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Drink · February 4, 2015

Served Neat: Why Macallans Latest Scotch Is the Next Big Thing in Whiskey

While a whiskey's age is often used as an indicator of quality, enthusiasts have long accepted that age isn't everything. There are plenty of garbage whiskies that are older than you are, and plenty of stellar malts that are only a few years old. This shift in popular opinion has encouraged innovation, allowing distilleries to focus on the quality of the ingredientsand the skill of the distillerinstead of a target age. The resulting malts have been branded "no-age-statement" whiskies, and while this phenomenon is hardly new, the fact that Macallan has joined the fray is pretty damn groundbreaking.

So what makes Macallan Rare Cask so special? The trick (as implied by the name) is in the oak wood casks used for aging. Macallan's distillers handpicked a selection of first-fill sherry casks: Since first-fill casks have never been used for aging, they impart a richer flavor. The distillery's "Master of Wood," Stuart MacPherson, selected the wood himself, choosing a variety of oak from Northern Spain with a grain best suited for aging. The distillers then tailored the aging process to the qualities of the woodwithout having to worry about the number on the label.

The results, in short, are decidedly worth the effort. The first-fill casks impart a rich, sweet character, but with more than enough restraint to keep the flavor complex. The nose smacks prominently of sherry and citrus, with pleasant little undertones of cocoa and spice. The palate is also smooth, with notes of raisin, apricot, and vanilla. There are also subtle hints of chocolate, ginger, and clove, which help to offset the sweetness. It finishes on a mellow tone with bits of orange zest, and a subtle smokey flavor that's rare in a highland scotch.

Macallan Rare Cask is a bold divergence for Scotland's hero distillery, and while the $250-$300 price sets a fairly high bar, the whiskey more than delivers. If you fancy yourself a scotch connoisseur, you can't afford to miss it.

Interested? Buy it here.


Nathaniel Nagy

Copywriter, cold brew advocate, purveyor of handcrafted birthday haikus since 2009.