Farewell, friend. Normally, we might pour some out in your honour but at the risk of offending someone I will treat this spirit with at least a bit of reverence. But not too much. Because the worth of Macallan 18 has very much come into question. This whisky sells for over $300 per bottle near my house, when it is available, which is almost never. So based on cost and rarity, this is probably at the very very top of what should be considered valuable whisky. The quality of the whisky itself? Unquestionable top tier. Probably worth the $300 in fact. So what is the problem, and why do I feel like the Macallan 18 has a slight taint to it?
The Macallan 12 and 18 year used to be the darlings of every whisky shop, for several reasons. First, the Macallans had easy to understand, colour and number coated labels. Second, and most important, the oak casks were primarily matured in sherry cask, and very lightly or totally unpeated. This meant that they were quite delicious for both those new to Scotch as well as seasoned veterans. While Macallan seemed so sexy at first sip, you could actually appreciate it more for its sophistication over time. Few distilleries produce spirit this decisive. Also, few distilleries have made decisions with their brand direction that is so divisive. Technically, Macallan 18 is discontinued in my market, although a small trickle seems to find its way in to the best stores. It has been replaced by a non age statement version as part of the Macallan 1824 series. Along with most of the other age statements from Macallan, the 18 year is now an endangered species in many parts of the world, driving prices and brand image ever upward. Whether the 1824s will be universally accepted, or even if they are as good as the originals, is hotly debated. I will save my opinion of that for now, and focus on what’s currently in the glass.
How does Macallan 18 year actually taste, for those willing to seek out a bottle and empty their wallets in the process? What drove interest in this unique malt before all of the changes came down? About a second into nosing this, you will understand. The aromas are truly captivating, in their perfectly delicate way. Lots of the sweet hints of spice hit you, but with a softness to them. There is definite restraint compared to other old sherry malts, say Dalmore 18 or Glendronach 18. A fresh cut of sweet dried citrus, perfumy but again gentle. I feel as if this is how I hoped scotch would smell, before I had ever really tried a proper dram. The flavours echo that spicy delicacy, and convey a true sense of balance. The finish is so long and fades gradually. There is really no hard edges in this whisky, and it probably possesses the largest amount of that one character that so many whisky consumers truly want: smoothness. Most whiskies that I get excited about has bold, identifiable flavours, but those would be out of place in this setting. So if you can afford it and there is a lingering bottle hanging around somewhere, there is no reason to hold back. You might despise Macallan for taking their traditional range of whiskies away from us, but there is no doubt that we all need to tip our hats to this absolute quality benchmark.