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The Macallan - The Malt: The art of nosing and tasting; “The Definitive Guide To Buying Vintage Macallan”

The selection process of each whisky bottled in this Guide has been based on the following simple but critical quality parameters: hue and depth of colour, pungency and balance of nose, purity, power and clarity of taste, fullness and length of finish.

COLOUR I First, we assess the natural colour of the whisky drawn from the cask at natural cask strength.

NOSE I Next, we add still mineral water to reduce the whisky strength to 20% abv (alcohol by volume) and assess its nose. Water is added to release the various flavours within the whisky, and to reduce astringency on the nose.

PALATE I Subsequently we taste the whisky, still at 20% abv, and consider mouthf eel and texture, balance and the key descriptive characteristics. We gauge their relative intensity and then formulate a spider diagram.

FINISH I Finally we swallow the whisky and consider its length and finish to complete the tasting notes.

FLAVOUR PROFILES I There are many different flavour characteristics that can appear in a single malt whisky At The Macallan we use the following flavour descriptors to help describe our whisky: Apple, Citrus, Floral, Dried Fruits, Oily, Malty, Toffee, Woody Resiny/ Spicy Nutty and Peaty.


The Macallan Spider Diagram was developed by Master Distiller David. Robertson to consistently record The Macallan's whisky tastinglnosing data.
© Copyright The Macallan Distillers Ltd.


SPIDER DIAGRAM I We have designed the Spider Diagram as a way of illustrating the flavour of our whisky in a consistent, pictorial manner. It is often said that a picture tells a thousand words and this "finger print" of flavour certainly meets that need. The scale of relative intensity from 0 to 5 indicates how much of a certain character is present— with 0 indicating an absence of that character and 5 denoting that it is a strong, clearly evident and dominant character. We have included blank Spider Diagrams in this Guide for you to record your own sensory experience of this, the most extensive single malt whisky selection in the world, and compare them with our findings.



CASK SELECTION I The Macallan has a deep and natural colour - we never add caramel - with the flavour usually comprising a balance of citrus, dried fruits, cloves, wood and toffee sweetness, with a medium finish. It is rare, but not impossible, to find a peaty, smoky flavour in The Macallan which is reminiscent of Islay whiskies and old Speyside whiskies from a bygone era.


TASTING ROOM | The Macallan Visitor Center


Our assessments were carried out in
 our Sample Room at the Distillery under controlled conditions with the fundamental objective of fairly judging and comparing all our rare, aged whisky stocks. This resulted in the very best whiskies being selected for bottling on site at Easter Elchies to be made available in this Guide.

596 casks were considered for this Guide covering all cask maturing stocks from the 1940's right up to stock year 1980. Only 29 casks have been selected; this represents a total that is less than 5% of those nosed.

Only those casks that we believe have reached the peak of their maturation complexity have been selected. They offer you, consumers and collectors alike, the very best examples of long aged single malt scotch whiskies.


Written by David Robertson


The text is an excerpt from "The Definitive Guide to Buying Vintage Macallan" (pp. 18 - 20), First Edition, published 2003 by Macallan Distillery Ltd.