Monday, December 6, 2010

The Macallan Toronto Tasting

The Macallan Experience - Toronto

The Macallan Experience - Toronto

The Macallan and Matchstick hosted a tasting event on November 23 in Toronto. Led by Marc Laverdiere, The Macallan's Brand Ambassador, the tasting featured four bottlings - the company (or rather, the marketing department) likes to refer to them as expressions. Most of the invitees were Toronto lifestyle bloggers; obviously, the scope of La Cave de Fang is completely different. As these types of evenings usually go, it was organized as much more an event than to be set up as a true tasting. What gave it away? Besides the photo op station, laser projections, and mellow background music? I had a great time, but let me explain why.

Lights were very dark. I couldn't see what I was drinking, much less discern with any certainty the difference in hue between the various scotches served. Secondly, the stemware (to put it politely) did absolutely no favours for Macallan. Monsieur Laverdiere pointed out to the few of us that were swirling our glasses to not to - his reasoning was that swirling would over-emphasize the alcohol. A >40% abv drink is going to show alcohol regardless, and the stems were so tiny (thick glass rims and all) that all the alcohol fumes were concentrated - that's why tastings work better in a proper venue like a restaurant or hotel, that can provide the proper equipment (thin, crystal, tulip glasses).

Without sounding like a snobbish prick (though you're too smart to be fooled), the invitees were not tasters in the true sense of the word, who understand the tasting process. I didn't want to be the only schmuck using the spit bucket provided, but there's a good reason you spit everything during a tasting. That's why you shouldn't take any of the following tasting notes too seriously, because after 4 glasses of scotch, my palate was on fire.

Before I get blacklisted, and never get invited back . . . I had a great time. Macallan clearly showed its pedigree across the lineup shown. Expensive, but in terms of Speyside scotch, deserves its reputation. I only had one issue with Macallan, and this particular issue affirms why Islay scotch is the finest whisky in the world - just my opinion. I don't know if it was Monsieur Laverdiere's intention, but his presentation implied that Macallan views whisky eau-de-vies as simply a neutral spirit, with all the character in the final product being derived from the barrels used to age it in. Although no additives are used for colour modification, the fact that oak influence is so strong is a bit counter-intuitive to any regional specificity - why else would you buy Speyside scotch if there's nothing from Speyside that contributes to flavour? Ahh, but you buy Macallan, and forget about all else.

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old: pale colour, creamy vanilla on the nose, alcohol shows on the bouquet; round on the palate, but texture quite lean, clean finish; won't offend anyone

The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Years Old: nearly blond in colour, round and creamy nose, but somehow finer; Laverdiere calls this the Summer Macallan, quite apt; oak much more apparent, lots of vanilla and creamy oak in the mouth, sweet as well; fine texture, but oak is quite heavy-handed

The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old: aged in casks used by Gonzalez Byass, my favourite of the evening; darker amber colour, so fragrant and floral; round and silky in texture, slips imperceptibly into a spicy, long finish, alcohol very well integrated; an incredibly fine scotch indeed

The Macallan Sherry Oak Cask Strength: this is lethal, at 59% abv; dark, almost reddish in colour, intensely sweet vanilla and fruit tones on the bouquet, but alcohol is just booming; elegant palate, lots of spicy oak, lots of alcohol, but finishes refined and very long


1 comment:

  1. From what I've seen and heard, tiny glasses are traditionally used for scotch tastings. And you'll see the "pros" just stick their whole nose in first.