The preserve of oligarchs and Z-listers

Posted 12 April 2018 / In Macallan
The Dramble's tasting notes for Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak
Bottle Name: 

Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak

ABV: 43%
Distillery: Macallan
Region: Speyside

When you visit Macallan’s website and check out the listing for their 18 year old, you’re greeted with a somewhat sparse page simply describing the bottle as ‘the iconic Macallan’ – nothing more, nothing less. To some, this may seem like a slightly courageous marketing move – surely there’s more to say about the whisky than this? No long-winded description? No barely believable back-story? Not even a hint of a golden eagle flying over the distillery? The reality of the Macallan 18 year old is that nowadays it has such cache (amongst certain profiles of whisky drinkers) that it pretty much sells itself.

Let’s get this out of the way first. Macallan’s 18 year old Sherry Oak is disgustingly overpriced – and that price is also on an express elevator ever upwards. To put this into black and white for you, here’s the rough cost of this bottle over the past 5 years.

  2013 - £120

  2015 - £140

  2016 - £170

  2017 - £220

I’m sure, like me, you’re waiting with baited breath for the 2018 price. Is this what being iconic means?

As you’ll see shortly when we get to our tasting notes, Macallan’s 18 year old Sherry Oak is a lovely lovely whisky. But, it’s not produced for the likes of you and I. Somewhat similarly to Johnnie Walker Blue Label, this bottling is made for oligarchs, city traders and z-list celebrities – the sort of people who probably don’t know much about whisky, but want a ‘good one’ that ideally costs a lot of money (price being directly related to quality. Obviously). It’s not an entirely unusual situation if you look across the wider luxury goods market – Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak is just a really good example of a Veblen good. And who’s to really blame Edrington’s pricing strategy if people keep on buying it regardless of any notions of cost vs quality?

We're taking a look at the most recent edition of this whisky, produced in 2017 and bottled at 43% ABV.

Nose: Rich, full and opulent. Bright and crisp sherry notes intermingle with pronounced fruitiness and just the right amount of austere aging. Christmas cake, toffee, hints of furniture polish and a huge assortment of berries – some fresh, some stewed, some dried. Then candied orange peels, coffee beans and treacle tarts. Spicing is subtle here – delicate and dusty ginger, and is joined by just a hint of cinnamon and menthol. The addition of water really brings out the cask influence and expressed some well-aged aromas too – increased ginger, leather armchairs, polish and dustiness.

Taste: Soft and incredibly silky – interestingly much more restrained than the nose implies. In the mouth it oozes with viscosity and delivers red and black berries (quite jammy, almost like marmalade or preserve), large dollops of toffee and some nicely integrated oakiness. In the mid-palate, deeper flavours come out to play – chocolate, coffee beans and a freshly made latte. A few drops of water (it can take a surprising amount, but I’d still advise going sparingly) changes the profile slightly – favouring tinned fruit salad, tobacco pouches, leather-bound books and some more discernible spicing – both ginger and also pepper.

Finish: Long, with a lovely drawn out fade which delivers both biscuitiness (not a real word) and a good scatting of nuts.

Macallan 18 year old Sherry Oak is simply a joy to drink. It’s positioned as a luxury whisky that it tastes like a luxury whisky - whilst it’s expectedly sherry-forward, I’d not describe it as any type of bomb – everything is silky and integrated with no jarring tannins or overegged cask influence. I also detected no sulphur whatsoever. This all said, it’s hard to get over the price-point. I’m expecting the 2018 edition to clock in somewhere around the £240/250 price range, and for that type of cash (well beyond what I normally spend on a bottle of whisky), I’d expect something frankly sublime. Worth a real treat in a bar that’s offering a dram at a (relatively reasonable price), but I cannot recommend that any of you pick up a whole bottle. Quality yes. Value? Not on your nelly.

Score: 89/100

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