I was cleaning up some old notes last week and came across a review of a whisky that has achieved a cult-like following with single malt scotch fans: Macallan’s Edition No. 1. I have absolutely no idea why I never posted this review until now, especially considering how fired up I was at the time I wrote it. Once I rediscovered what I had written, I knew I had to post it ASAP.
I remember the first time I stumbled upon Edition No. 1. While I was on the other side of the state for an appointment, I walked into a store I had never been to. I saw about 20 of these strange, dark brown boxes sitting quite conspicuously on the shelf. My first thought was, “Oh, look! Another non-aged stated Macallan for $89.99. How typical…”
At the time, Macallan and I weren’t on great terms. I’ll let my original review from 2016 speak for itself but as you’ll see, I thought this might have been an attempt at a decent release (NCF, higher strength, natural color, etc.). I still passed on buying a bottle without a second thought. I was able to get a sample thrown in as part of a trade I did a few months later and figured I should try it and see what this new series was all about. As you’ll read, I was less than impressed what what I tried and never could have predicted that this whisky would fetch the astronomical sums it does these days. Gotta catch ’em all, I guess.
This review was written long before there was any hype surrounding this release. I’ll admit that I’m feeling better about Macallan lately and there are a few Editions in the series that I genuinely enjoy. You won’t get that sense from this review. Enjoy this extremely unique snapshot in time!
Original Review from 2016:
It’s no secret that I’m not happy with Macallan these days. Over the past few years, they have lead the charge of distilleries exploiting the current whisky boom. Globally, age statements have gone down and prices have gone way way, WAY up. Macallan was always the classic example of a full range of age stated bottles, from 10 year old expressions up to 30+ year old bottlings. Whether you agree or disagree that “age statements are important” isn’t the issue here. The point is that in recent years, they have completely shifted their strategy. Now, it’s all about the wood and color of the whisky with no regard at all to the age of the whisky in the bottle.
Look at Rare Cask as the prime example. A primary focus on the rarity of the casks themselves for a whisky is laughable. Casks are important but there are so many other factors that go into making a quality release. You could age absolute swill in the “rarest” casks in the world and it would probably still taste a lot like swill. According to their 1824 line (Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby), the darker the color, the better the whisky. Some of my favorite whiskies of all time have been straw colored or even lighter. Are we supposed to pretend that the industry preaching “age matters” for DECADES never happened?
It’s not even like non-aged stated Macallan was bad at the beginning of this shift. In fact, it‘s just the opposite. Macallan discontinued their Cask Strength release (the equivalent of punching me square in the gut) which had no age statement and was priced very reasonably. Cask Strength was the best thing The Macallan has produced in a very long time and now it’s gone. Macallan has plans to build a new distillery center to pump out more spirit with new stills that may or may not taste like the current “house style” of the distillery. We won’t know what this new spirit will be like for several years.
Before this turns into an all out rant about Macallan, let’s just suffice it to say that they have seriously changed. When I first spotted Edition No. 1 on shelves for under $100 I thought to myself, “Oh, look. A limited release that actually might NOT be a money grab for once.” I was still skeptical since it was yet another release that focused completely on the wood. I decided to seek out a sample of this before I committed myself to a full bottle. I’m glad I did.
|Nose||Heavy on the vanilla, citrus, signature Macallan undertones: marshmallow, nutmeg, ginger, raisins, anise, almond.|
|Taste||Fresh fruits, lumber aisle, a lot more vanilla, sherry, red wine, sour candy|
|Finish||Fruitier than expected, red berries, some oak, I can't shake the vanilla dominance, baking spice, hints of dark chocolate.|
|Overall Thoughts||This stuff is reaaaaaallllly vanilla heavy. Everything else takes a back seat including complexity. It took me a solid 10 minutes of nosing to get anything besides vanilla. Knowing what Macallan was just 10 years ago, this is really disappointing. I appreciate the 48% abv but a really boring NAS release at $100 is just wrong. I'll stick to my bunker of Macallan Cask Strength, thank you very much. This is the first dram in a very long time that I didn't even finish or photograph in the glass.