Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series

| 22 Comments

Glasses from above.jpgInnovation and diversification of product lines are an integral part of operating any successful business or brand. Careful consideration with thousands of hours of planning, product development, and preparation go into roll-outs, redesigns, and revamps. These are immutable facts for any successful product launch, and steps which must have surely been taken in the lead-up to the unveiling of The Macallan 1824 Series. What leaves me scratching my head is how the entire company and their affiliates could have possibly managed to get it all so very, very wrong


This series is meant to be The Macallan's way forward; replacing their age-statement whiskies and their Cask Strength edition, ultimately becoming the new identity of the brand. However, there is absolutely nothing about this move that smells, tastes, or feels like a step in any direction but backwards. I understand and agree that there is indeed a need for whisky makers to capitalize on the exploding popularity of Scotch whisky by removing age statements to bulk up the amount that can be produced, and therefore sold, by using younger whiskies. What I cannot comprehend is why any whisky maker, let alone one with the global reputation of The Macallan (the validity of which is not being discussed here) would allow such clearly inferior products to bear its name while simultaneously removing the very products that were the foundation of it.

On Thursday, June 20, 2013 we were invited to Toronto's gleaming new luxury hotel, The Shangri-La, to sit down to tuck into Macallan's new line-up of Gold, Amber, Sienna, and Ruby for an evening hosted by their Canadian Brand Ambassador Marc Laverdiere and Stuart MacPherson, Macallan's Master of Wood. 

What could possibly have gone so wrong? Allow me to enlighten you.

The evening opened pleasantly enough with a Macallan Gold and ginger beer cocktail prior to heading into the lavish room for the feature event, however things quickly fell down from there. 


At immediate issue was the fact that the presentation solidified the stance that this range focuses on, and will be driven by, colour. A large number whisky aficionados know all too well that the use of E-150A, also known as "spirit caramel", can be used to attain just about any variation on colours in whisky, and that its use is rarely, if ever, declared. I am not saying that E-150A is being used in this line of whiskies, rather demonstrating that colour means very little when it comes to quality in the glass. The Macallan claims that the colour of the whiskies is an indication of the mix of casks used (American and/or European sherry seasoned casks in all cases), as well as the rarity of the whiskies involved. While this may well be true, I can assure you that this is about as closely correlated to quality as playing in the NHL is to winning the Stanley Cup: you need one to achieve the other, but by no means is there any certainty to the equation.


The range itself graduates in price as the whiskies grow darker. Beginning with the over-priced Gold (estimated by Macallan representatives to be around $65), then progressing through Amber, Sienna, and finally on to the Ruby, which will retail for well in excess of $200 per bottle. The Gold and Amber use a combination of American oak and European oak sherry seasoned casks, the Sienna 100% American oak sherry seasoned casks, and the Ruby employs 100% first fill European oak sherry seasoned casks. Moving into the roster of whiskies I began furiously making my notes, so here they are, unchillfiltered:

Gold
Mac Gold.jpg

Nose: Tremendous amounts of new make aromas flood from the glass, slowly backed up by light lemony citrus, faint pear, soft vanilla, and a little bit of sulphur. 

Palate: Flat, thin, and watery with a malty sweetness that ultimately mutes the already dim nose.

Finish: Gone in a flash, which is the most exciting thing about it. Rather dull.

Overall: For $65 I can find more whiskies than I care to list that I would rather spend my money on, and this is at the LCBO! 

Amber

Nose: Not to go all "Jim Murray" here, but the opening salvo from the glass is pure sulphur; the kind you get from a freshly struck match. Behind this, the whisky opens into nutty spices, cocoa, and a sweetness that is fusion of faint honey and malt.

Palate: There is more flavour here than the Gold, but its muddy and poorly defined. Medium bodied in terms of the mouthfeel, the honey, cocoa, and malty notes carry on from the nose. The spirit itself retains a meaty, light sulphuric element, and this is fused together with light, undefined spice notes; not entirely unlike a Mortlach born of a tired cask. 

Finish: A still-flat two minute finish. The spice lingers, the sweetness plays up, and it all seems to oscillate before spinning off to become slightly sour.

Overall: A marginal improvement on the Gold, but I actually prefer the 10 year old from Macallan's Fine Oak range to this. Also, for the record, I am a fan of Mortlach and meaty whiskies in general. I am not a fan of this however.

1824 Boxes.jpg
Sienna

Nose: Finally some fruit and something reminiscent of what Macallan can be! Nutty spices with a hint of cloves, milk chocolate, and a clear honey sweetness fused with clementines. In the background, light hay, faint moss, and a twinge of mint. 

Palate: Medium bodied and carrying a pinch of the odd meaty note that appeared in the Amber, the palate somehow manages to fall flat vis-a-vis the nose. Warming with a continued honey sweetness, the spice tones become ambiguous aside from black pepper. At least this one clocks in at 43% to bring a bit of punch to the party. 

Finish: The milk chocolate returns for a fleeting moment. Then honey and vanilla stand up, grab hold of what is left of the spices, and the trio march off, leaving a soft malty coating to linger in the mouth.

Overall: This would be a passable whisky depending on the price. That said, my gut feeling is that this will be priced well beyond the $100 per bottle mark, which would be far above what it is worth.

Ruby

Nose: Brown sugar, dark chocolate, and oranges lead off with excellent effect. This is followed by almonds, dried fruits, and Christmas cake spices that evoke memories of what Macallan used to bring to the table. Underpinning all this is a deep vanilla core reminiscent of a well-aged Ezra B bourbon.

Palate: The dried fruits show well inside a very enjoyable velvety mouthfeel, while the dark chocolate and orange are joined at the hip. The whole ensemble is wrapped up in a rich sherry kick, while black pepper joins the party to drive those Christmas cake spices forward.

Finish: Dry and drying, the finish rolls on for roughly 3 to 4 minutes. Throughout, warm, soft caramel notes play out nicely alongside the spices, while the dark chocolate breaks down into raw cocoa powder.

Overall: Without question, this is the best of the bunch. That said, every sip left me longing for the standard Macallan 12 year old as it offers more depth, definition of flavour, and while undoubtedly less expensive, could well end up being one third of the price of the Ruby by the time it hits LCBO shelves.

Audience.jpg
Never before have I left a whisky tasting feeling pangs of sorrow and frustration, yet that is how I felt walking away from the evening. We had walked in excited to see the evolution of the brand, the elevation of the master blender's craft, and to experience this with an energetic and enthusiastic audience. Instead we were met with a 15-minute presentation on wood, an audience that was generally more interested in their phones, and four whiskies that could not even surpass the low-end of their predecessors. This feeling of loss and frustration was only compounded as I researched the global distribution plans to discover via Whiskycast that "Plans are to continue making the current age-statement Sherry Oak and Fine Oak ranges available in the U.S. and key Asian markets for the foreseeable future." So if you want a Macallan worth purchasing, you will have to head South of the border to find one.

In time, newcomers to the wonderful world of whisky may take to the new roster, while those that buy Macallan as a status symbol will continue their frivolous spending unabated. But for those who have tasted what Macallan used to produce, what they were and could be again, this is gravely disappointing, and a sword that can mortally wound a reputation forged over the course of 189 years. I can only hope that this is Macallan's "New Coke" moment that we are living through, and that this one-time distiller of truly tremendous whiskies clears its collective head, dusts itself off, and comes back with something worthy of its reputation.

22 Comments

Looks like there are 228 bottles of the Cask Strength available at the LCBO, 1691 of the 12 year old....

Thanks for the coverage on the new offerings. I had some of the Amber when I was in the UK. It's...alright. However, when I learned of this new line I wrote to The Macallan people and they said the aged range would still continue in Canada. Maybe they have changed their minds, in which case, I need to do some shopping. :-)

I'm wish to buy all of the Cask Strength.

Thank you Matt! Of course, I'm very disappointed to hear this but at the same time, looking forward to trying these on my own. In the meantime, I'll be stocking up on the age statement expressions, which will eventually disappear...

Very welcome sir.

It was disappointing to learn of the demise of the age statements & CS here in Canada. But the truth must be shared.

So sad that Macallan has decided to go down this slippery slope. I have been buying all the Cask Strength I can find in Calgary. Cheapest I have been able to locate thus far is $62 + GST. I will be enjoying it for years to come :)

Well, we've got some official LCBO pricing finally for 3 of the 4. Here it is:

Gold: $64.95

Amber: $99.95

Sienna: $174.95

The Ruby has yet to be listed.


I used to be a big fan of Macallan, but now with this 1824 Series I'm already dissapointed. I have tried the new Gold (awful) and the Amber (average). Both have a awful finish which suggests to me they are using unusable casks, something Balvenie did with their Caribbean Cask edition which is one of the most disgusting, over-priced whiskies I have ever had. I know there is a shortage of good whisky, but do these guys have to come up with ways to use up the unusable crap, rather than producing better and more casks. I don't mind younger versions. Just don't pretend to give me vintage whisky using the stuff you can't get rid of any other way.

Thank you for a great review. You have saved me time and money to enjoy on other classics. The only thing I can complement Macallan for dong is taking the high road on their supply and demand issues while avoiding a repeat of Carduh. Looks like the new amber will be enjoyed by new comers with the "original coke". Not I.

Thank you very much for reading Jimmy. Very happy to have helped you allocate your whisky budget accordingly.

Slainte!

Thank you. Just got a btl of Gold this evening, havent tried it yet. I think this senseless move is going to cost Macallan dearly. I do not buy colour w/0 age.

Goodbye Macallan------unless you come to your senses

I've only had the gold (2 bottles) and I think it is excellent. Cannot wait to try the others in the series. For me it is a very clean sherried Macallan and far better than the 10 it replaces.

Not sure why everyone is getting all uppity about them being NAS. I would rather they have the flexibility to improve their whisky.

Oh, it's not the NAS decision that I find irksome. It's the dilution of the product range, combined with clearly lower quality whiskies and the slap in the face that our country is not considered a worthwhile recipient of their "higher end" whiskies.

I mean, if this range was so good, then why aren't they peddling it the same way in the US and China since those are the large markets they're trying to capture?

Your overall comments are spot on. Just did this tasting in Ottawa a few days ago and I think the LCBO has grossly overpaid for this line up and I think it's a bit of a miss on Macallan's part. I wouldn't buy any of them for their current prices.

To whomever made a comment about the Gold, I am sorry. I accidentally hit delete rather than publish. From now on, I'll stay clear of that screen on touch screen devices.

Wish I had read these post before I bought the Amber. I asked which one replaced the 12 yr old. Was told Amber. Completely false. I anticated the aroma when removing the cork only to find a slight hint of a watered down whiskey. Then I thought I added too much ice, as I usually use the frozen rocks. No, this tasted like a bar whiskey and water. The taste left my palate so fast, my wife knew I was dissointed. The only reason I posted here is for someone to recommend a replacement to Macallan. I will hang around Obans for a while.
Signed,
Out a c note...

Glenfarclas or Aberlour.

Those will still set you right. Glenfarclas will deliver the bigger sherry kick though.

Thank you for this review albeit a year late... I just stumbled onto this review and more important, your society and web site.

My wife and I belong to a local society and I've just shared this review with our group.

This is a brilliant tasting review and perfect summation of how I felt after attending the same tasting event on two different dates/locations this past year.

I wholeheartedly agree with the author, it is indeed a legacy lost.

Thank you for this tragic review. I tried Mac Amber and found it to be industrial scotch.

I visited a number of distilleries in the Spey Valley last summer. Normally the staff are highly competent and enthusiastic whisky tutors. At Macallan, we felt like we were being sold an overpriced used car.

Macallan 12 is magnificent. I am buying as much as I can before it is gone from U.S. stores. It hasn't been available in Canada for several years.

It's a damn shame that they decided Canada wasn't worthy of the original age-statement line. I looked high and low for bottles of The Macallan Cask Strength (one of their best ever IMO) and the 12 yr expressions and was able to find a couple in the USA a few years back. I bought a bottle of The Macallan 12 yr when I was in Sweden last fall and I was reminded just how delicious this whisky is compared to the Legacy line.
You're right, it's worth hoarding!

Ryan,

You might be pleased to know that there is plenty of Macallan 12 a short drive away in Pennsylvania. The PLCB continues to stock in at the very reasonable price of $US 65.
http://bit.ly/2bCOl8u

Leave a comment


Feeds



Recent Comments

  • Darren commented on Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series:

    Ryan,

    You might be pleased to know that there is plenty of Macallan 12 a short drive away in Pennsylvania. The PLCB continues to stock in at the very reasonable price of $US 65.
    http://bit.ly/2bCOl8u

  • Ryan commented on Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series:

    It's a damn shame that they decided Canada wasn't worthy of the original age-statement line. I looked high and low for bottles of The Macallan Cask Strength (one of their best ever IMO) and the 12 yr expressions and was able to find a couple in the USA a few years back. I bought a bottle of The Macallan 12 yr when I was in Sweden last fall and I was reminded just how delicious this whisky is compared to the Legacy line.
    You're right, it's worth hoarding!

  • John commented on Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series:

    Thank you for this tragic review. I tried Mac Amber and found it to be industrial scotch.

    I visited a number of distilleries in the Spey Valley last summer. Normally the staff are highly competent and enthusiastic whisky tutors. At Macallan, we felt like we were being sold an overpriced used car.

    Macallan 12 is magnificent. I am buying as much as I can before it is gone from U.S. stores. It hasn't been available in Canada for several years.

Whisky Wheel

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID