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What follows sounds much lamer than it actually was. Omar, Fab and I - three very close friends for the last 20 years - decided to have a weekend away. Originally it was to be Vegas...but with Omar 3 months closer to being a dad (and living in Montreal), and Fab being, well, Fab...we had to stay closer to home. So we met between Toronto and Montreal in...Kingston.
It was a blast - Cambodian food, weird stoned strippers, lost walks in the snow, loud snoring, and other bits of mendacity - but more importantly, I brought two bottles to share with the boys. This was the first we poured.
When the Macallan launched its Fine Oak range a few years ago, it was to shake up their traditional offering of purely sherried malts (I am sure however that the rising prices of sherry casks had something to do with this as well). The Fine Oak range uses three types of casks: European sherry oak, American sherry oak (seasoned with sherry in Spain) and American bourbon oak. There are eight bottlings, ranging in age from 10 to 30 years old. The 15 Year Old is generally considered to be the most celebrated of the generally available bottlings.
The colour is a light pale straw. The nose is a little tight but lovely: honey, mango, some nuts (Almonds? Hazelnuts?), orange, hints of vanilla and some lashings of mint. More subtle than you might imagine, but fairly complex. Definitely brings out the nature of the spirit, especially with a drop of water, which brings out more malt and herbs. The longer it sits in the glass, the more it develops, getting spicier and showing more evidence of the sherry casks.
The palate has a little bit more spice (cinnamon, nutmeg), more honey and vanilla, and more tannic sherry notes. Such a delicate, luxurious mouthfeel! The profiles here are similar to the nose but much more vibrant - again, water opens this up in a beautiful way, and time in the glass both softens and spices it up. Delicious!
The finish is long and developing - very sweet finish, malty, with a little bit of coconut right at the end. Very fruity all the way. Beautifully balanced whisky. Much talk of the Macallan revolves around the quality of it's sherry casks, but this Fine Oak bottle highlights the wonders of the spirit - a silky liquid, borne from very small stills and a very narrow 16% cut. This is a very good Speysider for those who might be more averse to sherried whiskies. It went over very well with my friends....but they loved the other whisky I poured even more! Stay tuned for Part II to find out what that was...