sherry, rather than a mixture of mostly bourbon with a dash of sherry, makes the whole
process expensive, but without its profound sherry influence Macallan would hardly be
Those Italians again; they have their own special edition of the stuff, bottled at
seven years old. Look, are we sure these people actually drink such eccentrically young
whiskies? They're not using it as fashionably expensive after-shave or something, are
they? It isn't being drizzled into the fuel tanks of sundry Vespas and Fiats to produce an
increase in power and a pleasant pong in the crowded streets of Rome and Milan, is it?
Anyway. In the tasting room Ann and I try clear, newly made raw spirit, plus Macallan
at 12, 18, 25 and 30 years old. I'm just nosing because I have to drive afterwards.
Even the raw spirit doesn't smell too terrible; it reminds me of Pear Drops, the
synthetic-tasting sweets I used to like when I was a kid. Otherwise, quite clean and spare.
Faced with the choice, you'd definitely knock this stuff back in preference to a few rough
vodkas I've had the misfortune to have tried over the years.
The later and older expressions of the whisky itself just get better and better. With the
30-year-old I do take a small sip rather than just sniff. The oldest Macallan I'd tried until
this point had been a 25-year-old.
There is, obviously, lots of sherry-wood influence in the taste, and that influence in-
creases with age, but the subtlety of the whisky is such that the result is a spectrum of
different flavours which owe a distant debt to the alchemy between the spirit and the cask,
rather than just a single dominant taste of sherry (if you want to test this, buy a cheap
blend and mix it with sherry; it really isn't the same at all). There's honey, Christmas
cake, heather, a whole fruit bowl of citrus tones, smokiness, syrup, peat (usually fairly
elusive, but poking its head out of the thickets of other tastes now and again), vanilla,
leather, straw, ginger and even other sorts of wood beside the oak you'd expect in there;
cedar is one, and I thought I smelled something like the balsa wood we used for the initial
few lessons in first-year woodwork class.
It all sounds like a clanging, clashing orchestra-tuning-up kind of mishmash, but of
course not all these tastes are in every expression, and the beauty of Macallan is that every
single bottling comes out like a coherent whole, like a symphony, everything working to-
gether, all the tastes in harmony, complimenting their neighbours and creating something
rich and deep and worth going back to again and again.
You can pay gaggingly large amounts of money for very old Macallan. If you do have
the money though, by all means go for the older stuff, because with Macallan, as far as
I've been able to tell, you do tend to get what you pay for; this is a whisky that generally
just gets better and better as it gets older, and while you will pay through the nose for the
privilege, at no point are you going to get ripped off, paying more for less.