Today’s whisky is an independent bottling of Speymalt from The Macallan Distillery that was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2011. The Speymalt releases are a series of bottlings of Macallan single malt whiskies released by the Elgin-based whisky merchant and independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail.
Whisky drinkers around the world are very well acquainted with The Macallan, long considered one of the most famous Scotch whiskies. Macallan whisky was a favorite of Michael Jackson, no, not the late, white-gloved, megastar singer, but rather Michael Jackson the late, great, whisky writer, who commented at length about the distillery and its whiskies in his Whisky Companion, which is an absolute must-read book for any single malt whisky lover!
The Macallan distillery was established in 1824 and over the course of its existence Macallan has developed a reputation as a producer of some exceptional whiskies. Today, the Macallan 18 year-old is regarded as a nearly universal status symbol, a bottle of “special” whisky that is given as a gift, occasionally used for bribes, brought out for special occasions, or served just to impress friends. In fact, in some circles the Macallan 18 has been considered the pinnacle of full sherry-matured Scotch whisky. The obvious downside to having such a reputation is that Macallan is very proud of their 18-year-old whisky…..as demonstrated by the lofty price tag this bottle typically carries….with prices now running upwards of $200 USD in many retail stores.
Given that the prices of the official bottling of the 18-year-old is in the $200 range, that a bottle of the Macallan 21 Fine Oak runs $350-$500, and the official 25-year-old bottling is well north of $1,000, finding a 21-year-old Macallan for a (relatively) reasonable price of $135 is an exciting prospect. But, as with any whisky, the price is only part of the equation, the other is how does it taste!
Review: Speymalt from the Macallan Distillery, Distilled 1990, Bottled 2011, Stamp: 19/12/11 AA / AGCH
I bought this bottle of Speymalt 21 year-old on a recommendation from Chris (aka The Liquorhound)…..great recommendation,Chris! This particular batch of Speymalt was distilled in 1990, matured in First Fill and Refill Sherry Butts, and bottled in 2011 at an abv of 43%.
Color: Light Mahogany.
Nose: Starts with a very beautiful, herbal spice nose full of clove, allspice, dried ginger, a touch of cinnamon, and a hint of pepper. There are notes of stewed plums, toffee pudding, fresh ripe plums, a hint of black cherries, warm bread, maybe a touch of liquorice, and a subtle touch of cocoa powder. The nose is bright and vivid, with the aromas almost flying out of the glass. Really nice! Adding water to this one really isn’t necessary, but it does bring out perhaps a bit of orange peel, some additional ripe orchard fruits, and a little more vanilla, while the herbal spices recede a bit.
Taste: Spiced, sweet vanilla almost hints at some bourbon-cask matured whisky, but it is the obvious sherry-influence that takes center stage with the a beautiful blending of dark and dried fruits, orange marmalade, dark chocolate, the herbal spices and warm bready notes. Like the nose, this is a vibrant whisky on the tongue. Rich and creamy, beautiful viscosity on the tongue. With water the mouthfeel is definitely softer, not necessarily an improvement, although it does remain relatively full-flavored. The water brings out more of the ripe apples, orange peel and some orange marmalade, more cinnamon, and the nice hints of chocolate with the elegant soft herbal spices.
Finish: The finish on this whisky is quite long, full of herbal spices, some sweet vanilla, with a hefty dose of bittersweet chocolate, and a softly tannic bite at the very end.
Overall: What a great find this Speymalt is! I’ve tried most of the currently available core releases of the Macallan, including the Fine Oak and Sherry Oak lines and the recently released Rare Cask. I find this to be every bit as good or better than the official releases 21 years and younger. This is really an elegant, rich, softly sweet and beautifully spiced whisky that is very appealing on both the nose and the palate. This whisky has a wonderful complexity and balance with a nice, long finish.
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Type: Single Malt
Maturation: First Fill Sherry and Refill Sherry Butts.
Price: $135 (2014)
Availability: Scarce, but probably still available with some searching
Sample Source: My own bottle
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.