The Macallan story can be traced back to 1824 when a farmer named Alexander Reid leased eight acres of land on which to build a distillery. It wasn’t until later, while under the stewardship of a man named Roderick Kemp that the distillery really found it’s feet and began to gain the reputation it holds today. Kemp had previously brought success to Talisker Distillery but sold his stake in 1891 and used the money to buy Macallan. The distillery remained in the hands of his relatives until it was bought in 1996 by Highland Distillers (who would later become Edrington).
The whisky made here is full-bodied, matured almost exclusively in ex-sherry casks and is apparently bottled at natural colour with no caramel colourant added. This is to be celebrated in a time when the addition of colourant to maintain consistency across different batches is commonplace. Macallan is one of the big hitters, in 2009 the Herald named it the third best selling single malt behind it’s Speyside cousins Glenfiddich and Glenlivet (in 2015 Glenlivet overtook Glenfiddich for the first time).
The Macallan has become popular with collectors and can sell for thousands of pounds, (they currently hold the world record for the most expensive whisky ever sold – a six litre Lalique Decanter full of Macallan M Imperiale sold in 2014 for $628,000). However, the purchase of rare and old bottlings is not without risk. In 2002 an article in Whisky Magazine written by Dave Broom raised concerns over the amount of old whisky bottles (in apparently perfect condition) around at the time. This was of particular interest to those at Macallan who had been building an archive of old and rare bottlings to keep for posterity (and for 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 possibly even the Italian Mafia.
In the years following Macallan’s announcement many more fakes have appeared on the market. This is perhaps not surprising as on websites like eBay you often find old empty bottles or labels for sale. While these could be of interest to collectors in their own right, they can all too easily be used for the wrong reasons. These old bottles and labels can be filled with new whisky and re-sealed, making some convincing forgeries and it seems that not a lot can be done to prevent them from reaching the market. The only option for buyers is to exert extreme caution before parting with their money. Using a reputable auctioneer helps but they are not infallible and there is potential for a few good forgeries to slip through. Macallan, to their credit, immediately put a stop to any further sale of the bottles in their archive.
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 get on with buying and enjoying whisky at a sensible price and reviewing them here on whiskyreviews.net. The subject of this particular review is The Macallan Gold. Released in 2012 this was the first release in the 1824 series and caused a little controversy due its lack of an age statement. Instead, the name focused on the colour of the whisky – the idea being that the range gets darker as it gets older (and therefore more expensive) so we have Gold then Amber, Sienna and Ruby.
The Macallan Gold is bottled at 40% and can usually be picked up for around £35.00. On the nose there’s Vanilla, Treacle, Heather, some Raisins, Apple and Lemon and a little Chocolate. On the palate meanwhile there’s Dried Fruits, Orange, Honey & Caramel, Chocolate and a little warming Cinnamon. Despite being only 40% and chill filtered there is good weight to it and a lovely silky texture.
Smell: Not the most complex perhaps but engaging enough.
Taste: A burst of fruit, silky caramel and dark chocolate.
Value for Money: Should cost around £35 though sometimes you can find it cheaper in the supermarkets. It’s good quality at that price.
Score: 40.5 / 50.
It’s non age statement, it’s watered down to 40% and it’s been chill-filtered but nonetheless it’s a decent whisky and reasonably priced.
See link below for the Whisky Magazine article on the fake Macallan’s from 2004…