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The Macallan - The Malt: Those greedy angels!; “The Definitive Guide To Buying Vintage Macallan”

 Have you ever noticed the delicious scents which permeate a distillery? The scents of beer, cereals and yeast in the tun-room; of pear drops and nail-varnish-remover in the still-house, and of old oak, hessian sacking and, most glorious, whisky in the maturation warehouses. Even outside, on a still day, distilleries breathe a delectable odour. And each one smells different.

It's true. Before Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay was sold, it was operated for a couple of months each year by the boys from the neighbouring Isle of Jura Distillery. They told me that, even at the first stage of production, the smell of the mash in the mash tun was entirely different from the smell of Jura, in spite of using identical malt.

The later scents—arising from fermentation, distillation, maturation — are imbued with the vapours of alcohol. It hovers like a mist around malt whisky distilleries, and in the mist, drinking in the vapour, are many thousands o f invisible angels. We know they are there because of the huge quantity of whisky that is lost each year as the spirit slumbers, secure under lock and key, known as 'The Angel's Share'.

It is not known whether angels attach themselves to only one distillery, like Excise officers of old, or whether they move around — perhaps if there is a change of management (they are sensitive to atmosphere), or a change in spirit character (they are, apparently, conservative in their tastes). Like distillery workers in the past, they are especially fond of 'clearic', fiery new-make spirit, and sip less avidly from casks containing old malts.

Of course, the loss they cause to the whisky industry is incalculable, but so far no device has been invented which will drive them off. They are immune to crow-scarers, ultra-sonic bleepers and flashing lights. The Scotch Whisky Research Centre at Heriot Watt University is understood to be collaborating with Professor Alexander McCall-Smith of nearby Edinburgh University, the well-known expert on angels, to find a substitute for whisky vapour, a placebo, but so far they have found nothing which works.

But, as I say, it is a grave problem; as the Scotch Whisky Association says: "Financing stocks of maturing whisky is the most significant capital investment which Scotch whisky companies have to undertake". There are just under three billion litres of whisky maturing in Scottish warehouses (2,858,000,000 Litres of Pure Alcohol in 2002). It has been estimated that around 57 million litres of this is lost to the angels each year — around 340 million 70cl bottles of ten years old whisky at 40%Vol! Worth more than the gold reserves of the Bank of England! Macallan alone loses over two million bottles a year.

So serious is the situation that even H.M. Customs & Excise have to make allowances. Following vigorous lobbying by Sir Peter Mackie in 1915, backed by thinly-veiled angelic threats, Lloyd - George's Government passed the Immature Spirits Act, which first, fixed the angels' allowance at 2% per annum of the contents of each cask, and, second, permitted that this 2% should be free of duty

IN TRUTH, WE HAVE A LOT TO THANK OUR ANGELS FOR!

Were it not for the angelic lobby, we might still have new and immature liquor foisted upon us - as in the case of lesser spirits, which can either be sold fresh from the still, or with only minimal maturation. And were it not for them 'leaning on Lloyd-George to allow for 2% per annum to be duty-free, we would not be able to afford long matured whiskies, ever mellowing, ever decreasing in the cask as the angels enjoy their share.

 

1970 I Concorde flew for the first time and instigated the very first - supersonic service between London and New York. Pan American World Airways offered reservations for a flight to the moon—with 93,000 people signing up. Jimi Hendrix, the inspirational rock guitarist, died. Alan Shugart invented the first regular use of an 8 inch floppy (magnetic storage) diskette.

CASK TYPE

Butt

CASK No

241

NOSE

Powerful prunes and raisiny nose with very assertive clove spices. Treacle toffee background.

PALATE

Drying wood resins cloves with a balanced dried fruit character.

FINISH

Dry resinous wood — first fill sherry cask Pedro Xinzenez like. .

STRENGTH

54.9% Vol.

COLOR

Elm Burr

TINT

60

YEAR BOTTLED

2002

AGE OF WHISKY

32 Years Old

 

DISTILLERY PRICE

 

BOTTLE SIZE 700ml

£425

BOTTLE SIZE 750ml

£460

BOTTLE SIZE 50ml

£66

TOTAL OUTTURN

 

544 Bottle Equivalents

 

 

 

1970 I The music of the 70s was ushered in with the eponymous Led
Zeppelin III, 'Let It Be' (The Beatles) and 'Déja vu' (Crosby, Stills, Nash and
 Young). New publications included Saul Bellow's 'Mr Sammler's Planet',
 James Dickey's 'Deliverance', and 'Love Story', by classics professor-turned-writer Erich Segal. 126 runners showed up for the very first New York Marathon.

CASK TYPE

Hogshead

CASK No

9033

NOSE

Similar to cask 241 with 
a more pronounced orange citrus note. Background
of treacle toffee.

PALATE

Resinous wood spices and dried fruits balanced with orange citrus.

FINISH

Citrus orange, spicy and dried fruits enveloped in wood. Lingering and mouth coating.

STRENGTH

52.4% Vol.

COLOR

Rich Elm Burr

TINT

60

YEAR BOTTLED

2002

AGE OF WHISKY

31 Years Old

 

DISTILLERY PRICE

 

BOTTLE SIZE 700ml

£525

BOTTLE SIZE 750ml

£565

BOTTLE SIZE 50ml

£72

TOTAL OUTTURN

 

186 Bottle Equivalents

 

 

1971 I This year was a real boom year for technology The introduction of
the microchip meant that such equipment as VCRs and microwaves
 became affordable for personal use for the first time. The 26th Amendment 
lowered the United States' voting age from 21 to 18. Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

CASK TYPE

Butt

CASK No

4280

NOSE

Clear prunes and other mixed dried fruits with complex wood spices — cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

PALATE

Prunes and raisins balanced with clove spice and wood.

FINISH

Dried fruits and drying spice delivering a long finish.

STRENGTH

56.4% Vol.

COLOR

Mahogany

TINT

52

YEAR BOTTLED

2002

AGE OF WHISKY

30 Years Old

 

DISTILLERY PRICE

 

BOTTLE SIZE 700ml

£375

BOTTLE SIZE 750ml

£400

BOTTLE SIZE 50ml

£61

TOTAL OUTTURN

 

536 Bottle Equivalents

 


1971 I After 1,200 years, on February 15th 1971, the United Kingdom changed
from using 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound to a new
decimal 100 new pence to the pound. China was officially seated in the United
 Nations and launched its first space satellite. George Harrison, became the first ex-band member of The Beatles to have a solo number one hit with 'My Sweet Lord'.

CASK TYPE

Butt

CASK No

7556

NOSE

Patina violet sweets with light fruits and citrus orange.

PALATE

Fruity and orangey with a light oiliness and malty cereal note.

FINISH

Citrus orange and dried fruits. No woody dryness. After taste of heavily toasted oak wood. Medium length and vibrant.

STRENGTH

55.9% Vol.

COLOR

Rich Rosewood

TINT

45

YEAR BOTTLED

2002

AGE OF WHISKY

30 Years Old

 

DISTILLERY PRICE

 

BOTTLE SIZE 700ml

£400

BOTTLE SIZE 750ml

£430

BOTTLE SIZE 50ml

£63

TOTAL OUTTURN

 

515 Bottle Equivalents

 

 

1972 I Offerings in popular culture included M*A*S*H, The Godfather,
Don McLean's 'American Pie' and books such as 'Watership Down'. Bobby -
Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to become the first American to hold the world chess title. Five men were arrested inside the new Democratic National Headquarters with surveillance equipment and cameras, marking the beginning of the Watergate Scandal

CASK TYPE

Hogshead

CASK No

4041

NOSE

Classic sherried dried fruit notes of raisins and prunes. Clove spices are very forward with hints of chocolate/treacle toffee sweetness.

PALATE

Dried fruits and rich Spanish oak wood spices with a subtle aniseed, nutty character.

FINISH

Massive fruits and spice delivering an everlasting aftertaste that finishes with a subtle aniseed note.

STRENGTH

49.2% Vol.

COLOR

Darkest Walnut

TINT

97

YEAR BOTTLED

2002

AGE OF WHISKY

29 Years Old

 

DISTILLERY PRICE

 

BOTTLE SIZE 700ml

£725

BOTTLE SIZE 750ml

£780

BOTTLE SIZE 50ml

£86

TOTAL OUTTURN

 

64 Bottle Equivalents

 

 

1972 I Richard Leakey and Glynn Isaac found a skull in Kenya which potentially dated the first humans to 2.5 million B.C. Nike—, destined to 
become the world's largest sneaker company, was founded by Philip H. Knight and William Bowerman, who had been importing Japanese running shoes for the past six years. Mark Spitz won seven Olympic gold medals at the Munich Olympic Games.

CASK TYPE

Hogshead

CASK No

4043

NOSE

Peaches /tropical fruit nose first, followed by deep dried fruits and spicy cloves and ginger. Pervasive dark chocolate background.

PALATE

A rich Spanish oak character of dried fruits and deepest clove like spices.

FINISH

Classic Spanish oak first fill of spice and fruit that lingers and dries at the very end.

STRENGTH

58.4% Vol.

COLOR

Darkest Walnut

TINT

99

YEAR BOTTLED

2002

AGE OF WHISKY

29 Years Old

 

DISTILLERY PRICE

 

BOTTLE SIZE 700ml

£625

BOTTLE SIZE 750ml

£670

BOTTLE SIZE 50ml

£79

TOTAL OUTTURN

 

128 Bottle Equivalents

 

 

 


Written by Charles MacLean

 

The text is an excerpt from "The Definitive Guide to Buying Vintage Macallan" (pp. 78 - 85), First Edition, published 2003 by Macallan Distillery Ltd.