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The Macallan story begins in 1824 when farmer Alexander Reid leased eight acres of land upon which to build a distillery. It wasn’t until later, however, under the watchful eye of Roderick Kemp, that the distillery reached new heights and began to produce a malt that would earn the reputation it still holds today. Kemp had previously enjoyed a successful time at Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye but sold his stake in 1891 in order to buy Macallan. For years the distillery remained in his family before they were bought out in 1996 by Highland Distillers, later to become Edrington.
The Macallan whisky is full-bodied and matured almost exclusively in ex-sherry casks. Interestingly, the spirit is said to be bottled at natural colour, something which must be celebrated at a time when the use of colourant is commonplace. One of the true industry giants, the Macallan malt is the third best selling brand in the world, behind Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet respectively.
The Macallan is easily the most sought after whisky among collectors and can sell for hundreds of thousands. It even holds the current world record for ‘most expensive whisky ever sold’ after a six litre Lalique Decanter of Macallan M Imperiale sold in 2014 for a whopping $628,000.
The purchase of such collector’s items is not without risk, however. In 2002, an article in Whisky Magazine by Dave Broom raised concerns over the number of old bottles (in apparently perfect condition) floating around the secondary market at the time. This was of particular interest to the people at Macallan who had been building an archive of old and rare bottlings for posterity (and occasional sale to collectors). Initial tests found that the bottles and labels at least were genuine but later laboratory tests on the liquid told a different story… In 2004 Macallan announced that at least 11 of the bottles in their collection were fake and contained whisky no older than 10 years. Further research from Broom and his colleagues found that many of the fakes originated from Italy and were possibly even linked to the Italian Mafia.
In the years following Macallan’s initial announcement, many more fakes were uncovered, perhaps not surprising when websites like eBay are full of people selling vintage old bottles, ready to be filled and re-sealed then passed off as the real deal. Buyers must exert extreme caution before parting with their money. Using a reputable auctioneer is advisable but even the best are not infallible and there is potential for a few forgeries to slip through. Macallan, to their credit, immediately put a stop to any further sale of the bottles in their archive and withdrew them from the display.
Fortunately, spending thousands of pounds on a bottle that turns out to be fake isn’t a problem I’m likely to come across any time soon and I can instead continue to buy whisky at sensible prices.
This time around I’m reviewing Macallan’s entry-level ‘Gold’ expression. Introduced in 2012, this was the first release of the new ‘1824’ series and was followed by a wave of controversy thanks to its lack of age statement.
The Macallan Gold is bottled at 40% and can usually be picked up for around £35.00.
Smell: Vanilla, Treacle, Heather, some Raisins, Apple and Lemon and a little Chocolate.
Taste: Dried Fruits, Orange, Honey & Caramel, Chocolate and a little warming Cinnamon.
Thoughts: Affordable enough at around £35 but feels a wee bit of a letdown to me. It certainly isn’t terrible, in fact, I opened this bottle on the same evening I cracked a bottle of Old Pulteney 12-year-old and I thought The Macallan showed much better than the Pulteney – and I’m a fan of coastal whiskies. That said, the Gold still seemed to lack something for me. It arrived on the palate with something of a whimper although it developed well. At 40% it lacks a little bit of weight but the overall experience is decent enough for a £35 bottle. It doesn’t quite feel like it lives up to the Macallan name though, and that’s a shame.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.
See link below for the Whisky Magazine article on the fake Macallan’s from 2004…