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The Macallan Exceptional Single Cask

The Macallan Exceptional Single Cask

24/11/2017
When, in the early noughties, Scotch malt whisky was on the brink of its greatest popularity period (still going strong), the Macallan distillery was meticulously building its image of a touchstone in the malt whisky category. They loved to quote the Rolls-Royce comparison, formulated the “Macallan pillars of knowledge,” and they poured their newmake into ex-sherry casks exclusively. Or so they said. Their devotion to traditional whisky manufacturing methods and principles was emblazoned in huge capitals in every press release you got from them. The result was, their position as an epitome of luxury in the whisky world was fixed for many years to come.

Nearly two decades on, the whisky world is quite a different story. Today hardly anyone believes in the megalomaniac communications originating at Easter Elchies, and the company policy had to undergo some modifications, in order to better reflect the changing realities. Today, you do not hear stories of Golden Promise barley variety, using ex-sherry casks exclusively, and when looking at the new distillery, whose construction is about to conclude, with the entire “estate” dotted with corrugated-iron new warehouses, any adherence to tradition stories would likely sound like a mockery.

This however, does not mean that Macallan’s new limited editions are not a highly sought-after commodity. There are actual queues to get distillery-exclusive ones, and they are wiped off the shelves in no time at all. Lots of other distilleries would love that level of popularity. Even if we agree that it is just an echo of what it used to be.

And so, with the market being awash with limited editions, single cask malts and special expressions that your average whisky drinker will probably never hear about – unless by coincidence – the launch of the new Macallan Exceptional Single Cask range is hot news almost anywhere that writes about whisky. Despite its being just seven single casks bottled, labelled and put up for sale. Despite very little being known about it. Despite the Macallan doing away with fancy crystal decanters and ornamental wooden boxes in this case.

What do we know about it? Well, these days selected markets are to be hit by a new series of whiskies from Macallan. Bottled in June this year, so they must have taken a while to clear. All are bottled at cask strength – between 46.6% to 63.8% vol. – without chill-filtering, no caramel added. The limited character of each of the seven editions comes from the fact that each comes from a single cask, and the number of bottles available depends directly on the whisky age and the cask size. They all come from ex-sherry casks, including both hogsheads and butts, filled with newmake between 1995 and 2005. And so, the oldest whisky in the range is 22 years old, with the youngest being 12yo. That 22-year-old cask yielded only 111 bottles, whereas a sherry butt from 2003 filled as many as 612.

Since the first market the Macallan Exceptional Single Cask is to be released on is the USA, their prices have been quoted in USD, and are just approximations. They vary from $250 to $1,300 per bottle.
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