I made a big mistake the first time I tried the Macallan 18. I’m not that big on sweet whiskies usually, and, to be honest, a bit put off by the snooty reputation of this one. I had a bartender in Chicago tell me, as a table of lawyers were ordering the Macallan 18, one with it on the rocks, that the only people that order the Macallan 18 are ones that want everyone else to know they’re ordering the Macallan 18. Needless to say, it’s pretty steep at big city bar prices.
This bottle generally runs in the $140-$160 range, so it’s not cheap, and it’s aged 18 years in Spanish sherry casks. I don’t put much into the appearance of whisky, but I do notice it. This one is a dark bronze with a bit of ruby tint.
Nose: With no water added, the nose brings ginger and allspice/light cinnamon. I also got fruitcake (but the way you want it to be, not the really bad grocery store kind that lives forever) and rice pudding. I added just a drop of water, and I got a nice amount of smoke coming out of the glass.
Body: The body of the whisky is pretty thick, almost viscous and oily. It coats the mouth really well, and has a great mouthfeel.
Taste: The first thing I really got from this was salt, much more than I expected, but the first impression I had was a dried fig sweetness, then the salt right after. After that, I got a pretty clearn cinnamon and orange combination. After the water was added, I got more cinnamon and Christmas baking spices. Sugars came through the whole time, too, kind of a salty dark caramel.
Finish: Long finish with more wood, toffee/dark caramel, dry cocoa, ginger and cinnamon.
I learned a lesson in what to taste together with this whisky. The first time I had it, a friend was over to try some Islay whiskies (Ardbeg 10 year old, Laphroaig Cask Strength, Blackadder Peat Reek and Lagavulin 16 year old). We didn’t try the Macallan until the end… Big mistake! My first impression was that this was nothing but sugary sweet, and my friend didn’t even like it. The Islay peat must have pretty much overwhelmed us. As it turns out, this is a really nice sherried whisky, great for an after dinner dram with friends.
With the barbecue/grilling background I have, I try to come up with either a use in grilling or barbecue with whiskies I try. Islay whiskies are easy… Just match smoke for smoke! But whiskies that are more subtle take a bit more effort. For the Macallan 18, the pairing I see is chocolate chip cookies with dark chocolate, rich butter and Turbinado sugar, cooked on a Big Green Egg with a pecan wood fire.
So in my attempt to give some form of rating, I’d give this one 4/5 Glencairns. It’s a great whisky, but it wouldn’t be my first or second choice if it wasn’t already on my shelf. However, I’d likely never turn down an offer to enjoy it with a friend!
The overall impression of this whisky brings to mind a big city bar with people drinking glasses of the Macallan 18 with their ties loosened, bragging a bit about college sports they never really played, making sure that others hear them ordering a $25 per dram whisky. It’s a great whisky, but just a bit too easy to drink.