Source: Family Gift, late 1990s
88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)
This highly acclaimed Macallan 10yo was a gift from my uncle Hamish and added to the family collection in the late 1990s. I believe the style of bottling was first introduced in the mid 1990s and carried on until the launch of the ‘Fine Oak’ range in 2004. Before 2004 the standard Macallan was all ‘sherry oak’ so there wasn’t a need to make a distinction on the label. After 2004 bottles were clearly labelled either ‘Sherry Oak’ or ‘Fine Oak’.
It’s hard to believe that back in the 1990s supermarkets would sometimes discount this Macallan 10yo to less than £20. Today it typically sells at auction for about £200 and retails closer to £300. It’s good but it’s not that good. Exclusively matured in selected sherry oak casks from Jarez the box features an autumnal scene of Easter Elchies house, Craigellachie, Speyside, which is the ‘Home of the Macallan’.
Scoring 88/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and only about a point less than what you’d expect the Macallan 18yo to get. I’ve tasted this Macallan 10yo many times and I wouldn’t say it was that good but it’s definitely a fine dram. It’s more of an 85/100 from me.
Tasting notes from ‘Ormiston Whisky’:
Nose: Matured, sherry notes, raisins, rich, vanilla, caramel, fudge, slightly pungy.
Taste: Sweet with lovely fruity layers, clear wood spices (nutmeg, cinnamon etc.) some black pepper as well.
Finish: Soothing with some tutti frutti sherry notes.
Bought: Waitrose, 13th May 2017
78/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
78.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 400 member votes)
I would never have bought the Macallan Amber if I hadn’t thought I’d secured a bottle of Ruby on Amazon. Unfortunately 3 months after I’d placed my order Amazon deleted it but by then I’d bought the Amber to go with the Gold thinking I’d only need the Sienna to complete the ‘colour’ set. Since it now seems impossible to get the discontinued Ruby for less than £200, which puts it out of my reach, will I bother getting the Sienna? Hmmm.
So I’m stuck with the Amber. Just as well I’m a fan of the Macallan profile in whatever form because the Amber has rarely done well in reviews. 78/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2015 classifies the Amber as “average, and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. In fairness his review is quite favourable, “the texture alone shows this should be something truly special. The first few moments of delivery likewise, with its astonishing Locket’s honey filling; honey is the unambiguous theme throughout. But the tangy presence of a few sub-standard sherry butts undermine some great work in the lab. I suspect the next bottling might be a corker.” Unfortunately we’ll never know because the review disappeared in 2016 and hasn’t reappeared since. Perhaps Mr Murray hasn’t retried the Amber, or he didn’t consider it worth another sip.
78.22/100 on Whiskybase is a so-so score bordering on ‘below average’ but the Gold scores an almost identical 78.19/100. As an experienced Macallan drinker I like the Gold and Jim Murray scores it 89.5/100. The Sienna, the next colour up in the series from the Amber, scores over 84/100 on Whiskybase so it’s considered a significant step up in quality. I’m still tempted to get the Sienna because several reviews have suggested it’s better than the Ruby and the best colour in the series. Comments on Whiskybase about the Amber include “Not bad this. It had quite a bit more flavour to it than the Gold, and was on the whole quite pleasant. It had quite a bit of bitterness and spiciness to it but in a refreshing kind of way.” And “Barely a step up from the Gold. A little more flavour but largely wood tannins and acetone.”
Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it scores 3/5 stars from 31 votes):
Nose: Soft aromatic vanilla, lemon and barley with hints of ginger. Milk chocolate buttons and hints of Sun-Maid Raisins.
Palate: Surprisingly thick and fruity compared to the nose. Golden sultanas, dates, apple peelings and a dusting of cinnamon. Cereal notes on the mid-palate, joined by mince pies with crumbly shortbread.
Finish: Fragrant oak finish, with the mince pie notes lingering.
Here’s Jack Oughton with his thoughts on YouTube about the Macallan Amber (January 2015):
Bought: Heathrow Airport, 2004/05
67/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 54 member votes)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 9 maniac votes)
Status: Long since discontinued
I bought this bottle of Macallan ‘Twenties’ for my father’s 81st or 82nd birthday in 2004 or 2005. I can’t remember the exact year mostly because he’s had so many birthdays! He has his 94th this year but I wont be buying him any more whisky. Not long after I got him this Macallan he confessed that he didn’t really like whisky. Nobody had realised. He got at least 5 bottles for his 80th birthday. So the good news has been that my brother and I got to try this Macallan, so every cloud has a silver lining!
Macallan began introducing the Macallan ‘Decades’ series in 2001 and in 2004 they added this version of the ‘Twenties’ to represent the flavour of Macallan in the 1920s. Not that my father was drinking Macallan when he was born in 1923. As a Scottish baby they don’t start you on whisky until you’re at least 5. Ultimately there were 4 bottles in the series representing the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Although I quite like this Macallan, according to Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible of 2006 the ‘Twenties’ was his least favourite decade. 67/100 classifies it as “very unimpressive indeed” and Mr Murray says “Does absolutely nothing for me at all. Totally off-key, no finish. Nothing roaring about this one.” He scores the 1930s 91/100, the 1940s gets 81/100 and 1950s does best with 92/100.
The Malt Maniacs are a bit more complimentary with a reasonable mark of 78/100 but nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase from 54 votes is a very good score. Nevertheless comments are very up and down ranging from “a perfect recreation from the 1920s” to “not very good”. Expert sipper and reviewer Mark Dermul who scores the ‘Twenties’ 77/100 says “I am not really impressed. Too dry and a tad too sour to my taste.” And leaves the following tasting notes:
Nose: The sherry is immediately present on the nose. Apricots, oranges, pineapple, blackberries. Quite dry, to be honest. A bit of chocolate. Mild smokiness. Soft woodspice.
Taste: The attack is soft and gently spiced. Again all sweet sherry. The fruit is now of the dried variety. Chocolate returns. Does turn a bit sour, now.
Finish: The finish is soft and warm with a hint of nuts.
Posted in Macallan
Tagged 1920s, 2004, 40%, 50cl, Decades, Macallan, NAS, Speyside, Travel Series, Twenties, World of Whisky
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 9th January 2017
79.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
84.12/100 – Whiskybase (average from 173 member votes)
When Macallan discontinued the 10yo, 12yo and 15yo age statements in 2013 it was the 15yo that vanished from the UK shops first (High Street and online). As old stock of the 10yo and 12yo dribbled back onto the market the 15yo has remained elusive, although I believe it’s been easier to obtain in the US and Canada. Thankfully bottles regularly appear in online auctions, which is where I purchased mine. But was it worth it as a drinking dram?
Jim Murray, author of the whisky bible, wasn’t overly impressed with this final version of the 15yo ‘Fine Oak’. In 2009 he scored the previous version 94/100 but in 2012 he added my new bottling with a score of 79.5/100, which classifies it as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. He says, “As the stock of the Fine Oak 12 rises, so its 15yo brother, once one of my Favourite drams, falls. Plenty to enjoy, but a few sulphur stains remove the gloss.”
Although 84/100 on Whiskybase is a good score it seems that a lot of Macallan fans are left feeling disappointed with the 15yo Fine Oak. Comments include “appealing, intensely sweet with good infusion of multiple oaks, complex and alluring”, “pretty drinkable and also enjoyable but not really great either”, “I expected much more for this Macallan, so felt disappointed” and “too much wood influence? Not a brilliant whisky for that price.”
As the 15yo Fine Oak drifts into whisky history you feel it will always have its fans, such is the appeal of The Macallan but perhaps this wasn’t their finest hour. It’s worth noting that none of the comments on Whiskybase mention ‘sulphur’ and the previous version of the Fine Oak scores less with 83.25/100 (from 58 votes), which Jim Murray gives 94/100. So make of that what you will.
Here’s ‘Whisky in the 6’ from Canada with their review of the 15yo Fine Oak on YouTube (January 2016):
Bought: Amazon, 14th November 2016
89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 30 member votes)
5/5 – Master of Malt (from 4 reviews)
If you want to get into whisky as an investment you can’t go far wrong with the Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry Oak’ (for now). If anyone criticises you with the tiresome adage “but whisky should be drunk!” slap them hard across the face and remind them that alcohol is a poison. But seriously, it’s none of their business what you spend your money on or how you treat your whisky. Those critics are usually hypocrites because they’ll be only too delighted to buy rare, vintage whisky at auction that would have been drunk long ago were it not for the collectors and investors. I bought my first Macallan 18yo in the summer of 2015 and only 18 months later it was consistently getting £100 more at auction. It’s liquid gold I tell thee!
But what is the Macallan 18yo like to drink? As I mentioned for the 1995 vintage, this is the Rolls Royce of whisky with a deep, smooth texture and heated seats. It’s very rare that you hear a bad word about the Macallan 18yo and year after year the quality is kept high. 89/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score and the equal of any previous vintage. Comments on Master of Malt include “perfect”, “the Macallan 18 is still one of my all time favourites”, “fantastic” and “a hefty price tag, but for a special occasion it’s worth it!”
Here are the tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Classic dried fruit, crème de cacao and crème anglaise with ginger and oak.
Palate: Winter spice, sultanas, toffee apple, rich oak and mixed peels.
Finish: Oak shavings, raisins and caramel.
If you would like to buy the Macallan 18yo and are happy to play a waiting game I’d recommend finding it on Amazon, adding it to your wishlist and waiting until the price drops to sub £150 (if you’re in the UK). I believe it had one mad moment when it hit £125 last year after dropping from the heady heights of its typical RRP of £200.
Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016
81.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
My copy of the Whisky Bible 2017 arrived today but no mention of the Macallan 12yo ‘Double Cask’ because it’s too new. Looks like we’ll have to wait another year to find out what Jim Murray thinks of it. But for now the comments online are very favourable. Scoring 81.5/100 on Whiskybase is good and an identical score to the 12yo ‘Fine Oak’ but 3 points less than the 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’.
On the box Macallan have written, “matured exclusively in the perfect balance of sherry seasoned American and European oak casks” and include the tasting notes:
Aroma: Creamy butterscotch with a hint of toffee apple, candied orange, vanilla custard and newly felled oak.
Palate: Delicious honeyed, wood spices and citrus, balanced with raisins and caramel
Finish: Oak lingers, warm, sweet and drying.
‘Time for Whisky’ rate the Macallan 12yo ‘Double Cask’ 91/100 and say “an enjoyable and very sippable dram – one that perfectly fills the gap between the 12yo Sherry and Fine oak bottlings.”
‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ rate it 92/100 and comment, “well balanced deliciously sherried, mature Macallan that still has touches of the Macallan Fine oak but is still sure to put a smile on the faces of the fans of sherried Macallan.”
Here are Scotch Test Dummies with their review of the Macallan 12yo ‘Double Cask’ comparing it against the 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’ (September 2016):
Bought: Drinkfinder, 21st July 2015
89.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 70 member votes)
At last I have the Macallan 18yo! Admittedly I had to sell one of my kidneys on Ebay to get it but at least I still have my liver to process this fine whisky. No collection would be complete without it. There was a rumour a while ago that Macallan were removing the year of distillation from the 18yo, which finally happened (it now has the bottling year). Without the distillation year printed on the label the 18yo may not be as collectable. There’s no denying its quality though because over 89/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score.
In May 2014 I made a note that Amazon were selling the Macallan 18yo for £122.45 and free postage. 18 months later and you’ll be lucky to find it for less than £150. It wont be many more years before it hits £200, which makes getting a bottle or two now quite a good investment. But, as Horst Luening says in his video review below of the 1996 release, this is the Rolls Royce of whisky, so Macallan obviously feel there’s a market for this dram no matter how astronomical the price. I don’t think I’ll be selling any more organs to get a second bottle! One will do.
Gift – Nickolls & Perks, 9th September 2014
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
80.38/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)
I’d tried the Macallan ‘Gold’ in a bar in Scotland and was considering buying a full bottle until Nickolls & Perks sent me a free miniature with my last order. As a collector this ticks it off the list for a while but I’d still like to get a full bottle eventually. The Whisky Bible says of the taste “it is the (chocolate) biscuity barley laced with honey and maple syrup that blows you away” and the author summaries with “no Macallan I have tasted since the first in 1975 has been sculpted to show the distillery in such delicate form.”
The average score and comments on Whiskybase are a little less grandiose than in the Whisky Bible. Having tried the Gold I would agree with a member of Whiskybase who describes it as an entry-level single malt. If you’re after a good Speysider at a reasonable price then the Macallan ‘Gold’ is certainly a contender. But it’s a bit like getting a pair of tartan socks for Christmas – it’s OK, definitely warming, certainly Scottish but nothing to write home about.
I’ve been monitoring the price of the Macallan ‘Gold’ in UK supermarkets for over a year now and it’s never been discounted from its price of £36, which has started to creep up in some locations. £36 puts it in the same price bracket, or slightly more than a discounted Aberlour A’bunadh, which smashes the Gold out of sight for nose, body, flavour, taste, strength, finish and being everything good about Speyside. For what the Gold is, it should be £30 maximum but you’re paying £6 more because of the Macallan name. Heck, who am I kidding?! I’m a designer labels whore so I’ll be getting a full bottle soon! 🙂
Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday with his thoughts on the Macallan Gold, which he scores 7.5/100 (YouTube Nov 2015):
Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 9th September 2014
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
84.87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 229 member votes)
88/100 – Whisky Bitch – Her review on YouTube (February 2014)
There are times during any form of collecting, be it whisky, stamps, shoes, motorbikes, etc, when you can have a mad moment. This can often be followed by a collector questioning why they do what they do, especially if they also believe in saving the planet, helping the poor and curing cancer. For me these moments of doubt can hit at any time but especially if I spend a lot of money on a whisky that doesn’t really merit the price tag. Enter the Macallan 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’. A mere snip at £66 in September but already a month later it’s up to £74 and rising. But it’s been discontinues, and getting rarer, so shops are gradually hiking the price. My brother remembers it when it used to be about £30, and that’s within the last 10 years. But I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking the Macallan is collectable for a future profit, if I don’t end up drinking it first.
Jim Murray rates the 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’ below the 12yo ‘Fine Oak’ but it’s the other way around with the votes from Whiskybase which are:
- 84.87/100 – 12yo Sherry Oak, average from 229 votes
- 81.68/100 – 12yo Fine Oak, average from 151 votes
Personally I do love a more sherried Speysider so I’m likely to side with those on Whiskybase instead of Mr Murray. But when two whiskies are as close as that, you can sometimes find it depends on the day as to which one you prefer. There’s a whisky for all moods, emotions and seasons.