The Macallan Rare Cask

Friday, July 07, 2017


Here in the shadows at Whisky Rover, it’s rare that we interact with the Macallan brand as it stands today. This isn’t by choice as generally the Edrington powerhouse has left the everyday drinker standing, pursuing trophy collectors and individuals frankly with more money than sense.

This isn’t to say that the distillery itself isn’t capable of producing decent or above average whiskies. It’s just when they do appear they’re quickly snapped up or priced at a level where many cannot justify such a purchase. The 18-year-old remains a classic despite infringing on almost £200 a bottle nowadays. These seem to be laid down for future collectors rather than being opened and enjoyed, which is a travesty. A trio of releases last year confirmed the quality but also the limited scope of these releases with only subtle differences. Recently, I’ve seen whatever special edition comes with a cocktail set with the box transforming into a form of luggage that you can pull along towards your private jet. The bottle itself seems relegated to an afterthought and this includes the Folio 2 with its chunky packaging. No details whatsoever about its contents, makeup or individuality.

As part of our Spirit of Speyside 2017 residency, the rest of theTormore4 wanted the Macallan experience, or well, Mark did with his tweed and persona of grandeur. Sometimes you just have play along and ensure the toys aren’t thrown out of the pram; so he had his Macallan tour. You can shortly read about our Macallan Estate tour with the wonderfully infectious and effervescent Nicola Riske, Brand Ambassador for The Macallan & Edrington Malts, for Central & Southern Europe – what a title and what a character!

One of the whiskies generously poured during the tour was the Macallan Rare Cask, which seemed to be a particular favourite of Nicola’s. Being on driving duty for the team, I squirreled away a sample assisted by a top-up by the generous Peter who was pacing himself. Only now have I been able to sit down and spend the necessary time with this release given the hectic nature of things around this site recently.

First though, the details regarding what makes this so rare which is a word that should always come with a warning in the whisky realm. Rare should constitute a single cask or such a small release that its immediately sparse. The phrasing here I presume actually applies to the fact that the Macallan master blender has taken the contents from a spectrum of 16 cask types to create the recipe; this extensive practice has never performed previously by the Macallan, which immediately results in the rarity. Whilst I don’t agree with the usage for such a reason, apparently less than 1% of the casks at the Macallan are selected for the Rare Cask name. If you’ve driven past the towering warehouses at the Macallan distillery recently, you’ll know that 1% is still a great deal whisky given the vastness of the facility, representing one of the largest distilleries in Scotland in output terms.

My recent drive for the Folio 2 underlined this point, as due to road damage we were diverted through the maze of warehousing before reaching the visitor shop. At one stage I expected to drive through a warehouse to reach the safety of a recognisable road. A special thanks to the distillery worker who had angled the tractor whilst unloading casks that made for the tightest squeeze in my BMW. It was a close call but thankfully not when it came to the Folio, despite folk queuing from the early hours, I was able to make my single purchase nearer noon. Anyway, diversion aside we’re faced by this Rare Cask that retails for around £190, pitching it just above the aforementioned 18-year-old sherry oak. It’s bottled at 43% strength and from what I understand is naturally coloured. Originally debuting in North America during 2014, it proved popular enough to roll out to other territories and has since been joined by the Rare Cask Black that features peated spirit. However, this original concept remains true to its Macallan roots.

Colour: cherry wood
Nose: a rich coating of beeswax heralds the arrival of sherry casks. A faint wisp of tobacco smoke, oranges and shards of dark chocolate. It's a little gentle in all honesty, a touch too refined compared to the Edition series. Vanilla nougat that contains walnuts and smothered in melted caramel. It's rather seductive but subtle with a just enough, honeycomb, sweet cinnamon and nutmeg towards the end. 
Taste: what's not to saviour on the palate? It's a legendarium of character. A quality arrival with more chocolate orange themes with a touch of ginger and rolled tobacco. Brazil nuts, almonds and a touch of creaminess before that beeswax returns highlighting the honey emphasis. Juicy raisins, stewed apples and then nutmeg follows suit and draws us to the close.

Overall: a charming whisky yes, very enchanting. However, I'm more of a rugged guy and it's a lovely dram, but almost too clinical. The price as well has me reaching for the Edition series that offers more flavour and youthful enthusiasm at half the price. If I was to be critical of the experience then a little more strength would be beneficial, but perhaps this one exists for the tumbler brigade and sadly its wasted upon them.

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