Sunday 31 March 2013

Shirt Bar Scotch Club - The Macallan, Highland Park, Ardmore (March 2013)

Another month, another Scotch Club. Following on from the hugely successful Balvenie Scotch Club in February, March was time to taste expressions from the nearby Macallan and Ardmore distilleries, and the (much further North) Highland Park Distillery. The tasting was led by the always friendly Jared Plummer (CCA Whisky Ambassador), and kicked off as Scotch Club often does with a cocktail - an unusual (and very enjoyable) Macallan whisky sour: 

On the menu tonight was:

  • Ardmore
  • Macallan 12 “Fine Oak”
  • Macallan 18 “Fine Oak”
  • Highland Park 12 
  • Highland Park 18

Jared kicked off proceedings with the Macallans (12 and 18). I have to admit, I've never been a huge fan of The Macallan. I don't hate it by any means (I even visited the distillery a few years ago), I've just never found it as enjoyable as other Highland malts. The 12 (jokingly referred to as a great "Breakfast whisky") was as I remembered - a youthful but oaky nose, toffee palate and a fresh, short finish. Not a bad whisky, but not my favourite. The 18 I'll admit was better than I remember (maybe my tastes are changing), with a sweeter, sherried nose and palate. For those whisky nerds out there, it was interesting to note that Macallan use one of the lowest percentages of "heart" in the business - just 16% of the new make spirit is actually captured and aged to make the whisky.

Next up was the Ardmore - a NAS (No Age Statement) whisky aged somewhere from 8-12 years. I'd never tried it before, but I liked its credentials - non chill-filtered, bourbon barrel aged, then finished in quarter casks (Jared explained that chill filtering can take 2-3 days and the equipment can cost upwards of $500k. Given it's also frowned upon in some circles, it's not hard to see why some distilleries forgo it!)

The Ardmore was explained as an "introduction to peat" (ahead of the peatier Highland Parks), and while I couldn't find any on the nose, there was a definite hint of smoke on the palate and finish. A very enjoyable whisky.

Last were the Highland Parks. The "HPs" are usually well received by both whisky fans and new whisky drinkers alike. Easy drinking, yet complex and well-rounded. The 12 and the 18 didn't disappoint tonight, with hints of honey, underlying smoke and an overall sweetness that's hard to resist. I don't own a bottle of HP yet, but I probably should...

In true Scotch Club style, the night ended with a cheese and dip platter - always a great end to the night (OK, well maybe with one more single malt for the road...)

 - Martin.

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