Wednesday 10 September 2014

Macallan Fine Oak Tasting at The Angel's Share (Hong Kong) (Tasted #117 - 120)

With the recent expansion of this site into Asia, Steph and I have been hoping to get back into regular whisky tastings like we used to in Sydney (where, between Shirt BarOak BarrelSMWS and the various one-off tastings and product launches, we typically averaged 3-5 each month).

So when an invitation arrived from the MD of Tastings Group (responsible for the excellent Quinary and Angel's Share bars, amongst others) to attend a tasting of the Macallan Fine Oak range, we weren't about to say no. I'd tried most of the range before (and really enjoyed the 21yo previously), but tastes change and I've found myself getting far more into the Sherry Oak series than I had been previously, so I was keen to re-visit the Fine Oak range too. I was also interested to try the Fine Oak 25yo - at around $8,500HKD / or well over $1,000AUD, it's not the sort of dram you get to try every day!

Held at Angel's Share in Hong Kong's Central district, the event was hosted by Edrington (owners of The Macallan) and presented by Rob Taylor, Wine and Spirits Educator, whisky oracle and passionate Scot. Arriving early, we were greeted with a Macallan 12 Fine Oak, a pack of interesting facts and figures on the Macallan Fine Oak range, and a nice Macallan cardholder gift. In front of us sat the main event though - a line up we were eager to disect:
  • Macallan 15yo Fine Oak
  • Macallan 17yo Fine Oak
  • Macallan 21yo Fine Oak
  • Macallan 25yo Fine Oak

It can be hard to gauge the audience for these types of events. Does the host run through the basics of what makes whisky whisky, or do they get into the intimate details of wood programs, cut points and the impact of environmental factors on maturation? Too much of one and you risk boring the more knowledgeable in the audience. Too much of the other and you risk alienating those looking to learn more about whisky. Ron however got the balance spot on - reading the audience and providing just the right mix of technical geekery and beginner information so we were all kept engaged.

Ron, having conducted tastings all over the world, also explained the differences he's seen in preferences in different countries (e.g. in Italy, he finds they prefer on average younger whiskies, around the 8yo range). This was all in general terms of course, but it was interesting to see how different cultures embrace whisky.

After a comment about The Macallan being the "Rolls Royce" of the whisky world (pretty much a pre-requisite for any Macallan tasting, right?) Ron took a measure of the 12yo in his palm, rubbed his hands together until the liquid had evaporated, took a big sniff, and encouraged us to do the same. I'd experienced this before, and it was a great way to nose the elements that make up the whisky (and take an educated guess at the casks it was matured in). Ron would later have us do this with every whisky, including the 25yo!

Ron also talked a bit about the state of the whisky investment scene, and the crazy prices being paid on the auction circuit for select bottles, like $4.9m HKD (approx $690,000AUD) for a 6L Macallan M decanter (who said NAS whisky wasn't popular?! ;-))

Whilst no-one knows where the market is headed, some (myself included) opined that it may be reaching the apex, or may have indeed already passed it. Certainly at the auction Steph and I attended recently in Hong Kong (write-up to follow), there were a lot of collectible bottles passed-in, not even reaching their reserve (not the Karuizawas though, but that's for another post...)

At the end of the day though, we were there to taste whisky, so on with the tasting notes (the 12yo was served in a tumbler, and I was a bit thirsty when it arrived, so no tasting notes on that one...)

The Macallan Fine Oak 15yo (43% ABV, 15yo, Speyside, Scotland, $780HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Bright, sun-kissed orange.
Nose: Vanilla, rich full-cream milk, after time some pepper and slightly earthy notes, and a hint of orange zest.
Palate: More orange - this time not just zest, some cinnamon and hints of cashews. Trailmix perhaps?
Finish: More trailmix, earthiness, slight maltiness. Medium length.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Better than I remember (tastes do change)!

The Macallan Fine Oak 17yo (43% ABV, 17yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,080HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Copper-orange.
Nose: More spice than the 12yo - cinnamon, and some pepper.
Palate: Very smooth, rich, but also chewy. Citrus, slightest hint of sulphur. Oats, scotch finger biscuits.
Finish: Long! Some orange peel, slight bitterness at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

The Macallan Fine Oak 21yo (43% ABV, 21yo, Speyside, Scotland, $2,700HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Copper-orange.
Nose: Despite the appearance, this is clearly not the 17yo! Wine gums, dried apples and pears.
Palate: Creamy, big mouthfeel, dark chocolate, still the dried apples and pears from the nose.
Finish: Long and nutty, still with fruity notes but more apricots than the apples and pears of the nose and palate.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A very different dram, and very enjoyable.

The Macallan Fine Oak 25yo (43% ABV, 25yo, Speyside, Scotland, $8,500HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Rich, dark copper.
Nose: Subdued, with definitely more sherry influence than the previous three.
Palate: Big at first, but quickly becoming subdued with creamy vanilla (not the sherry the nose suggested), and the faintest hints of smoke.
Finish: Lingering (though extremely faint) hints of smoke (not peat), dried apples, pears and prunes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

After another dram of the 21yo (my pick for the night) and a chat with Ron and the guys and girls from Edrington, it was time to head home (or rather, to the Indian restaurant one floor down) having enjoyed our first (of many) Hong Kong whisky tastings.

A big thanks to Tastings Group and Angel's Share for the invite.

Steph doing as you do with 25yo Macallan...


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