intelligence between UK and US consumers...

      Unfortunately, with the new color-coded range, I think the 17/18 Fine Oak is on its way out altogether.

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    2. Also, the official tasting notes (on the official Macallan website) for the 17 & 18 Fine Oak lists "peat" on the nose, which is curious...

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