Last night the LCBO put on a scotch tasting that featured two new Macallans: the Rare Cask and the No. 6, both very good. The Rare Cask was fairly spicy, while the No. 6 was much subtler and quite extraordinary. Master of Wood Stuart McPherson was there to explain things: the Rare Cask is blended from whiskies 10-30 years old, whereas all the whiskies in the No. 6 were distilled in 1995. I would say $4000 is a bit much for a 20yo Macallan (no matter how great it is), but hey you get some fancy packaging and a Lalique decanter with it! Anyway....it made feel like doing my own (2 days late) Burns tasting of single malts, which will take a few days. But let's start with a very unusual Macallan.
This SMWS bottling spent 13 years in a first-fill sherry butt, yielding 822 bottles. It's been open for a little over a month.
The colour is a shimmering gold - perhaps the lightest Macallan I've ever seen! On the nose it is rather vinegary, nutty with macadamia nuts and (yes) walnuts, floral, tart green apple, pencil wood and ginger. Very estery - reminds of the new make Macallan I tasted at the distillery some years ago (which makes sense, as they are both young and cask-strength!) A bit of sulphur though, which is becoming the albatross around their neck. Water brings out Brazil nuts and green coffee beans. Very interesting - and complex - but not entirely successful.
On the palate there is more ginger - plus high alcohol, it's very spirity. Mouth-drying. Cardamom. Some oak, which is surprising given its youth. Nutmeg. Water adds some peppery spice and tames the alcohol nicely. Again, very interesting - more successful than the nose - but has some sour notes that are rather challenging.
The finish features more ginger, cloves, oak and over-steeped green tea. I first tried this in December at a tasting I held, and everyone, including me, hated it. "Maybe it needs some time to open up," someone wisely said. It is much better now, but unless you are familiar with the new make spirit, you would never think this was a Macallan. I can't believe this is first-fill, it's so light - maybe it was a fino sherry butt? Worth trying if you are a Macallan lover and want to try it cask-strength - but tread cautiously with this one.
I would have thought that Macallan should have clean sherry maturation, seeing as how they "season" new oak casks with sherry then do the maturation. There should be no need for sulfur candles.
Particularly with a first-fill sherry - but who knows...