The only proviso would be to do with opulence of taste. I love Macallan because it's
just so packed with strong flavours, and the fact that the longer it stays in the cask the
more wood and sherry elements it's going to pick up means that of course for me older
will equate to better. For people who prefer a lighter, less intense dram, or who just don't
like the sherry and wood notes, the 10-year-old might be as deep into Macallan Land as
they wish to venture, as even the extra two years of the 12-year-old makes a difference,
producing a more sweetly potent, heavily flavoured whisky.
The Gran Reserva I tried to impress John from Florida with the night before is eight-
een years old, but a deliberately more forceful expression than the usual eighteen as it's
matured entirely in first-fill sherry casks (hence the name). This is an immensely power-
ful, imposing, woodily dominant expression, and while I love it, I can understand it might
be just too much for people who prefer a more delicate dram, and would not be appropri-
ate for every occasion or even every time of day.
Personally I think Macallan's good at almost any age - well, maybe not seven, capisce
- with the widely available 10-year-old serving as a perfectly fine introduction to the
oeuvre, while the best compromise between reasonable price and sock-knocking-off taste
is probably the standard 18-year-old. This expression is released most years as a spe-
cific vintage, the aim being to produce a balance between consistency and year-on-year
change. The consistency is achieved by tasting as many as 100 casks, choosing about 50
of those, marrying the whisky from those casks together and leaving it vatted for a month,
then performing a sort of mini-bottling and tasting the result (for the 25-year-old, the mar-
ried whiskies stay vatted for a whole year before being evaluated).
The tasters are brought rather centre stage at Macallan. They've built a new and very
tasteful tasting room with more groovily contorted but sexily smooth pale wood and com-
fy stools with wrought-iron legs. This is where you sit if you do the extended tour. It
has a wall-wide window through which you can watch the distillery's tasters do their
work; sniffing and slurping, spitting and noting and choosing. This struck me as a bit of
an invasion of work-space privacy (it reminded me of the overlooked coopers at Strath-
spey Cooperage) and I waited until the guys were out of the room before taking a photo
through the wide-screen window. I think I'd find being watched a real distraction if I was
trying to do something as concentration-demanding as choosing between a hundred-plus
different whisky barrels, but maybe that's just me.
On the other hand, it has to be a bit of a compensation that you're getting to work
day-in, day-out with unarguably one of the very best whiskies in the world.
One last thought, to let you savour that expensive Macallan with an even clearer con-
science. The distillery is part of the Edrington Group, which also includes the Bunna-
habhain, Glengoyne, Glenrothes-Glenlivet (so somebody still uses the G-word), Glen-
turret, Highland Park and Tamdhu single malts and the Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse