“Whisky, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” Haruki Murakami
“Can you smell the vanilla and chocolate?”
Somebody would be mistaken to think that we were in a bakery smelling some of the scents that are usually associated with those delicious pastries. But we were at a Macallan whisky tasting learning to appreciate some quality whisky.
I am not a drinker but I love the rituals of whisky and wine tasting, especially when the Brand Ambassador taking you through it is a storyteller. Peter is a good storyteller. You get the feeling that when you were a youngster sitting by the fire having your grandmother telling you stories of the past and the ancestors, and roasting some sweet potatoes by the fire, that Peter the young was learning the history of Scottish Whisky in the land of bagpipes, Scottish highlands and tartan colours. His passion for sharing the whisky story comes out and when a man loves his job it shows. One of the things he taught us was about the dominant nostril (the nostril that picks up scent better. This changes due to cold, having a cold among other things so its good each time you are doing a tasting you try and see which works for that particular moment. )
Whisky tasting is a ritual; a dance with a glass that begins with a seduction of the senses even before getting down to appreciating the taste of whisky. Whisky tasting is all about using your senses. Whisky is supposed to be appreciated so you don’t just drink. The ritual is about seeing (looking at the colour), swirling the whisky, sniffing (to get the first impression of the whisky), then sipping it and savouring the whisky in your mouth as the flavours explode. Some whiskys have a long finish, which means how long you can taste the flavours in your mouth. The Rare Cask Macallan is one of those that has a long finish.
Taste and smell are closely related, and this impacts on the taste of what we eat or drink, that is why we had to breath in the aroma of the whisky before tasting it so that we see if we can detect the aromas that would enhance the palate. This swirling and smelling helps us sort of anticipate what we will taste in the whisky like a smoky or fruity smell. I am still learning so I can’t say I can taste all the underlying flavours but I am doing better now than a couple of years ago. So I guess the tongue can learn a few new tricks and so can the nose.
One of the things I love about Whisky tasting or tastings of any sort is that it is an ice breaker. I met strangers who by the end of the night we were laughing together like we had known each other for years. Tastings bring down your barriers as you ask the person next to you, “a chocolate finish! What is he talking about?” And when you realize you are not the only one who hasn’t yet been able to taste all the flavours the brand ambassador is talking about, you realize you have comrades in arms as you laugh together.
We were trying out the Macallan 1824 Masters Series which is a collection of whiskies created to showcase the range of The Macallan’s natural colour.
Macallan Amber is the colour of Amber. It has a floral, citrus smell and has an aroma of vanilla. There is also a hint of raisins, sultanas and cinnamon. Amber is oily and has legs which shows its age. Peter asked us to take some with our index finger, spread it on our palms and smell it. You can smell the barley, vanilla, water and yeast. It has the smell of a bakery or young dough. When one takes a sip it has the taste of green apples, lemon zest, ginger, oak and cinnamon. The Amber was very spicy but when we added a little water it made it mellow out somewhat.
Peter told us that Macallan Sienna was his favourite. The one he would share with friends. It is the signature of Macallan and it is a classic. It had the amber colour which is common with the Macallan whiskys. It has been made in American and European oaks. It has a taste of rich stewed fruits and cinnamon. When sniffing there is a hint of vanilla, orange, and green apples, chocolate, and oak. When one tastes it there is a taste of dates, figs, raisins, nutmeg and ginger with a hint of oranges and apples. It is not as spicy as the Amber and has a gentle finish which is smooth. It has an arch of flavour.
The Rare Cask Macallan is mahogany red. The Rare Cask has a fruity smell, smelling of dark chocolate and Christmas fruit. When you first smell the Rare Cask Macallan you can smell a hint of vanilla and raisin which gives way to the smell of apples, lemons and orange when you swirl the glass. When you taste it, it has a spicy taste, which is a balance of root ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Later you might be able to detect the vanilla and chocolate along with a light citrus zest. The taste is big and bold. The influence of the wood is evident. This Rare Cask is quality and you can tell it from the complexity of the many flavours which really come out. This is a whiskey that seduces you with its complexity as the flavours dance a tango all over your tongue. This is a whiskey for those who demand quality and are willing to pay for it.
Rare cask is a drink for those who appreciate a whisky from a premium master distiller. Macallan Rare Cask combine years of knowledge, skill, passion, commitment and creativity. The whisky is crafted from different cask types to give its unique taste. Peter told us some casks are so rare they will never be used again. Different casks sizes are used, some small and some large, all of which ultimately contribute something to the finest Macallan whisky. 16 types of cask profiles have been used, which are the most casks that have ever been used to make a single Macallan Whisky. Each cast is hand selected for the character imparted to the Macallan Whisky. Sherry seasoned casks from different types of wood from Europe and America are used, and they give the Macallan Rare Cask Whisky its distinct colour as well as its distinct taste.
The Macallan Rare Cask is made by the Master Whisky Maker at Macallan and the alcoholic percentage is 43%. It is special because they use 250 casks of different sizes and different sizes. There are 30,000 bottles in this series but there are still other batches to be released. Which means that the next batch will have aged some more in the oaks and have more flavour than the one that is available now.
The casks for Macallan are carefully chosen by a master of wood, Stuart MacPherson who oversees the sourcing, seasoning and production process from Spain. The Sherry seasoned oak casts are not just special because they are the best quality but because even the process of growing the wood is managed from the beginning (scientifically I guess) so that the wood that is used is the finest oak there is. This is a standard unmatched by the industry. In Speyside, the handmade casts are filled with the Macallan spirit and placed into the care of the warehousemen who are responsible for nurturing and protecting the casks and their precious content. This is not an easy job considering that the casks hold their precious cargo for years as it matures.
In between the whisky tasting we had some delicious biting that complimented the whiskies we were sampling. The Chicken Ballotine, The Sesame crust scallopes with Butter Nut puree was delicious and the Macallan glaze beef fillet which was my favourite for the night. The beef fillet was medium rare and it was delicious, the beef basically melted in your mouth. For dessert we had Salted Caramel tart.
The Macallan brand is one of the oldest and has been around for almost 200 years. The brand is owned by Edrington, a privately owned Scottish company. If you would like to buy some Macallan Whisky then you can find it at Wines Of The World (WOW Beverages).