This week I found out that ‘The Macallan‘ were hosting a tasting event in Houston, TX and managed to book a space online. Macallan are hosting lots of ‘Raise the Macallan‘ tasting events, but you’ll have to visit the website to see if there is one near you. I don’t usually hold much hope for product sales events, but this was not only slick and well put together, it was entertaining, and most importantly they didn’t skimp on the size of the drams. I envisioned having a few small ‘thimble’ sized glasses of whisky to taste, but as you can see from the photo below, we were given a very generous dram of four (five if you count the 10 year old) different Macallans, far bigger than you would get in a bar.
I grew up only a few miles away from The Macallan distillery near Craigellachie, Scotland on the banks of the River Spey, and spent a few summers working in other distilleries in the area, but I didn’t like whisky at all, until my mid 30s. I’m not sure what changed, but I think it was trying different ones until I found some I liked. A lot of my favourite whiskies are from the West coast of Scotland, especially Islay, but my stock favourite is The Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak and I usually have a bottle of this at home. Apart from the 12 year old and a very nice cask strength Macallan I hadn’t tried any other Macallans, and this seemed like a good opportunity to expand my knowledge.
The start of the event is like cocktail hour. We were are given a 10 year Sherry Oak Macallan to try with plates of hors d’oeuvres. As they said the 10 year old goes quite well with food, but to my taste, I still prefer the12 year old. There were different ‘task’ stations to learn more about The Macallan, including an aroma station set up with the major smell components that you can find in whisky to help train you nose and also find which Macallan you may prefer. After mingling and chatting, we were ushered through to the main tasting event. The presenter talked us through how important the barrels are to the finished product and the history of the Macallan. In between, we tasted a 12 year old Sherry Oak, a 15 year old Fine Oak, a 17 year old Fine Oak and an 18 year old Sherry Oak.
The 12 year old as I said, I already knew,. The 15 year old we were told is popular in Rio de Janeiro, where they mix it with a soda called Guarana. A carafe of Guarana was placed on each table, but to me it sort of ‘drowned’ the quite subtle flavours of the Fine Oak. There was a demonstration of a really cool ice sphere machine inspired by the Japanese art of hand carving ice balls for drinks. It was really cool, but I think they are at least a few hundred dollars to buy.
When I drink single malt whisky, I only add a little splash of room temperature water to help release some of the subtler aromas of the whisky, and to take any edge of the sharper alcohol flavours. I did this with all the whiskies I tried, but the I wish I hadn’t with the 18 year old as it tasted amazing without the water, but lost a lot of the magic with the water. Lesson learned.
Tasting the different Macallans helped me realise that I prefer the sherry oak whiskies rather than the Fine oak ones. All in all, it was a very enjoyable way to spend an hour or so. If you like whisky or haven’t yet found one you like, the ‘Raise the Macallan’ event is well worth going along to compare different single malt whisky against each other.
Macallan Whisky Water jug
Ice Ball Maker Mold
Glencairn Whisky Glasses
An Insider's Guide to Tasting Whiskey
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