Macallan “The Harmony Collection – Rich Cacao” (44%, OB, Sherry Seasoned European and American Oak, 2021)

When visiting the Whisky show last year (2022), my biggest disappointment came at the huge and wonderful looking Macallan stand. The Edrington group really knows how to market their stuff. I tried two different 12yo’s and the 2022 rare cask. All quite underwhelming for me. I might be spoiled, since I have tasted a lot of Macallans from the glorious days of “Science can’t wholly explain…” I can’t even remember when I bought my last Macallan, I only remember is was probably a Sherried Wilson and Morgan bottling (not the fantastic the 12yo though), yet still an independent bottling of “The Mac”. Good and affordable (for a Macallan). Now this modern “Rich Cacao” found its way onto my lectern… a free sample with a bottle of Cognac. I don’t expect much to be honest, after the aforementioned London experience, but I do hope this will be a good one. Probably sold out already, no surprise there, and I see it already costs a pretty penny in the secondary market, yet not as much as the Macallan from the glorious days, even the pretty standard ones.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Clean, fresh, woody Sherry, mocha with hints of latex paint, toast and some over-ripe almost rotting fruit (a good thing here). Better than expected actually, way better. I’m not smelling it blind, but I would say that it is recognizable as a (modern) Macallan Spirit. Nice dry and soft oak nose. Elegant, yet also somewhat robust even since this has been reduced to 44% ABV. Sweet caramel and toffee. Give it some time (but not much) to breathe and the aroma coming out of my glass is big. Dry cocoa powder, cookies and clean, dry, Oloroso Sherry. Dry vanilla powder and cold custard come next. Dark chocolate mousse, slightly sugared. Perfumy and complex. After all those weak Macallans I have tried recently, finally an interesting expression again. At least in the smell. Let’s try it now for real.

Taste: Sweet, waxy and Sherried, likeable and fun. Soft sweet (not acidic) red fruit compote (warm). Yes, a bit thin, tastes like a 40% ABV bottling. Tasty, but this has nothing to do with the Macallans from the glorious Sherry bomb days. Not the same quality and definitely not the same ooomphhh. This is soft, refined, elegant and designed and still manages to pack a small punch of the white pepper kind and some spicy dry oak. Cute. Some sweet licorice and Sherry notes come next. Dark yet sweet chocolate. Otherwise fruity and likeable, with a dry finish.

Well this was a nice surprise, a decent Macallan. Tasty and fun, yet also not all that special. Nice and highly drinkable, but not good enough to warrant the amount of hard-earned cash you have to shell out for this particular bottling (if you plan to drink it). If you are collector, then please do. Nevertheless, with a name so big as The Macallan, I expected a bit more. Good yet not a must try Malt for me. I’ll will continue to keep oogling the Macallan from a distance for the time being.

Points: 85


Macallan 9yo 1999/2008 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt, for Van Wees, First Fill Sherry Hogshead #12378)

Wow, look at his colour! I’ll explain shortly what I mean. Also, unusually dark for a Speymalt from this vintage. For those of you who don’t know, here we have an independently bottled Macallan. Maybe this is the way to go for the non-millionaires amongst us, since the owners of Macallan seem to have gone completely over-the-top bonkers with the “brand”, super premiumizing it, crystallizing the bottles, teletubbying the distillery and… well you know what I mean. Let’s shy away from the marketing and focus on quality then. The quality of Macallan’s distillate, the quality of what we’re getting, putting this quality distillate in a quality Sherry cask the good people of Gordon & MacPhail provided for this distillate and reviewing this drinkers’ Macallan…

Color: Vibrant mahogany! No it’s not just orange-brown, it’s mahogany, and it’s only mahogany when it has this redness to it, a red flame if you wish.

Nose: Restrained for a short while. Wonderful Sherry and woody notes. Ever so slightly waxy and also fresh and airy. Milk chocolate, with a tiny hint of smoke, which most likely came into the mix from the burnt insides of the cask. Next, some pencil shavings. Smells fantastic. Quality Sherry cask. Classic Macallan. Not a lot of vanilla, so, I’m hardly guessing, this was matured in european oak, although I do pick up on a slightly creamy note as well. Hard to explain why, but this smells luxurious, elegant and perfumy. Reminiscent of the great Macallans from earlier decades. Remember the times before Fine Oak, and all the stuff that came after that. Remember the days of, “…which science can’t wholly explain…”? Elegant and fruity and in no way, harsh nor overpowered by the first fill Sherry. Not cloying nor heavy. Excellent cask.

Taste: Smoky and slightly tarry. Black coal. Thin honey, yet not a lot of vanilla sweetness. Initially very, very nice. Reminds me of the Macallans, Strathisla’s and Longmorn’s, when Gordon & MacPhail bottles still had screw caps and were bottled @ 40% ABV. (…and still had enough power)! The body is about Sherry and wood, beautiful spicy, and perfumy, wood, and shows a little bit of nice woody bitterness as well. Soft and silky bitterness, which adds to the overall flavour of the Whisky. Quite fruity and almost drinks like red fruit lemonade. Nice notes of mocha and coffee with milk. Rather short finish though. This is where the relative youth comes in, but I don’t think this should have stayed in cask longer. First fill Sherry can be a brutal thing! Short bursts of warming and red fruity notes. And the aftertaste lingers longer than the finish was. Again classic style.

On the other hand, maybe, this could have stayed in cask longer, since in no way it is overoaked. The flavours could have been more powerful, and the cask itself seems very elegant and good. Or maybe it should have been bottled at cask strength, who knows. This might have had some more to it in the end. For me the best bit of this Whisky is the start, when you take a sip and keep it in your mouth for a while before swallowing. Nice woody and licorice notes start emerging that way. Tar and coal. Wonderful stuff. Tiny hint of the typical acidity from rather new oak, which is a different note from fruity acidity, mind you.

The ABV, is slightly higher than the regular expression of the Speymalt from 1999/2008 which was bottled @43% ABV. Darker as well. Still it manages to come across a bit thin. Would it be too harsh at cask strength or is it an economical move by Van Wees? As in, if you dilute it with water you get more bottles from the hoggie? Probably not since it’s a Speymalt. All things considered, this is a classic Macallan. Wonderful stuff. Sure, maybe more could have come from this, maybe not, but I’d still get it as it is. Most definitely I would. Much better than many, and I mean, many modern Macallans, bottled by the (owners of the) distillery themselves. Highly drinkable, so a bottle of this wouldn’t last long…

Points: 89

The Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

We move back a decade or so to visit one of our old friends. One of the most standard bottlings of that time, the original Macallan 10yo. It had an age statement back then and was diluted to 40% ABV. It was the time, no fan of Macallan or otherwise, was aware of the dark clouds that were forming up ahead. Finally the storm broke and we were given the Fine Oak series. So for me the downfall in quality started with bottlings issued in the newly designed bottlings like the “Fine Oak” series. However, if memory serves me well, in 2002 they started releasing some sort of NAS called the “Elegancia”, preparing us for a softer and smoother experience, moving away from the true Sherry experience of the true Macallan. Not truly a NAS by the way, since it did carry a vintage, like Elegancia 1991. Nevertheless, after the Fine Oaks I really didn’t look back. I was so disappointed. I turned my attention towards Longmorn instead. Back then a lot of it was around and at fair prices to boot. The standard 15yo was pretty good, although the introduction of the 16yo made me rise my eyebrows a bit. Better looking bottle, but the Whisky was less interesting. No, may independent released some pretty stellar Longmorns, so I needn’t look back at Macallan. Of course I did try some of the newer bottlings, but I was never convinced moving back towards the Macallan. Only the future can tell us.

Macallan 10yo (40%, OB, Circa 2003)Color: Dark orange gold.

Nose: Wow, very aromatic. Heaps of Sherry. Extremely fruity, Cherries, apples and banana. Simply wonderful. Already from the start a nice backbone of (new) Oak and a promise of toffee’d sweetness. Warm runny caramel. A lot is happening from the start and it only needs little time to reach a nice balance. This is how I remember drinking Whisky a decade ago, without even giving it much thought then. Stuff like this would be around forever, wouldn’t it? Damn, why is it so hard to make something like this today? Ice cream, vanilla, caramel, laced with apples. Sugared apples and a splash of plain and simple refined sugar-water. Fruity, but not only apples. Sugared cherries and hints of mango and passion fruit. A tropical mix that could have been an older Tomatin. Resembles Tomatin 25yo a bit. Thick and cloying at first, but give it some time to breathe and the whole gets thinner. I wouldn’t say it dies out on us, but it does get a bit more restrained. Balances out. Every time I smell this I get hints of well made Calvados. It becomes fresher. More waxy apple skin aroma’s emerge. When you look for it, there are hints of toasted cask. Hints that are more upfront in older good Ex-Sherry cask matured Whiskies.

Taste: Simpler. Starts out soft and sweet, but not as complex as the nose. Tropical fruits and runny caramel again. Is is youth? Probably not. Is it reduction? I guess so. Sweet and on entry, sometimes like someones bad breath mixed with cardboard, what? Relax, it’s not that bad actually. This time around definitely some toasted cask in the mix, which does wonders for the balance. It gives the fruity and fresh Whisky a nice backbone. Slightly bitter oak, slightly burned as well. New sappy wood aroma is also present, although it is highly unlikely new wood was used, but you never know don’t you. The wood is sappy and sometimes a bit harsh and upfront. It’s the “burned” sensation however, that stays well into the finish. Also a nice and rich nuttiness appears towards the finish, combined with the cardboard we found earlier. For a 40% ABV Whisky this has a pretty lengthy finish, but no, it’s not long.

Tasting it now, in 2016, this is high quality by todays standard. Remember this was the simplest of Macallans some ten years ago. Sure, Italy had their official 7yo, since they like young and fresh Whiskies. Hard to believe not so long ago this was entry-level stuff. Today this would have been packaged in a shiny box that costs more than the  Whisky itself did ten years ago. You don’t want to know even how much it would cost today. Looking at auction prices, I would say every time, you get a fair deal when you want to buy one like these. Go for it. They don’t make them like this anymore.

Points: 85

The Macallan 18yo 1986 “Sherry” (43%, OB, 2004)

Macallan 1986 18yo (old)In 2004 Macallan officially released two Sherried 18yo’s. The one on the right, we know very well, that was the one with the old labels that have been used for decades. (For reasons science cannot wholly explain…). Around 2004 Macallan also started to release a new bottle design we all know from the Fine Oak series and later bottlings. Here we’ll review the 2004 18yo with the new design. The label states that this is Whisky distilled in 1986 and earlier years. We know the “other 18yo” to be very good, now lets see if this is any better or maybe it’s the same stuff…

Macallan 18yo 1986 Sherry (43%, OB, 2004)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Pretty laid back and toned down nose. Sweetish Sherry. Hints of wood, dust and cardboard. Not a full on sherry we know from the other 18yo’s. Very floral and even some orange fruitiness. Some whiffs of this even smell like someones bad breath. Strange hints of cooked vegetables. So bad breath, cooked vegetables, but a moment later also a breath of fresh air emerges. Very strange indeed.

Taste: Sweetish (sugar water) and thin. Fruity and slightly waxy, but the wax comes through as fruity and it’s only a hint. So definitely and older cask found its way into this. Hints of sweet apples and pears come through, which makes me think this is not from Olroso Butts. Fino maybe? This also lacks complexity, and the sweetness somehow stays on top. I expected more development from this. Well, it’s nice, pretty simple and easily drinkable, but this is not a Macallan as we knew it. This could have been anything.

This bottling really marks the end of an era. The era that was dominated by the Sherried Macallans with the old labels. I Always thought the beginning of the end for Macallan was with the release of the Fine Oak series, but would I have tasted this one back then, this would be it. Who would have known that almost never again we would get a Macallan like we used to. In hindsight the Fine oak’s may have not been that bad, since after that the likes of Macallan Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby, to name but a few, were released. Costs a lot of money these days. bit tastes like a good standard bottling that you can get for 40 or 50 euro’s…

Points: 81

The Macallan ‘Sienna’ (43%, OB, 1824 Series)

Just recently I reviewed a Macallan 10yo ‘Fine Oak’ which I found to be quite anonymous. The Fine Oak was Macallan’s first series that was essentially a U-turn from Macallan’s previous theme off first fill (Oloroso) Sherry casks, which lasted for many decades. One of the commenters on that aforementioned review, mentioned that the 1824 series is even worse than the Fine Oak series. As luck would have it I just received a sample of the Sienna so why wait, lets put this baby to the test!

The Macallan 1824 seriesSienna is part of the 1824 family. The other members being Gold, Amber and Ruby. The names are derived from the color of the Whiskies. Yes no age statements but now we get colors! I’m just speculating here but it seems to me that with increasing color, more (Oloroso) Sherry casks were used. Obviously other Sherries might be used as well.

The  Macallan SiennaColor: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Tangerine sugar-water. Toned down Sherry. Predominantly Oloroso if you ask me. Tiny, tiny hint of smoke, probably from toasted cask. A lot of typical Bourbon cask notes too. It brings vanilla, oak and some lemon sherbet. Fruity notes emerge later. Sugared apricots. Actually this smells very nice dusty and balanced. Although it smells like sugar(water), the overall sense I get is dry, it doesn’t smell sweet. The oak itself picks up some spiciness when its left to breathe, a bit like pencil shavings.

Taste: Syrupy texture and very toffeed. Didn’t expect that. Burnt cask again. Not very sweet, but the sweetness that’s there is covering up a strange, and hidden, acidity. Very nutty, hazelnut cream, which calls for a more oxidized type of Sherry. Dark chocolate and oak. Small hint of coal and burnt wood. Overall very “simple” and young and not very balanced. Short finish filled with Sugar water again. Strange experience this.

The first three examples from this series are pretty affordable. I have previously tasted the ‘Amber’ from this series (no review) and scored that 76. Decent Whisky, but still disappointing, especially considering it’s a Macallan. and I’m sorry, but I found this Sienna to be equally disappointing, even though it scores a little bit higher…

Points: 79

The Macallan ‘Fine Oak’ 10yo (40%, OB, Circa 2010)

To be honest, I’d rather review a Macallan from the times of the old 10yo 100 proof I reviewed earlier, but instead I’m having a 10yo from the Fine Oak series. When the Fine Oak series was released some ten years ago, it was the time the real Macallan was killed off by the owners. Macallan was then a Whisky for aficionado’s and people with taste and the Fine Oak Macallan is marketed more to be hip. Maybe the change happened because there was a shortage of Sherry casks, or maybe it was a pure marketing move. Who knows, and who cares. For those of you who don’t remember, The Macallan used to be the finest Speyside Whisky around, known for heavy use of Sherry. Something Glendronach is known for now. Glendronach didn’t sell well and even closed because of the Sherry success of Macallan. So here we have a entry-level Macallan with an age statement. So let’s have a look what the legend has become.

Macallan Fine Oak 10yoColor: Light gold, with a pink hue.

Nose: Sweet and malty, hints of creamy Sherry in the distance. Cream, vanilla, lemon and sugar with that typical sherried wine-note. Hints of oak, yet very light. If you want to, you can still smell a bit of the original distillate which still is excellent. Ear-wax again, with mocha and a nutty component. Something like almond-cream. After some time, the sugary sweetness gets some help from honey. Also a powdery note enters the mix as does some cardboard.

Taste: Malty and sometimes close to new make spirit. Sweet with lots of toffee and caramel notes. A little back-bone from the oak. I taste a lot of Bourbon cask in this 10yo, and it does get some character from Sherry casks, which in my opinion aren’t all Oloroso, since typical Fino notes are here too. Maybe a plethora of different Sherry casks went into this. The sweetness is definitely a sugary sweetness. This Macallan would make an excellent filling for bonbons. It somehow would complement the taste of chocolate for me. The finish somehow is a bit unbalanced, with wood and cardboard. It splits like a hair, and is rather short to boot. After 10 years it should have been better, it still says Macallan on the label you know…

When reviewing this, should I forget about the old Macallan? Sure, this has nothing to do with The Macallan that used to be, but on the other hand, the name is still on the label and on the back label Macallan is still considered a legend. If I were to get this blind, this could have been anything.

Points: 77

The Macallan ‘Fine Oak – Whisky Maker’s Selection’ (42.8%, OB, 1 Litre, Circa 2006)

I come from the times when The Macallan may have been the best Sherried Speysiders around. Almost all Macallans were made of Oloroso Sherry cask, well controlled by the distillery. Who doesn’t know the old back label with the famous last words: “FOR REASONS NOT EVEN SCIENCE CAN WHOLLY EXPLAIN, whisky has always matured best on oak casks that have contained sherry.” or the famous last two words on this very back label: “the tumbler” Well I for one was very disappointed tasting the very first Fine Oak range back in the day, having expected something like the quality of the old Macallans. For me the Fine Oaks had to be of the higher ages to get a high rating. Also the pricing has put me off back then. Some time has passed, some ten years, and here is finally another Fine Oak. Let’s give it another chance…

Color: Honey gold.

Nose: Fresh wood and fresh overall. A bit like a nice Fino Sherry. Waxy (ear wax) and slightly soapy. Apricot and bitter orange marmalade. Heather and a lot of toffee. Quite syrupy smelling and promises of a full body. Seems young with some added depth from some older casks.

Taste: A bit thin at first, but highly drinkable. Again some heather and maybe even a little bit of honey. I can’t shed the feeling this actually is a full bodied Highland Park with lots of Fino Sherry. Hidden bitterness surrounded by fruity sweetness and custard. Towards the end of the body and into the finish it gets drier with more wood and it’s bitterness. Even the toasted cask is here in minute amounts.

This reminds me of the old wide neck Highland Park 12yo, with even the same sort of bitterness in the finish. In fact, if I would have tasted this blind I most definitely would have said this was a Highland Park, who knows, same owner 😉

Points: 85

Macallan 1980/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt)

Next up an already rather “old” Macallan. Macallan is a brand with a huge reputation as a Sherried Speysider, and therefore a huge following. The quality is unmistakable there, just have a look what older bottles fetch these day at auctions. Since the “new” Fine Oak series, Macallan have again a huge reputation, but this time more as a marketing giant, but again with a huge following. Alas from a connoisseurs point of view it not thát much of a Sherried Speysider anymore, not as they used to.

This is an independently bottled Macallan, and it doesn’t look like a heavily Serried Speysider. If I’m not mistaken Gordon & MacPhail can bottle Macallans in the Speymalt series, with a vintage, when the distillery themselves do not have a vintage of that same year themselves.

Macallan 1980/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt)Color: Orange gold

Nose: Hmmmm, fabulously old and waxy smelling Speysider we have here. Lovely! Old soaked wood and very deep half-sweetness. The initial blast of fruitiness, and waxiness leave the building. What comes next is dry and dusty. The wood turns into old cardboard, but it works. It’s not an in your face Sherried Speysider, but definitely a very nice and elegant Macallan. Quality stuff. Toast and burn paper in the finish of the nose. Hints of a bonfire and vanilla (pudding). The nose is top-class.

Taste: Sweet with an edge. Estery and some acidity, that makes for great balance. Creamy and soft-toffee. Hints of black tea and a tiny hint of anise. Hardly any wood, which is a bit odd after give or take 32 years in the cask. The wood does show itself in the tiny bitter (and soapy) bite that graces the finish.

Absolutely a fine nose, alas the taste doesn’t match up. It somehow lacks some complexity. Having said that it is a damn fine Whisky, that for the price is easy drinkable. Gone before you know it. Therefore easily a favorite when on my shelves. For me a tad too much reduction here, I would have liked this at 46% ABV. Old Fino?

Points: 89

Thanks to Stan for the sample!

The Macallan 10yo (57%, OB, Sherry Wood, 100 Proof)

And here is a very old Macallan, a Macallan from the days we all thought, this is Macallan and it’s never gonna change. They sort of promised us that on the back label: For reasons not even science can wholly explain, whisky has always matured best in oak casks that have contained sherry. Due to increasing expense and scarcity, other distillers no longer insist on sherry casks, The Macallan directors do. After this they went on to produce the Fine Oak Series, a ‘blend’ of sherry and bourbon casks. A cunning move, why? Was it to scarce? Was it too expensive? Did they think they should use their big name to uncharter a new market? Because the sales proves it, Fine Oak does well and ís hip. It just isn’t Macallan anymore…

So for my generation, The Macallan was something like the bottle you see here. Nice brown/orange whisky made from Oloroso Sherry (and who knows some PX).

Color: copper brown. (it’s not dark brown, and it doesn’t have a red tinge to it, so it’s not mahogany, as I often read).

Nose: Yeast, nuts and caramel, typical Oloroso Sherry nose. Fresh like seaspray. Strong, full and creamy (this is what we want in a cigar). Chocolate and some wood and spices. This has oomph and a lot of depth. Nicer and less harsh than the A’bunadh. It’s like comparing an Aston Martin to a Hummer. (Both have their merits though. Would you drive your Aston in a war zone?) Did I just call drinking whisky a war zone? wow!

Taste: Thick and sticky. Tar and smoke. A hint of pepper and mocha. Dust. Strong Oloroso Sherry. Oak and liquorice. Hot (it’s 57%). Even an exotic note like curry. Oak and the hint of curry are predominant in the finish. Still it’s not and old whisky. It’s only 10 years old, but so different from the Hummer mentioned before. Why are there so much sherried Glendronachs around, and why aren’t there a lot more of these types of Macallan around?

Well this is old skool whisky. This may not be very complex,  but just try to ‘get’ the steam locomotive in these kinds of whiskies. The tar, the coal and the steam. I’m very sorry these Macallans aren’t around anymore. They were very classy, and if you can find them now, they are very expensive. If you have a chance, try this, it’s a piece of history.

Points: 89 (for now)