...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Single Malt Report: The Macallan Cask Strength

This isn't Macallan Cask Strength, but it's pretty close.
This is Macallan Cask Strength, though the neck is looking a little low...
Distillery: The Macallan
Brand: Sherry Oak Cask Strength
Age: 10 to 12 years (though this may be debatable)
Maturation: Spanish Oak seasoned with Oloroso Sherry Sherry Sherry Sherry Sherry
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 58.6%

The Macallan is the third best selling single malt in the world, yet this is the first report on one of their bottlings?!  Yes.  I know.  But don't worry, there's going to be a Macallan Week here on Diving For Pearls next month wherein you'll get all of the Macallan reporting you could possibly want.

I'll get into The Macallan past and present then, but for now let us take a look at the cask strength bottling that I'd teased on Monday.

Macallan made their mark in the market through their sherry-seasoned-Spanish-Oak-matured whiskies.  As you may be able to tell by the color in the picture above, they use a dark sherry.  Known as Oloroso, it's a rich sherry that was itself matured in oak longer than other Jerez wines.  Its own palate profile is nutty and hefty (up to 20% ABV).  And it really does impart a strong character to a malt whisky spirit.

The entirety of the Macallan Sherry Oak range (even the 25yr and 30yr) is released at 43% ABV, so they've all been diluted to establish the palatable palate.  Well, all of them except for the Cask Strength.

I've seen two labels for the Cask Strength whisky.  The picture above shows the one that I sipped on Saturday night.  There's also a label that has a large 10 year age statement.  The release with the 10 year age statement contains casks that are 10 to 12 years in age.  (I'm not sure if the release without the age statement has the same ages of whisky.  I could have sworn that The Macallan ambassador that I'd met last year said that it contained 8 to 10 year whisky.  If I'm mistaken I will redact.)

But one thing is for certain, it is a very youthful whisky.

The color is crimson mahogany, like the darkest sherry itself.
Once one can get past all of the alcohol fumes, the nose is all sherry and brown sugar.
The palate is HOT and heavy.  There's no taming of the poison in this one.  Beyond that it's massively sherried, followed by a wave of sour and bitter fruits (like raw cranberries).
The finish continues to be hot stuff.  More sherry.  And the sour+bitter lingers on. Very drying.

It needs water.

No change in the color, so it's clearly filtered.  (Whisky joke!)
The nose smoothens out.  Still Big Sherry.  But more like a sherry soaked molasses cookie.
One thing to note: it does not turn into regular ol' Macallan when diluted.  The palate is different.  The water turns it creamier.  Oloroso's nuttiness sneaks through.  A little bit of the cranberry sours remain, but the bitterness and ethyl are gone.
The finish mellows significantly.  Oh, and more sherry.

Maybe I'm suffering from sherry exhaustion, but this one didn't pique my fancy the way it used to.  There are moments when it's nothing but sherry and rubbing alcohol, leaving me with a razed palate.  Water helps it out, but by then my brain wants a beer.  It is an excellently crafted muscular whisky, so I'm not going to kill it in the ratings.

But I prefer Glenfarclas 105 with its tiers of citrus and jam and plums and cherries.  Of course, that one costs more.

The Macallan Cask Strength is the best priced officially-bottled cask strength whisky in the American market.  Which is a great thing.  It's worth every dime since you're getting a lot more booze for your money.

So, if you love the Macallan Sherry Oak flavor profile then you should definitely give this one a sip.  Try it neat, try it with water.  If it's your cup o' sherry, then splash out for a bottle.

Or you can wait until Glenvomit Single Cask hits the BevMo shelves for $30.  [Ed. note: GlenVomit Single Cask prices have increased by 200% since this report.]

Pricing - Good at $55, Acceptable at $70
Rating - 82


  1. Oh f%*k, I just paid $79.99 for a bottle. Single malt is going up and up...

    My bottle is 60.1% meaning there is batch variation. The only problem is Macallan doesn't state batches.

  2. Yeah, I just saw this one at Hi Time. I was surprised to see Macallan jump the (imaginary) 60% level. They really should state batches as it would make them SEEM a little more customer-conscious. Seem.

    God these prices.

  3. Dear Lord, your tasting notes are exactly what I tasted when I took a sip without water. Compared to the Aberlour A'bunadh I bought last year, the Macallan is a bit more harsh. I added THREE spoonfuls of water to bring it down to something resembling Macallan 12. It's good but I think I'll stick to Aberlour in the future.

    1. :D Ever have a whisky that you really WANT to like, but it just doesn't do it for ya no matter how many tries? That's the case with this Mac CS for me. Perhaps some experimental home blending could result in something better...?

    2. I was expecting more sherry sweetness but instead got more bittersweet notes. I wonder if blending the CS with Macallan 12 might up the sweet sherry notes? Otherwise this isn't the sherry bomb I was hoping for.

    3. I know what you mean by the bittersweet notes. That's all my sense memory took from the experience. It probably wouldn't be half bad with the 12yr mixed in. If you try, please let me know the results...

    4. 50% off at Safeway liquor for $40 here in Littleton/Denver metro area.

    5. Just bought the Macallan Cask Strength 750mL 60.1% alcohol for $40 here at the Littleton Safeway Liquor section. It's half off now. Nice Scotch though.

    6. That is a DEAL! Great value in that price. Good grab. Sounds like there's some differences between batches. The one you picked up appears to have the highest ABV of all the 30+ batches.

  4. I decided to revisit my bottle of Macallan Cask Strength now that a number of months have passed and the whisky has seriously improved in that time. Having enjoyed some Pedro Ximenez sherry recently, I was surprised at how two spoonfuls of water transformed the Macallan into something resembling that sticky and syrupy wine. So I'm going to admit that this is cracking stuff if you find it at a good price and if you give it time.

    By the way, do not try PX sherry unless you've had some experience with. say, dry Oloroso sherry. The wine tastes like alcoholic grape jelly so be prepared for a very sweet experience. I would even imagine it pairs well with peanut butter.

    1. The challenge is finding it at the old good price. Or finding it at all in California. I'm actually looking forward to trying PX, but I'll be prepared now for the sticky sweetness. Maybe throw that into my cask for a rinse. A cheap one though.