Is there a whisky maker as relentlessly creative as The Macallan? There’s just so much variety available that the average whisky enthusiast would find himself a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. From the staple 12 year olds and 15 year olds, the decidedly upmarket 25 year olds, and even the very rare and fine Masters of Photography Editions, Recently, we’ve even been treated to the no-age-statement 1824 series, named after the colour of the precious contents inside.
There’s a Macallan for just about everyone, whether enthusiast or connoisseur. Now, there’s a new premium whisky for the people who still aren’t satisfied. The Macallan Rare Cask has come to Singapore, and it is a showcase of the very stuff that makes whisky, well, whisky.
The vast majority of the flavours in a whisky come from oak, which may be surprising to the average man. After all, no one eats wood – precisely because of how it tastes; complaints about texture nonwithstanding.
Yet, there’s more of the taste of wood in whisky than there is water or barley. Even among oak, there are great differences. American Oak and European Oak impart distinctive tastes to the whisky aged in them, even more so if the European Oak has stored sherry first! One merely has to take a sip of bourbon, and then one of a sherried whisky to taste the difference.
The difficulty is that no two whiskies maturing in the casks taste the same. Even where the whiskies were stored in the warehouse play a part in the final taste. The true art then, would be blending the whiskies in these casks to create something magical- and consistent; it wouldn’t do to have every bottle of whisky tasting different from the others.
Now think about how the Rare Cask was made from whiskies selected from 16 different casks profiles, the oldest ever used in a Macallan. No small task, especially if you take into account the fact that less than 1% of the casks maturing, some dating as far back as the 80s, are selected. This is, of course, how it gets its name.
With such weighty promise, how does the Rare Cask measure up when put to the taste test?
Nose: Raisin and spice, a little cocoa, but rather less vanilla than I expected.
Taste: Chocolate, bitter oranges at first. then raisins, giving way to lemon, then cloves and cinnamon. This is a delicate whisky with a lot of depth to explore. Adding water and letting it breathe for a little while reveals so many new vistas of complexity. Sweeter tastes, some more ripe citrus and sherry. Yet, nothing feels overpowering or out of tilt. Texture is medium, not too oily. None of that young whisky harshness. Very well balanced indeed.
Finish: Oak, with the faint taste of orange chocolate lingering for a long, sweet while so as to be properly savoured.
Such quality has its price, though. A bottle of The Macallan Rare Cask will set you back something in the region of $500, due in large part to the rarity and craftsmanship required to produce a whisky of this calibre. Is it worth $500? Yes. It’s a beautifully crafted whisky that you won’t be seeing much of. Should you buy it? The answer is: only if you can comfortably afford it. This isn’t a whisky for everyone – might I suggest a 15 year if you are looking for an alternative Macallan?
Final Verdict: Overall, a great whisky possessed of immense complexity, not an everyday dram for sure. Yet, that’s not to say that it’s unapproachable. It’s remarkably gentle and easy to drink- but a whisky such as this must be given its time and space.
The Macallan Rare Cask is a rare treat indeed. If you’re curious, you can check out the interactive exhibition on its creation from 22 July till 2 Aug, and perhaps pick up a few exclusive souvenirs there while you’re at it. Be sure to register at www.themacallanrarecask.com.sg, as the tour sizes are limited.
The White House
35 Scotts Road
Disclosure: I was not paid to write any of this, and this is not a sponsored post. I was simply invited to taste the whisky and write about my thoughts. The views here are my own.