Malt Resistance

Narrating the Rise and Fall of Single Malt Scotch.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Lowering of Standards at the House of Macallan (II)

A purposefully traditionalist distillery.” Those are the lofty words which Michael Jackson chose to describe the Macallan and its ownership in the first and second editions (1989-91) of his standard setting work (Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, Running Press). These words are no longer used in the later editions, and with good reason.

He was describing the Macallan of yore, a single malt which was exclusively made from “Golden Promise” barley (a low yielding barley which uniquely produces rich nutty flavours), and exclusively matured in Sherry Casks. Those two characteristic which many –including past owners of the place-- thought were inseparable from The Macallan have been done away with progressively, quietly. The fall started in earnest with Highland Distillers' acquisition of the Macallan, and accelerated when the Edrington group set its cash starved tentacles on the distillery. (I am not being fair to octopuses: these corporate groups buy up Distilleries like dictatorships when they take prisoners, some are put in virtual isolation [like Bunnahabhain], and others are publicly executed --that is what is happening to the Macallan.)

What will follow, in the next few months, is a brief review of how the costly tradition of distilling Macallan from Golden Promise Barley was abandoned –and how few journalists or magazines, which cover the industry actually clearly called the owners of the Macallan on it.


Anonymous RJDinkel said...

Macallan Bourbon:

When I first heard of Macallan's "fine oak", the idea appealed to me. I have always felt that some single malts from sherry cask -- especially the more delicate ones -- have some of their fine characteristics overpowered by the sherry. I generally find that malt from bourbon casks gives a more true flavor of the malt itself, without "other" influences. Thus I am always interested when I see an independent bottling of something from bourbon that is more often / traditionally sherry matured.

The bourbon-aged Macallan sounded like it was a perfect candidate for me -- a great malt with all of the traditional speyside characteristics but without being overly influenced by the sherry.
Sadly, I was terribly disappointed. I can only assume that the bourbon casks used were second or third fill (which would not be unusual if in fact these casks were originally laid down for blending as much of what I have read indicates). The resulting malt was not completely without character, but was suprizingly close. The taste was like that of a much younger malt with very little wood influence, and the fabulous malty-sweet speyside characteristics were nearly non-existant. Too bad. If I were Macallan, I would have serious second thoughts about putting my name on this stuff.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a worker for the edrington group i have to question the knowledge of this website. The sales of the Macallan have steadily increased as year prizes and the awards keep rolling in. Unless the distinguised whiskey folk are gettin it wrong i ask you why our whisky wins so many prestigious awards if its is being ruined by my company?

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Singmaltman said...

A Response to Anonymous.

Awards can be purchased! Don't you know the marketing tricks and gimmicks?

Macallan is very disappointed to me too. Their 18 years old is actually a vatted malt whisky. They call it the "finest cut". Actually, 16% of this malt comes from some unknown source.

12:19 AM  

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