About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Friday, 21 June 2013


It's been a few years since I toured The Macallan distillery, though I've been on its grounds several times recently -actually as late as a month ago during the Spririt of Speyside Festival- to enjoy its amazing view towards the Spey river and Easter Elchies house and soak up the distillery atmosphere.

Easter Elchies House, Evening of 12th June 2013,  © The Malt Desk

But a tour of the place? Wow, its been more than a good while since I'd not come in through the new tour entrance which leads into the mash tun area in 2nd production area which was recommissioned in 2008 when demand started to sore. It then leads through to the washbacks and stillhouse of the 2nd production area as well, making the distillery look alot smaller than it really is, that is if you don't spot the 1st and very large production area when exiting stillhouse 2.

Macallan old section - stillhouse no. 1 just visible to the left, 12th June 2013, © The Malt Desk
New entrance for the start of the tour, June 12th 2013, © The Malt Desk

This new entrance for the tour was also completed in 2008, so it was about time I had a proper tour of the distillery again and a look at the very informative displays they've now set up.

This opportunity came along with the invite to come to The Macallan to try the distillery's new 1824-series. As with everything leading up to a tasting at a distillery, our small group of journalists and a lone blogger (me) went for very nice tour first...

Located on a 400 acre estate and now producing 10,2 million liters of spirit annually, it makes Macallan the 3rd largest malt distillery in Scotland at present.

Taking in 470 tonnes of barley each week of the Concerto and Minstrel varieties. Macallan has 30 farmers in the south of Scotland and northern England contracted with producing barley exclusively for the distillery as well as growing a small portion of Minstrel themselves on about 95 acres of their land. The malting process is done by the commercial maltsters Simpsons of Berwick.

Macallan Estate barley field, June 13th 2013, © The Malt Desk

At Macallan the mashing is done like everywhere else with different waters. A mash tun is present in both the 1st and 2nd production areas.

In production area 2, the fermentation process is done in 6 x 30.000 liter washbacks made of Douglas Fir which looks nicer than the stainless steel ones in area 1, so of course this is the place to take people through on a tour. Production area 1 has 16 stainless steel washbacks with a capacity of app. 36.500 liters each.

The fermentation is slightly longer than the average (48-50h) at other distilleries, being 56h long. A longer fermentation produces more fruity notes in the wash. A desireable note in the final Macallan spirit...

Macallan Wash Backs - June 12th 2013, © The Malt Desk

Having the smallest stills in Speyside at just 3.900 liters capacity, Macallan produces a heavy and oily but at the same time fruity spirit. The construction of the lyne arm of the spirit stills are probably the steepest in all of Scotland which allows for very little reflux and ensures the before mentioned heavier spirit characteristics to flow through into the new make spirit. Unfortunately no photography was allowed in the stillhouse and filling store, so you'll have to imagine those :-/

At the same time Macallan has probably the smallest 'middle cut' or 'heart' of the run in Scotland at only 16% of the whole distillation process which doesn't allow for many impurities to find its way into the final spirit. The spirit run is as high as 72%, but the average put into the casks is 69,8% alc.

For Macallans own bottlings they're now only filling ex-sherry casks made either of American and European oak. The price of casks have soared and now you're paying £650 for an ex-sherry butt, £450 for an ex-sherry hogshead but still only £70 for a bourbon hogshead. These prices mean that Macallan will spend £16.4 mill on casks in their financial year 2013/2014. Quite a bit of money!!

With currently just under 200.000 casks in their bonded warehouses at the moment, Macallan still have stocks to work with and will still be putting out vintages from time to time.

Older warehouses at Macallan (HDR shot) hence the strong colours, 12th June 2013, © The Malt Desk

The 1824-series that has taken a lot of bashing in the online whisky community...
But is it really fair? I mean, its is a pretty big step to remove the age statement on your bottlings as this is probably -besides the distillery name- one of the major selling points of the whisky, am I right? or is it just because we're used to seeing a number on the label?

Looking back, I was a sceptic too when I first read about this new path The Macallan (and other distillers) had decided to take... but then I hadn't tasted it, so maybe it was the words came a bit premature?... and then I struck me - have the other critical voices tasted it? Looking at the dates of the online criticism posting dates and the release of the 1824-series, the main group of critical voices couldn't have tried it unless they'd been given advance samples... nobody had indicated they had done so. Let's see what all the fuzz is about then, eh?

This series is also put together by Macallan's resident whisky maker, Bob Dalgarno who's been with Macallan since 1984, first as a warehouse man, but has since 1996 been involved with nosing and tasting. In 2000 Bob became the new Macallan whisky maker and has been dedicated to this since - his latest creation being the 1824-series where the emphasis is more on colour and taste than on age, hence the 'No Age statement' on the bottles.

Here's my take on the new 1824-series - the Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby expressions... I will not be scoring these whiskies as this was a slightly rushed tasting, but I'll share my immediate notes and impressions with you, of course...

For my Danish/European mainland readers, please note the 'Gold' will only be available in the UK and Canada.

New Make, Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby tasting @ Easter Elchies House, 12th June 2013, © The Malt Desk

Macallan 'Gold' 40%

Refill American oak sherry casks/Refill Spanish oak sherry casks

My impressions:
Very fresh, vanilla, banana, citrus and lighty floral

First impression is a whisky that would go nicely with sitting on the terrace in the sun, slowly sipping it over a little ice.

Macallan 'Amber' 40%

Refill American oak sherry casks/Refill Spanish oak sherry casks
A slightly high portion of Spanish oak is used here

My impressions:
Again vanilla, ginger and spices, fruits (apple) and crisp malt

Macallan aims at a tasting profile of 12-15yo whisky with this one, but personally I feel it being maybe a little younger, but enjoyable for sure!

Macallan 'Sienna' 43%

50% 1st fill American oak sherry casks/ 50% 1st fill Spanish oak sherry casks

My impressions:
Ginger, cinnamon, heavy cookie dough, some chocolate and orange

This is very delicious indeed! Both thumbs up for Bob Dalgarno's work with this one!

Macallan 'Ruby' 43%

100% 1st fill Spanish oak sherry casks

My impressions:
Dried fruits and oak, raisins and coffee and oranges

Reminded me somewhat of a low abv% version of the Cask strength expression available back in my early whisky drinking years... Also very enjoyable!

My conclusion on this new series? well, not a half bad job, I must admit... (irony may have been used here) ;-) it's good whisky, though the hard core anoraks will probably still say this is a series done to make up for dwindling stocks... maybe it is? maybe it isn't... bottom line is I think this is good whisky, especially the 'Sienna' and 'Ruby'-expressions. Market forces at work will still have this series flying off the shelves, IMO... and thats the desired effect!

Thanks to Martin and Edrington Denmark for the invitation to visit Macallan!

No comments:

Post a comment