Pride…it’s an emotion that can elicit both positive or negative reactions. Too much pride in one’s abilities leads to boastfulness and hubris (a negative judgement), yet pride in one’s heritage, or adherence to quality work is encouraged. Whenever I research a distillery for the various tasting panels I present here, I’m struck by the pride of history and quality projected on their websites…there is such obvious pride in the way their whiskies are created and their rootedness to the region. History and quality are emphasized over and over…and I love it.
Now I know, of course, that a company’s website is where it presents the marketing image they want to project, and distillery websites are no different. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that, of the many brands that I’ve tasted over time, the products are of the highest quality and many distilleries have been making their spirits for a century or more. What a particular distillery chooses to emphasize in their website speaks to what they’re most proud of, be it the quality of their ingredients, the type of still they use, the length of time they’ve been operating, or the heritage of the region. It’s these qualities that came to mind as I looked at the websites for The Macallan and Highland Park, the two brands that were in last week’s Whisky Wednesday tasting at Gordons DTX.
At Highland Park, it’s their setting in the Orkney Islands and its cultural heritage to their Viking history that’s emphasized. The peat used to dry their barley is unique to the region…
Completely woodless, this dense heathery peat burns slowly and with an astonishing intensity to create a complex floral aroma in our kilns that delivers the intensely balanced smoky sweetness found only in Highland Park.
…and the founder’s Viking roots…
Our founder, Magnus Eunson, was a direct Viking descendant. A butcher and church officer by day, and a smuggler by night, he set up his illicit still at a little bothy at High Park, overlooking Kirkwall – still the site of Highland Park today … We stay true to the exacting standards of whisky making our founder introduced, and share his bold and uncompromising approach. In fact, you could say we’re a whisky crafted in the old way by a new generation of Vikings.
For The Macallan, it’s their “curiously small stills” they use to distill the spirit and exceptional aging casks that sets them apart. Because the stills are small, the volume of the spirit that interacts with the copper begins the brand’s unique character…
The Macallan’s Curiously Small Stills are amongst the smallest on Speyside. Their unique size and shape give the spirit maximum contact with the copper, helping to concentrate the ‘new make’ spirit and provide the rich, fruity, full-bodied flavours characteristic of The Macallan.
…and of the casks…
The Macallan’s oak casks are the single greatest contributor to the outstanding quality, natural colors and distinctive aromas and flavors … The Macallan spends more per cask than any other distillery in sourcing, crafting, seasoning and caring for its casks. Spanish sherry seasoned oak casks deliver flavors and aromas of chocolate orange, dried fruits and spices; American sherry seasoned oak casks primarily provide sweet citrus, light spice, vanilla and light oak flavors and aromas; American bourbon seasoned oak barrels give flavors and aromas of sweet citrus, coconut and oak.
Heady stuff, all. Here’s how Gordons spoke of the tasting:
The Macallan is one of the most distinguished brands in the market. Many scotch lovers will tell you their first love was The Macallan 12 Year Old. Highland Park has a similar tug on the heartstrings of any scotch aficionado. Join us as we pour through some tried and true classics from each brand, and a few exciting newer releases.
Time to get to it, right?
The Macallan Amber
Finished in Spanish sherry casks & American sherry casks, 40% ABV
- Nose: brown sugar, slightly grassy underneath, raisins
- Taste: soft entry, cinnamon, ginger, gentle white pepper slowly rises
- Finish: green apples with lingering cinnamon
- Comments: a soft sip that really satisfies
The Macallan Edition 3
Partnered with Master Perfumer Roja Dove to create aroma profile, 48.3% ABV
- Nose: strong cooked fruit (prunes & raisins), vanilla cream
- Taste: sharper entry, spicy cloves, caramel underneath
- Finish: sharpness continues relentlessly, cloves & ginger
- Comments: the taste belies the ABV – very spicy
The Macallan Classic Cut
Finished in Oloroso sherry casks from American & European Oak, 58.4% ABV
- Nose: soft caramel, vanilla, eucalyptus
- Taste: medium body, chewy, nutmeg, caramel, spice hits hard
- Finish: the spice peaks and falls to a warm finish
- Comments: this has the best of both worlds…soft entry and a sharp finish
Highland Park 15 yr
- Nose: pineapple & light brown sugar
- Taste: lighter body, honey, caramel, cream
- Finish: the cinnamon finish fades quickly
- Comments: impressive
Highland Park Full Volume
Finished 100% ex bourbon casks, 18 yr, 47.2% ABV
- Nose: molasses, lavender
- Taste: thick body, silky entry, soft smoke, vanilla, citrus, a bit of pine
- Finish: finish is spicy up the nose, buttery
- Comments: pleasant smoke, I like this one a lot
In truth, when I sat down to write this post I didn’t know what shape it would take. It was when Highland Park and The Macallan showed me the pride they have in being who they are and doing what they do…that resonated for me. I write this blog week after week, and hope that you, Dear Reader, are entertained and informed in the process. And I can take pride in that.
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!