Friday, 12 September 2014

Tasting Notes: Macallan 1997 (Duncan Taylor, Octave Cask #721315, 13 Years Old, 53.4% ABV)

    I've made it back to the interweb again with another interesting bottle!  This post's dram review comes from a trip to Las Vegas with some good friends of mine; hopefully you'll find it as interesting as I did! We had a great time in Sin City and I had plenty of chances to peruse bars on the strip, finding a few bottles that really peaked my interest; some of which I actually got to sit and write about.

     In one such bar, my friend and I stumbled upon an intriguing bottle of Macallan (not literally!). I'm a sucker for a Macallan (thanks impart to my dad), but I've been burned in the last couple of years with the introduction of the new Macallan NAS lineup (that's a different post).  I thought it was worth the gamble as it was an independent bottling by Duncan Taylor.

     Duncan Taylor bottles a range of single malts under a varied group of labels in addition to The Octave, and one of the more prominent is the Dimensions line (especially for Ontarians, as we don't see many other Duncan Taylor's in our stores).  One of the best Dimensions bottles we've had in the LCBO was the cask strength Balblair that came in a few years ago (and boy, was it a good one!).  We also saw a line up of 46% ABV Dimensions bottles featuring Glen Moray, Glen Elgin, Glenlossie, Macduff and Royal Brackla; I might still have my notes somewhere about some of these so watch out for further reflective posts.

     Distractions aside, The Octave selections are matured in the typical hogshead/butt oak barrels for the majority of their life, then selected and finished by placing them into the much smaller octave barrels (so small that they typically yield only 60-90 bottles per octave).  This imparts a more wood onto less whisky; in a sense, sort of speeding the aging process up.  Of course, as a Duncan Taylor bottling, there is no additional colour or chill-filtration.  This allows us whisky nerds to lift the skirts of said distillery and really see what's behind their product line.

  The Macallan Octave bottle I tried derives from Cask #721315 and hails in at a whacking 53.4% ABV.  Finished in a sherry octave, the dram almost called to me from the other side of the bar (with such a striking label, who wouldn't be interested!?).  This particular bottling yielded only 71 bottles and was destined for the USA.  At only 13 years old, and ever leery, I took my chances and rolled the dice.

Colour: Light gold with a subtle reddy-brown hint to the spirit.

Body: Rich and oily, surprisingly thick.  The roll shows a thick cling, and tiny drops  The legs, though, take forever to get back to the glass.  This is really looking up!

Nose:  Wow!  First thing you'll note are nuts!  Tonnes of roasted nuts backed up by wonderfully sweet vanilla notes.  This is a very Macallan dram!  The wonderfully light floral notes from the bourbon cask poke through and cut the sweet nutty goodness.  As it settles in, more hints of wood appear, adding another layer of depth to the already swimming nose.  Cinnamon and cloves intersperse with white wildflowers and drops of vanilla cream.  In the far background white pepper sharpness and a starchy note that piques my interest.

Palate:  We're in for a ride: the bar is down, there are no stops, the train is leaving the station (at only 13 years I'm expecting this could be a bumpy ride, especially with my recent luck with Macallan).  There is a galloping chariot of heat at the front, searing white pepper and sun burnt oak spices.  It's a little brash, but instantly it relaxes with more roasted almond and sweet pecans coming through the dram.  As it rolls about in the mouth, I'm getting more sweet roasted corn (even corn nuts), and hints of dried cherry.  The oily palate really suits the dram well, coating the mouth like syrup.  Interspersed in the background are slight notes of acidic char and rich soft wood spice (cardamom and mace, like a spice cake).

Finish:  In the finish, the heat has subsided and reveals a thick layer of butter cream and pound cake.  Loads of vanilla pods rolled in pepper with hints of dry oak spices.  It's surprisingly long, and draws out so nicely with vanilla creme supporting the whole cast.

Empty Glass:  Wood abounds, but is broken up by spiced pecans (a warm memory of sothern tradition).  There is a definite oak spice harshness but the sweet nuttiness of the dram counters it nicely.

     I bet large and Vegas paid out with a wonderful Macallan that I've been longing for!  The NAS line did very little to bolster the Macallan name, and running out of well aged stock has pushed their limits of both production and quality.  The quality is still there in the base spirit, but they will need to do as Duncan Taylor did: relax and hold onto some of these casks until they are actually ready to be bottled.  This dram is proof that quality whisky is out there still, but finding them is now even more of a challenge with so many 'investors' snapping up anything with a recognizable name on it.  Keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass and next time I'll see what else I can drum up.

                                                                                 Roscoe (ScotchGuyTO)