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Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Oak

The sherried standard?

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@NockReview by @Nock

28th Oct 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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This is from a half bottle of Macallan 18yo. I believe it was a 1989 vintage. These late 80’s vintages are not generally thought to be as good as early 80’s or earlier vintage Macallans. I have tried a few of these from a friend in Nashville about 10 years ago, but I can’t remember a blessed thing about them – other then that it seemed extravagant to be drinking a bunch of old vintage Macallan 18yo in one sitting. Here are my notes from this half bottle. I have compiled them from three tasting sessions. In one session I put it up against the Glenfarclas 1974. In a second session it went up against Glenlivet 18 and Glenfiddich 18. The third session it went up against Talisker 18 and Highland Park 18. The scores went (in that order) 86, 88, and 87.5. I was not aware of how I scored it prior. So I can conclude that no matter what I put it up against my score of this malt seemed quit consistent. My scores are achieved by adding up 5 different categories (so it is not like I simply give it one number) of a whisky.

Nose: A bit musty at first, but it gives way to a brilliantly high sherry assault. This sherry is a stout soprano in tone, but her voice is fading and it can’t quite hit the high notes with ease as it once did. Rather, the tone is darker and more subtle, but still a soprano. Oranges, apples, pears, and dates followed by brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. This is truly a fruitcake – sickeningly sweet and all. Then, a little honey and sharp cut grass comes through. With time the grassiness really comes to the fore (especially compared to the Glenfarclas). Now I’m getting coffee cake like my mother use to make. WOW that is buttery brown sugary goodness! Time really allows this soaring soprano sherry to calm down into a sweet delight. Not quite my type of soprano tone, but I can recognize something great when I hear (smell) it. With water the grassiness dies down but is still prominent. The sherry also is subdued.

Taste: Sweet sherry interacting with pepper, brown sugar, and a lemony-citrus-grassy-thing.

Finish: Nice rich and velvety. It starts off with a huge intake of breath and then oozes out a sweet fire of sherry and grass. Now there are elements of the grass and the sherry interacting with the oak. So a blast of pepper and sherry followed by an intake like the tide but with no crashing wave. Instead it is the long rolling waves of sweet sherry playing against sour lemon, salt and spice vying for dominance. Medium finish that is the definition of smooth with zero burn.

Balance, Complexity: Very interesting balance of the grass, sherry, and oak. I can certainly tell that this guy is aged a bit. Everything seems so smooth and refined. It gets points for complexity and balance – but I’m not blow away with complexity for the price.

Aesthetic experience: Nice deep amber color. Full bodied. The Macallan certainly carries some weight. The 18 year old use to be a legend. But these days Macallan really seems to be slipping and has lost its grip on what made it legendary. It seems that as the bottles have gotten more elegant the product has gotten more mundane. I think this is a sexy bottle with a sexy color to the liquid. And in many ways I think this bottle set the bar for 18yo scotches.

Conclusion: This is a fine bottle. My big problem is the price. When you compare it to other 18 year olds (like: Glenlivet 18, Glenfiddich 18, Talisker 18, and Highland Park 18) it is clearly a cut above the crowd (with Talisker coming out on top for me – surprise, surprise). However, it is nearly twice the price of these other four bottles, and clearly doesn’t have twice the taste or twice the quality. In fact, I think I would have paid the same amount for a full bottle of this as I did for my bottle of Glenfarclas 1974 (31yo) . . . so I’m glad I only got a half bottle (which cost about the same as a full bottle of the other four). Personally, I wouldn’t buy either bottle again: but if you force me I would take the Glenfarclas over the Macallan – even though I think I enjoyed the Macallan a hair more because it was less sherried.

Another warning to sherry cask lovers: take my reviews of sherried malts with plenty of salt. I’m biased. Still, you might find it useful. “If @Nock hates a sherry malt I will probably like it.” It is a great bottle to have if you want to pay a lot of money for a top notch aged whisky with strong sherry influence.

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Rigmorole commented

Another great review. I really appreciate your comparisons and your advice on price for the Mac 18. A bottle of Glenfarclas 25 costs much less than a Mac 18 in Oregon. That's food for thought. . . . Other bottles of great scotch in the 21-15 year range are also cheaper. I think the Mac 18 is really a good scotch, but overpriced. I also think that the Mac 18 mini bottles are not really Mac 18 but something younger. What about labeling something as a Mac 18 when it's not?

I bought quite a few of those minis and feel cheated. They were meant as holiday gifts. I ordered them from LA by mail, so I wasn't able to return them. Word to the wise. Don't trust the minis.

9 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

I think I may go ahead and contact Macallan about the minis. I bought $130 dollars worth of grade b crap passing for the Mac 18.

9 years ago 0

Nock commented

Thanks again for your kind words. I am sorry your Macallan minis have been poor. Are the bottles off? Or are they just not good? Some Macallan's are just plain bad. I hear they have stopped putting vintages on their 18yo. I think the last vintage 18yo might have been 1990 (but I'm not sure).

9 years ago 0

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