I recently had the chance to be at the presentation of the new The Macallan line at the Petit Celler headquarters in Barcelona. Referring to the origins of the distillery, The Macallan 1824 Series replaces the previous one, called Fine Oak, which was based on years spent ageing.Spain has been the last European country for this product launch. From now on, the stocks of the old denominations of 10, 12, 18, 25 and 30 years whiskies will decrease while the new products, named Amber, Sienna and Ruby will take their place.
Which are the key features of this new line? First of all, they have abandoned the ageing system, allowing more flexibility to produce a single malt focussed on the style, not the age. «A style established by colour», as Macallan’s brand ambassador says. Secondly, they are matured in dry Oloroso Sherry oak butts («butt» is the name given to the sherry casks), giving a distinctive character to the whiskies as a whole, although the three of them are quite different among themselves. It is also necessary to state that they use mainly Galician oak (the American oak represents a only small portion).
- Amber: It is flowery, with hints of white flower, pear, strawberry and chocolate. Very mild and well balanced, it has a spicy finish with an aftertaste of raisins. It is the single malt best suited for cocktails, but certainly well worth drinking on its own as well.
- Sienna: A «quiet» single malt. Stands up extremely well by itself. The flavor is sherry-like, with hints of vanilla. It is thin on the palate, with a spicy finish and an aftertaste of candy. It is the whisky that I would choose if I were looking for a «15 year old Scotch single malt».
- Ruby: Low intensity aroma, calling to mind the Spanish brandy «Gran Reserva». On the palate it has a thin attack, with spicy notes and a pungent and sherry-like aftertaste. It seems designed to cater to «old fashioned» palates (like mine, which is accustomed to drinking brandies).
In short, Macallan has reduced the range of product but kept a high standard. This movement will surely simplify the marketing and logistics, but I wonder if the end consumer will benefit. They have bet on color-based scale, and we will have to wait to see the consumer reaction. In any case, it is a step forward in dispelling the myth that age equals quality, so from now on the consumer will have to focus more on style than years in the cask.