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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

March 27, 2013


Today it is International
Whisky Day, in celebration
of Michael Jackson


Like we do every year since 2008 at Whiskyfun, let’s simply raise our glasses to pay tribute to the great Michael Jackson since it's his birthday today. The great man died from Parkinson's in 2007 and I believe it's only sensible to 'change attitudes' and donate the price of a dram or two to Parkinson's UK via the International Whisky Day's page at JustGiving. You may also read or re-read the very moving homages that we had gathered when Michael passed away, they'll tell you more about the man and his unmatched influence.

Michael Jackson

Now,what's the alternative way of paying tribute to a great whisky man? Simple, tasting his favourite whisky and not just any expressions as we’ll do a verticale of six vintages, from 1958 down to 1940, all very rare no need to say (some preemptive apologies may be needed here, so yeah, apologies my friend but perhaps you’ll find a little vicarious pleasure in these notes…) It’s also to be remembered that in post-war times, coal or fuel were very scarce and expensive so many distilleries, including Macallan, had been using much more peat than in pre-war times. Shall we find some peaters?... Anyway, here’s to you dear Michael-Jackson-in-the-sky!

Tasting Macallan from 1958 to 1940

Macallan 25 yo 1958/1984 'Anniversary Malt' (43%, OB)

Macallan 25 yo 1958/1984 'Anniversary Malt' (43%, OB) Five starsThese 25s are very famous – esp. the 1957 rather than the 1958 - but I’m afraid there are now more fakes in the market than genuine ones. Watch esp. the ones that were supposedly imported by Rémy Amériques – and always buy only from reputable sellers. Colour: amber. Nose: well, it’s one of these old Macallans that reek of Havana cigars – unlit of course. No sweet sherry here and no Christmas cake, we’re rather on old walnuts, vin jaune, manzanilla (and big time!), old leather jacket and then various precious woods and the polishes that come with them. Oh, and there IS a little wood smoke as well. In short, a wonderfully dry and almost leafy nose. After twenty minutes: the dried fruits come out, together with some mocha and motor oil. Same colours anyway ;-). Mouth: bang, everything comes at the same time, which is quite unusual with these old whiskies. Black raisins, coffee, old cognac (rancio), tobacco, a little tar, blackcurrant liqueur and, should I add of course, the trademark Seville oranges. Some heather honey as well but then it just wouldn’t change. It’s not really full bodied in fact and it’s even a little light by today’s standards, but what a glorious combination! Finish: not extremely long and all in keeping with the arrival, so it just never changes. Or when linearity is stunning. Having said that, it’s rather more on the orangey side in the aftertaste. Maybe more chocolate as well. Comments: you could still find this marvellous style in later batches, such as several 18yos that were distilled in the early 1970s. SGP:652 – 91 points.

Macallan 25 yo 'Silver Jubilee' (45.5%, OB for Christopher & Co, magnum, 1977)

Macallan 25 yo 'Silver Jubilee' (45.5%, OB for Christopher & Co, magnum, 1977) Five stars A fantastic magnum that was issued in 1977 to celebrate Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. This baby was, most obviously, distilled in the early 1950s. Colour: amber/bronze. Nose: same style as the 1958, with again these fino-ish notes, walnuts, leather, tobacco, humidor… It’s rather less expressive than the 1958 but there’s also more menthol and eucalyptus, so maybe the casks were a little more active. Hard to say… Also touches of old ham, almonds, even ideas of yellow curry... So yeah, the complexity is pretty immense. Mouth: oh yes, this one is incomparably more on menthol than the 1958 and it seems that there’s much more peat as well. It’s even quite medicinal and sort of Taliskerish. Some tar, cough lozenges, angelica, chartreuse, even a little aniseed, maybe wormwood, marzipan, crystallised oranges... This time we’re having a big whisky but it’s true that it was bottled at 45.5% vs. 43. Brilliant even if no whisky lover who would have never tried some old Macallan would tell you this can be, well, Macallan. Finish: long this time, with some pine sap, eucalyptus drops, After Eights, mint, fir honeydew… In fact, it’s quite resinous. A little old wood in the aftertaste. Comments: a big one, not just because it was a magnum (hahaha, S.!) Amazing whisky, I say no more. SGP:573 - 93 points.

Macallan-Glenlivet 25 yo 1948 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, sherry wood, +/-1973)

Macallan-Glenlivet 25 yo 1948 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, sherry wood, +/-1973) Five stars Indeed, we went back ten years and may find more peat in here… Colour: amber. Nose: oh, I was expecting more smoke and dryness but actually, this baby’s rather rounder and more on dried fruits. The most magnificent combination of raisins, figs, dates, quinces and, guess what, dried bananas. There’s also a feeling of old Yquem (no I’m not joking), apricot jam, maybe Turkish delights, then papayas… So it’s rather a luscious one so far while once again, both its complexity and its elegance are huge. Amazing nose, I say no more. After twenty minutes: yes, old cigars, old ham, soy sauce, lovage… All good signs. Mouth: maybe there’s a little too much oak in the very first sips, and maybe too much bitter chocolate as well, but otherwise it’s beautifully spicy, rather wilder and even harsher/rougher than the two previous ones, as if it was just bottled – and at cask strength, at that. Liquorice, black raisins, old Armagnac, natural tar drops or liqueur, touches of mocha, more chocolate… This dryness remains all the time, around grape pips or even chewing tobacco (or snuff). Mentholated tobacco. Finish: long, still a little rough, impressively young in fact. Mentholated and fino-ish aftertaste. Comments: quite a beast. I’m wondering whether these superb bottles wouldn’t need 50 more quiet years to become, well, smoother ;-). Oh, and I wouldn’t say this baby was frankly peatier than other very old Macallans, but maybe will the next one be a straight peater? SGP:561 - 93 points.

Macallan 1946 (80° proof, OB, Campbell Hope & King, cork, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1961)

Macallan 1946 (80° proof, OB, Campbell Hope & King, cork, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1961) Five stars This one had a cork stopper, while another one I had tasted in March last year to celebrate Michael Jackson had a 'securo' cap (WF 94, no less). Rumour has it that CH&K's Macallans were always brilliant because they sometimes added cognac. Probably only rumours... Colour: gold. Nose: yes, a leafy, leathery peat is roaring in the background but other than that, we’re rather close to the 1958, with this fino-ness that comes with bags of almonds and walnuts. The crystallised oranges are there as well, something a little metallic (and yes it was a cork) and then a growing smoke involving coal, wood and peat. Also some graphite oil, linseed, tar, a little motor oil, turpentine… It’s not the ‘widest’ old Macallan at this point but the smoky dryness is wonderful. Remember this one was only 15 years old at time of bottling. After twenty minutes: good news, more kumquats and raisins. Mouth: oh wow! Literally explodes on your tongue, with myriads of tiny dried fruits, liqueurs and herbal teas, all coated with peat smoke. Where to start? Oranges, that’s done. Then various raisins, citrus fruits (yes, kumquats), candied fruits (all of them, like in a perfect cassata), some praline, glazed chestnuts, little coffee drops, some malt, some tar, some strong cough drops, some liquorice… And wheelbarrows of other tinier elements. What’s really striking is the power beyond the complexity. Big phat old-skool malt whisky! Finish: long, with the herbal/leafy side coming more to the fore. Bee propolis. Comments: a rather political malt, whatever that means. A little un-Macallan but the oomph and the peat on the palate are totally impressive. SGP:473 - 94 points.

Macallan-Glenlivet 37 yo 1941 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, sherry wood, +/-1978)

Macallan-Glenlivet 37 yo 1941 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, sherry wood, +/-1978) Four stars and a half Not many distilleries were still working in 1941/1942, especially because barley was in very short supply. I think they were Macallan, Mortlach and Glenlivet but there may have been one or two others. Colour: gold. Nose: soot this time, a lot of soot! And shoe polish, leather, metal (old tin box), herbal liqueurs… In truth it’s very herbal, sooty and smoky and there are almost no fruits. There’s also a little dust – nice dust – but this wartime Macallan has probably got the narrowest nose of them all. Unless the 1940 to come is even narrower… Mouth: spectacularly sooty and dry once again. Herbs, that propolis that we already found in the 1946, green tea, some chlorophyll, then more and more (and more) mint and liquorice… It could almost be a very old bottle of herbal liqueur, between chartreuse and Fernet Branca. Slightly drying… Finish: not the longest and it’s quite dry. Some cumin. Comments: possibly more of historical interest than organolepictally brilliant, the dryness being quite, well, dry. And it’s got nothing to do with modern Macallan. SGP:362 - 89 points.

Macallan-Glenlivet 37 yo 1940 (34%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, sherry wood, +/-1977)

Macallan-Glenlivet 37 yo 1940 (34%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, sherry wood, +/-1977) Five stars Again and again, beware of fakes and buy from reputable sellers… Colour: amber. Nose: very different from the 1941 and much, much closer to the 1930s, that is to say to a candied and honeyed style that’s absolutely stunning, especially since there are also wonderful touches of pine sap, mint and other herbs. In truth, the complexity is astounding and there aren’t any aromas that aren’t there. All dried fruits, all resins, saps and phenolic compounds, all rocks, all smokes and all chocolates and coffees. And rancio, flowers, waxes… This nose just kills you. Mouth: rougher again, unexpectedly peppery, minty, herbal… It’s globally dry, it’s quite smoky, there are also tropical fruits, there’s even some plain oak and the whole gets slightly drying after a few minutes. The opposite of a jammy old Macallan. Finish: medium, quite dry, grassy, slightly tea-ish. Not the best part… Some old oak in the aftertaste. Comments: one of the most amazing noses I’ve ever come across and a palate that’s dryer, more herbal and rather less amazing. That’s what happens quite often with very old whiskies! SGP:472 - 91 points.

Thank you again Michael Jackson and thank you Diego at the very trustworthy website Lion's Whisky! Remember you'll also find a few tips on identifying fake Macallans in WF's War on Whisky Fakers page.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Macallan I've tasted so far






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