I've reviewed bourbon, rye, Canadian, craft craziness, and flavors...time to take a swing at some Scotch. I've got two relatively similar ones here, both malty Speysiders aged (mostly) in sherry casks, and so, so friendly. Good stuff. I just got something else in the mail this afternoon, may pop back on later tonight and add it; or maybe wait till next week. (Next week; and it's worth the wait, I think.)
The Macallan Edition No. 1, 48%
The Macallan, like some other Scotch whisky brands, is somewhat a victim of its success. The demanding grabbers, the people who just want to know what "the best" is (so they can buy it and tell everyone that what they have is the best), flocked to The Macallan, and bought it, and supply and demanded it through the roof. Classic example of one of the whiskies we knew about, and then everyone found out about, and now we can't afford it anymore.
But them folks by the Spey know we love 'em, and they came up with this new release, priced at a more affordable — for Macallan — $90 (although I see stores are already jacking you for it at $130 and up!). Okay, it's an NAS bottling, like the 'color' Macallans. But let's give it a fair chance, hey? It's a lot less than the $300 Rare Cask, also an NAS.
No surprise: sherry wood on the nose, like plum honey, wine brittle, buzzy fruity beeswax. This is blended from seven sherry casks and one bourbon cask, so the sherry sings. As it should: that's what we love about Macallan. I could damn near sit here and sniff this for another half hour, but work demands that I keep it moving. Trembles on the tongue, as if hesitant, and then thins and explodes into first that shimmeringly sweet sherry, followed by pepper and spices and soothing malt. The finish doesn't let up, either; it stays quite warming and sprightly, right on down the throat. I'm really wishing they'd sent more than a 50 ml sample; this is tasty stuff.
Is it amazing? No. Is it Macallan? Most definitely. Is it worth $90? Depends on what you want. If you want Macallan, it's worth it.
The GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old, 46%
GlenDronach's been around for a long time (190 years), but it's the recent history that is most important, for two reasons. First, that's what we've got to drink! Second, it's because Billy Walker's group from BenRiach has bought them and is running things properly. Which means this stuff is simply awesome. I've already had it, used it in several whiskey dinners, and bought myself this bottle as a farewell gift from my job at Whisky Advocate. Yeah, really: I bought a bottle of whiskey. Look, it's from some of the last coal-fired distillation of Scotch whiskey anywhere (GlenDronach converted to steam heat in 2005, do the math), aged in Oloroso sherry butts, 15 years old, and just beautiful. So strap in, here we go.
Nose is deep and rich: fruit and chocolate candy, deeply sweet orange marmalade, vanilla and fleeting hints of sulfur. The sensation on the tongue is just about the opposite of The Macallan Edition No.1: it detonates on the tongue with hot white pepper and stinging orange, then dumps soothing toffee and chocolate-orange sweetness to snuff the fire. There's more pepper at the end, with some tightening from wood, but mostly it leaves your mouth suffused with fruit and chocolate and sherry wonder, but in a beautifully restrained way, not beating you over the head with it. The body is oily and supple, a real tactile whiskey. It is as the supplied tasting notes suggest: dynamic. From the moment it's poured in the glass to the last whisper as it finally fades, this one's never at rest, because there's so much here.
Now...I'm told that there's not a large supply of this, at least not for a few years. I'm seriously considering snapping up another bottle myself. If you like lushly sherried Scotch, and the price doesn't get nuts, you should get some yourself.