I've had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Macallans' reclusive Mr Bob Dalgarno and came away immensely impressed with his humility and his considerable skill as a whisky maker.
The Fine Oak series is his baby and I recall him telling me that after the Sherry Oak all eyes were on him to come up with a new type of expression. His idea was something that would drastically change the way Macallan matured it's spirit. Traditionally using only sherry casks the Fine Oak range uses ex-Bourbon, ex-European Sherry and ex-American Sherry casks.
The experiment paid off and catapulted both Bob and Macallan into whisky royalty. Now only third behind Glenfiddich in global single malt sales Macallan deservedly enjoys its place as the malt to be seen with.
Using only 16% of the spirit cut for maturation I guess one could begin to understand the price tag this whisky demands. Unlike other 'premium' status symbol whiskies (like Blue Label) which the connoisseur will avoid Macallan manages to walk the fine line between consistent quality and packaged prestige.
Before I share my notes let me tell you this 18 year old is quite possibly the smoothest delivery you will ever experience in your life.
Nose: Dark jam. Marmalade. Cinnamon. Dry fruits. Almonds. Malt. Crisp grass. Melted butter. Vanilla. Honeycomb. And the richest of sherries. Quite a lovely nose.
Palate: As I let the spirit cascade into my mouth my eyes actually widened at the unexpectedly smooth texture. On the sweeter side the flavors are perfectly balanced. Light honey. Marmalade. Very mild peppers. Oranges. Vanilla. Figs. Prunes. And that luxurious sherry yet again. Brilliant.
Finish: Medium. Touch of oaky fruitcake.
Bob is a gifted individual and a passionate one at that. And this 18 year old is testament to that.
@rigmorole yup definitely the 18 - could be a European market thing. If I know correctly (and this is according to the brand ambassador) the 17 and 18 are exactly the same juice. Later releases of the 17 do not have any 17 yr old in them - only 18 and higher. Maybe a drop to conform to legalities.
But 17 seems to have quite a following and retailers resisted the 18 for some reason. I think there's also a substantial difference in price point. So rather than lose share they simply bottled the 18 and packaged it as the 17 so as not to cause any disruptions.
At least I'm pretty sure this is how it happened.
Thanks for the interesting background besides your opinion. I'd just thought getting into "fine oak" was a way to start using less fine sherry. Now I'm curious to try this.