A scotch whisky distiller, when asked recently if he made any blends, was gloriously sniffy and dismissive of blended whisky. It would have been interesting to see and hear what he would have made of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blends, which I got to taste last Thursday (November 28) in London.
It is the first in the 1824 Series (the year the distillery was founded) and will be followed by Amber, Sienna and Ruby next spring.
Edrington is claiming an “industry first” by using colour to shape and define the new range.
As with Gold, the names of the new expressions reflect the colour of the whiskies. The Macallan claims to use only the best quality American and Spanish oak casks, filled with sherry (predominately Oloroso) in Jerez, the home of sherry and only natural colouring from the casks.
The range will not be made available to the travel retail sector as it already has the 1824 Collection. A spokeswoman said it will be rolled out to the US and Asia-Pacific “in the next year or two”.
The Macallan Gold is pale in colour and has a citrus lemon nose with candied fruit and orange peel. With a plain off white label, it comes in a simple white square carton.
It is expected to have a recommended retail price of £36 (US$58, €45) with Amber, Sienna and Ruby retailing for approximately £45, £75 and £120-£130 respectively.
Defending the decision to drop the use of an age statement, Macallan whisky maker Bob Dalgarno, said: “Using colour to drive and define a whisky differs dramatically from the conventional age approach, creating The Macallan Gold allowed us to explore different casks and base our choices on aromas and flavours.
‘The palate is ruled by citrus and boiled sweets along with hints of ginger and cinnamon, while soft oak notes reveal toasted apples. We have been able to work creatively with the full range of matured stock available, rather than working to a pre-determined character based on age,” said Dalgarno
The casks chosen for the range are said to deliver a colour transition from light to dark, with the wood character defining each expression’s flavour. As the whiskies become darker and richer, so the pool of casks able to deliver this character becomes smaller and rarer. Hence Ruby’s price.
Edrington director of malts Ken Grier said: “As some 60% of the aroma and flavour of The Macallan derives from the oak maturation casks, this new range is a genuine opportunity to demonstrate the critical role of these exceptional casks and also to challenge perceptions about bottling at arbitrary ages. Taking colour as the basis for shaping these whiskies, an industry first, is testimony both to the innovative approach to whisky making and to the long experience of our Whisky Maker. This truly is Bob’s work at its very best.”
Macallan Tasting notes:
Gold – a burnished gold spirit offering a lemon citrus nose, then orange peel and sweetness that softens but doesn’t eliminate the zest. A note of vanilla followed more assertive by dark chocolate – with lingering floral and light oak notes. Citrus and boiled sweets dance on the palate, along with hints of ginger and cinnamon, while soft oak tones reveal toasted apples. The finish is medium sweet, malty and slightly dry.
Amber – a floral, citrus sweet nose gains presence, commanding a chorus of sweet vanilla notes over freshly harvested grain. Raisin, sultana and cinnamon look on as toffee apples and candy floss step into the limelight. On the palate, fresh green apples and lemons mingle with cinnamon. Ginger notes hover as fruit takes over, with subtle oak lingering. The finale is light to medium, with soft fruits and cereal, slightly dry.
Sienna – a warm opening with a subtle vanilla nose, persistent yet not overpowering. Orange arrives, turning zesty and sharp, though tempering green apples add freshness and balance. Next comes white chocolate truffles, chewy and sumptuous, with elegant oak notes. Dates, figs and raisins lead the palate then make way for nutmeg and ginger with a splash of oranges and apples, before vanilla returns. The final fanfare is gentle, smooth and warming.
Ruby - Spanish Oak piques the nose before reluctantly admitting rich, dried fruits and an edgy trickle of treacle. A hesitant sweetness enters, then oak returns, burnished and mature. On the palate a rush of ginger, nutmeg and resin herald orange, sultana and raisin with their restrained but pervasive sweetness. Clove is here and gone, leaving oak the undisputed maestro. The finish of this ruby-red spirit is long, lingering and reflective.