One year ago today, I launched Scotch & Ice Cream. At the time, it was an even mix of feeling like I launched it before it was ready, tempered with the excitement of finally having my personal outlet to share my reviews and recommendations as well as the life-in-progress with a lot of my friends I used to work with.
It’s been an amazing journey since then and I’m glad to have shared a large portion of it with everyone – either via twitter or here on Scotch & Ice Cream. It’s been a time of a lot of personal growth, and I honestly credit launching this blog last year as one of the major turning points along the way. You see, in the last year, S&I has been wildly successful beyond my imagination. I figured this would just be my private spot to publish stuff that had been accumulating in my Evernote file of tasting notes, hopefully letting some of my friends keep up.
But it’s been so much more than that. I’ve seen tens of thousands of hits, light-years beyond what I’d ever expected. In my old world, we’d call that a vanity metric and want to dig deeper – and so we shall. I’ve made tons of friends who I’m in regular correspondence with. I’ve met interesting people and have enjoyed some really fun sample swaps over time, getting to try all kinds of amazing whisky. Unfortunately for what I review here, that’s certainly had a tendency to make those “A” grades so much harder to achieve – so when they happen, it’s worth taking note.
That as a group, while fun, doesn’t really do much for me. I’d be happy to keep doing this in total obscurity even if I had a hundred hits one year later and was still working through the same stuff as always. For me this has been a major exercise in learning the value of “good enough” – because S&I launched before it was perfect (and it’s still far short), and succeeded on its own. That really got me thinking about not overthinking and overdoing. That’s been a major change for the better in my life. So remember: whisky blogging is good for the mind and soul.
One year ago, the first whisky I reviewed to mark the start of the blog as well as my son’s birth was Macallan’s 30 year sherry oak. This stands at the top of their range and was the virtually unobtainable high-water mark of likely perfection. I decided I needed to obtain some and had it and was fairly disappointed with the whisky. It wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t the legendary whisky that must be unbeatable (given distillery and age and my inexperience with whiskies in the 30y+ range).
The obvious whisky to try at the one year mark was the Macallan 25 – also a highly priced, long-aged whisky. I theorized that the extra 5 years in wood really did nothing for the 30 year old, and my operating theory was that the 25 might actually be the pinnacle of the range.
After a long week in northern California with a son who, it turns out, isn’t particularly fond of travel, I was ready to mark my return with a glass of the 25.
The nose was an immediate treat: Rich oak in abundance with some nutty sherry; molasses and treacle sponge pudding giving some dense, dark sweetness. Some of the youthful Macallan character was evident on the nose, a great sign. Orange and dried plum, a touch of apple and a light bit of spice gave some more body to the nose, and even a touch of shoe polish rounded it out.
The mouthfeel was full, rich and coating. The whisky immediately showed evidence of age – heavy but not overbearing oak; white pepper with a dash of cinnamon. The dried fruit came through, as well as a little plum. The sherry influence on the palate was rich and full, but it’s not a lopsided over-sherried whisky. The youthful Macallan character is still there (tempered by the signs of age), and complemented by a faintly earthy tone.
The finish was again, unsurprisingly, led by woody notes which started to dry. A little apple skin was evidence of age, and surprisingly a momentary kick of fresh celery brightened it up and added dimension, but didn’t make it bitter or rooty. There was a little orange and faint pear, as well as a much later kick of cherries and chocolate.
Macallan 25 is all about the wood, prominently featured on the nose and the palate. There’s a strong dried fruit component, which reminds me a lot of the Balvenie 1401 releases I love so much, but with the more zesty and bright Macallan spirit at the core, versus the more straightforward fruity, rounded Balvenie spirit. This is, for my money and with my now-complete experience of Macallan’s standard range, the grand dame of Macallan’s now-disappearing standard range. It’s a fantastically well-balanced whisky.
If you’re faced with the first-world problem of deciding between the 25 and the 30, buy the 25. It’s miles better and at a lower price. Can’t beat that.
At a Glance:
Macallan 25y (Sherry Oak) 43% ABV
Nose: Rich oak upfront with some nutty sherry notes; a bit of molasses and treacle sponge pudding. Some of the youth of Macallan still comes through. Orange and dried plum; a touch of apple and a light bit of spice. A little touch of shoe polish and leather.
Palate: Full mouthfeel, rich and coating. Immediately leads with a heavy but not overbearing oak influence. Nice white pepper with a dash of cinnamon at the edges. Dried fruit again; a little plum note. The sherry is again rich and full on this but it’s not a lopsided sherried whisky in the least. Plenty of youthful Macallan character; a faint bit of earthiness.
Finish: Wood which dries slightly. A little bit of apple skin and a momentary flash of fresh celery brightens it up but doesn’t detract. A little orange and a faint touch of pear. A little late kick of cherries and chocolate.
Comment: This is all about the wood, with a prominent display on the nose and the palate. There’s a strong secondary dried fruit component – reminds me a lot of Balvenie 1401 but with the more zesty and bright Macallan spirit versus the more straightforward and fruity (but rounded) Balvenie spirit. This is unquestionably the grand dame of Macallan’s standard sherry oak range; a fantastic balance.