A while ago I reviewed Macallan Rare Cask Black but it was not the first expression in the Rare Cask line up as before the Black there was the blank one 😉 (Or if you prefer, the one without an adjective). The Rare Cask whisky was released in the US late 2014 and it arrived to UK/Europe mid 2015.
In line with all their recent releases, this one is a NAS whisky and bottled at 43% so I assume it was chill filtered (the Rare Cask Black is bottled at 48% and non chill-filtered). So while the Rare Cask Black predecessor is lacking in terms of punch and whisky “purity”, maybe it’s more transparent regarding the content? After all, on the Rare Cask Black we only know there are less than 100 casks that has contributed (or can contribute) to it. So what do we know on the original Rare Cask? This is what The Macallan tells us:
Crafted to showcase complexity and depth, Rare Cask is drawn from the broadest spectrum of casks, 16 different types, ever identified by the Master Whisky Maker. Far less than 1% of those casks maturing at the distillery have been identified as fitting to bestow the Rare Cask name. With rarity at its core, this is a whisky crafted from casks so rare they will never again be used in any Macallan whisky. Combining Spanish and American sherry seasoned oak casks, a high proportion of them first fill…
Allow me to be frank: This is collection of marketing bullshit! Where should I start in tearing all those nonsense statements?
- 16 different types of casks? I’m trying to figure out what does it mean in terms of whisky impact – with so many cask types, I assume that for most cask types in this mix the impact on the whisky is negligible so why do we care? Is it done in for the sake of transparency? Why not just go ahead and fully list the types? Let’s have a small exercise and try listing the possible cask types in this mix: Gorda, Butt, Puncheon, Hogshead, ASB, QC and Octave, both American and European Oak and probably some exotic casks. But again, that’s all besides the point: The more the merrier? Does it really teach us anything important or relevant on the whisky itself?
- “Far less than 1% of the casks in the distillery” – We have no idea what “far less” means here, the exact value could have been 0.99% or 0.5% and not necessary 0.01% as we’d like to imagine. And as Macallan produces 8 million liters of Alcohol a year, there are probably some few hundred thousands of casks in the warehouses so the limited range of casks may in fact not be so limited.
- “casks so rare they will never again be used in any Macallan whisky” – Oh really? Just like most refill casks? And allow me to bet that the first fill barrels will be used another time…
- Besides, what’s so rare in sherry seasons oak casks? Give us whisky only from proper sherry casks, now that will be rare!
OK, time to stop the rant as I’m getting too upset from this marketing mumbo jumbo and let’s check if this whisky is worthy of the “rare” title.
Nose: Ooh a very gentle and lovely Sherried nose, I usually don’t mention appearances but it got some rocking legs in the glass. Dried fruit, soaked raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg, hints of sour berries, blood oranges and after a few minutes also cereals and vanilla (must be some sherried American oak casks in those 16 types, right?) and 50% cacao chocolate. A very elegant nose.
Palate: oh what a let down after the lovely nose. Oak bitterness and spices, sour berries, thinner than expected body with weak sherry impact of dried fruit and cinnamon, coffee grounds, milk chocolate, bitterness is stronger towards the end. I expected much more from the high-proportion of first-fill sherry casks here.
Finish: Medium length, cinnamon and citrus bitterness, oak spices with weak lingering dried fruit and cinnamon.
Thoughts: what a disappointing dram. The nose carries a very bright promise with all those lovely sherry notes but the rest just don’t follow. Clearly the potential of those 16 cask types isn’t fully unrealized… And a note for the marketing department: Cut the bullshit and be honest to your trade and your consumers!