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Whisky Reviews

All 5 Expressions of The Macallan Colour Collection: 12, 15, 18, 21 and 30 Years Old

pAfter a good 13 years of biding their time, the distillery now has a robust supply of aged whiskies to allow age statement Macallans back in airports.

 

The Quick and Dirty:

The 15 Year Old emerged as my favourite. The 21 Year Old is a close second because it embodies the refinement of a good Highland Scotch. Yet I couldn’t get over the absence of the signature note I’ve come to associate with Macallan.

Surprisingly, almost everyone I spoke with preferred the 15 YO and the 21 YO over the 30 YO.

 

The Macallan recently unveiled its new Colour Collection. This isn’t a limited edition to be clear – in fact this range will become a familiar sight in many major airports in the years to come. We're looking at a major overhaul of brand's Global Travel Retail offerings, with the Colour Collection permanently replacing The Macallan Quest range, a series of non-age statement whiskies that have been a staple in Macallan’s GTR channels since 2017.

The new range boasts five age-statement single malts: 12, 15, 18, 21, and 30-year-old expressions. I suppose it's a treat for those who habitually purchase The Macallan whisky at airport duty free stores, since it marks the return of age-statement Macallan whisky to such outlets after more than a decade; age statement Macallan whiskies had largely vanished from their repertoire since 2009. After a good 13 years of biding their time, the distillery now has a more robust supply of aged whiskies to allow age statement Macallans back in airports.

 

 

Yesterday, we attended the Colour Collection’s launch event in Singapore to have a taste of the range and also learn a bit about the marketing stuff behind it. The series highlights two of the six foundational pillars of The Macallan brand, (1) the natural colour of its whiskies and (2) the quality of oak casks used in the maturation process.

 

American oak has less astringent tannins, with lemon citrus and vanilla notes. This is contrasted with European oak that imparts heavier notes of dried fruits, spices and orange.

 

For long-time Macallan fans, the twist lies in the casks used. While all the casks used here were Sherry seasoned – which fans would remember is a signature Macallan touch – this range has been almost entirely matured in American oak. A brand ambassador estimates that the expressions in this Collection were made with a proportion of 80% to 90% in American oak, a departure from the typical Macallan recipe which often leans towards heavy use of European oak. This focus on American oak, or Quercus alba means that there are much fewer tannins and wood extractives compared to European oak. Maturation results in a lighter gold colour for the whisky, and a more appley, floral and citrusy character.

 

 

Aesthetically, the bottles in the Colour Collection are slightly more minimalist with a bare back (normally the back is covered by a label), allowing the natural colours of the individual expressions to shine through. The paper packagings, too, have been designed with an undulating helix pattern said to mirror the unique roof design of the new distillery compound at Macallan.

 

Packaging and campaign artwork were designed by Californian graphic designer David Carson, who looked to capture the warm, natural colours of the Sherry region in Spain.

 

For those eager to experience this collection, it's now available in The Macallan boutiques situated in key airports globally, including those of Singapore, London, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Dubai. Let's have a taste of the range. 

Macallan Colour Collection 12 Years Old 40% ABV – Review

 

Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet, rounded and full. Opens with a pronounced vanilla scent, cream with honey just as present. Macallan’s signature cocoa notes also make an appearance. Throughout, it remains gentle and refined, not causing any discomfort to the nose.

Palate: Lighter in flavour and body than anticipated, leaning towards the watery side. There's a touch of light honey and vanilla, complemented by subtle apple undertones. As it sits on the palate, a mild woody character emerges, accompanied by dried lemon peels. However, there's a noticeable heat, almost spicy in nature, that momentarily intensifies to an almost painful degree, giving away a lack of maturity. There’s also a metallic, coppery note.

Finish: Short-lived, leaving behind traces of honey, hay, and dry oak. There's a lingering warmth at the back of the throat.

 

 

My Thoughts:

The nose sets a promising stage, rich and inviting. However, the palate doesn't quite live up to that promise. This is fairly easy to drink, however the watery texture and the slight coppery off-note detract from the experience. The youth of this whisky is very evident from the palate's heat as well as the metallic notes.

There's some room for improvement.

Macallan Colour Collection 15 Years Old 43% ABV – Review

 

Colour: Honey.

Nose: Bright and tropical, with soft pineapples being first to greet the senses, followed by vanilla and light coconut flakes. There is more depth here than the 12 Years Old, with the cocoa notes more pronounced, and honey and beeswax coming through. There’s also a gradual progression to sweet orange oil and clementine peels, with a hint of caramel rounding it off.

Palate: Much, much more enjoyable on the palate compared to the 12 Years Old. This is richer and more flavourful, with a more viscous texture to boot. Light cocoa powder and honeyed notes alongside vanilla and apricots. The spices are gentle and well-integrated, and there's a mild sweet-savoury undertone that is reminiscent of butterscotch.

Finish: Short but clean. There's a presence of black tea and aromatic oak, ending with a toasty breadiness and a touch of vanilla icing sugar.

 

 

My Thoughts:

The 15 Years Old is a significant step up from the 12, which is just as well because it’s twice the price of the 12 Years Old! This isn’t a supremely complex dram, but what it does offer is a flavourful, well-balanced and integrated profile. Honey, cocoa, and spices are all basic notes, yet they’re generous and harmonious, without any off notes whatsoever.

It's a testament to how a few more years in the cask can make a world of difference.

Macallan Colour Collection 18 Years Old 43% ABV – Review

 

Colour: Auburn.

Nose: Reminiscent of the 12 Years Old – vanilla, honey, and cocoa, but with a slightly richer and more complex quality to it. I also find some sticky date pudding that hints at the Sherry influence, with layers of more perfumed floral aromas. There's a distinct sweetness reminiscent of original-flavoured Ramune soda.

Palate: Noticeably thick and oily texture. Brown sugar and caramelised peaches come to the fore, followed by buttered sugar toast, comforting baking spices - notably cinnamon and nutmeg - present themselves without any accompanying heat. Gradually transitions to milk chocolate, toffee, the earthy notes of pu'er tea and an unexpected umami mushroomy note.

Finish: Quite short. Lingering notes of honey, before dry oak and spices becomes more pronounced towards the end.

 

 

My Thoughts:

This scores well on richness and denseness, but at the price of subtlety. The nose on this one is pretty complex, and the thick texture on the palate is very delightful. But as we progresss, the noticeable oakiness, which, combined with the heat, seems to overshadow some of the subtler nuances I was hoping to get at.

It's a pretty nice Macallan, but there's a bit of a tussle between the oak and the other flavours towards the end. The 15 Year Old still does a better job at finding a balance in my view.

Macallan Colour Collection 21 Years Old 43% ABV – Review

 

Colour: Copper.

Nose: A festive vibe with raisins, dried cranberries and Christmas cake taking centre stage. Dense date pudding follows closely, and there's a distinct scent of goreng pisang (caramelised and fried banana), adding very tasty touch of dessert.

Palate: The palate is cleaner and brighter than its predecessors. There's a dominant honeyed flavour accompanied by vanilla, and the taste of lemon cream biscuits is unmistakable. But surprisingly, the signature Macallan oaky-chocolatey note is absent. Instead, there's a much fruitier profile, with light apple notes, pineapples and a very light touch of fresh passionfruit making their presence felt, along with a freshness and subtle bitterness of camomile tea.

Finish: Short-lived once again. As louder flavours depart we get a vanillic sweetness and custard cream, and a hint of gristy oat bran. A gentle heat settles at the back of the throat.

 

 

My Thoughts:

This expression leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, it's arguably the best of the series. It’s refined, embodies the characteristics of a fine Highland Scotch, and the more balanced maturation process has allowed for a gradual unveiling of fruity nuances.

However, what’s a bit odd for me was the departure from my expectation of a Macallan. It doesn’t have that classic chocolatey note that I’ve come to associate with it, and that was something I couldn’t help but miss.

All in all, this is a great whisky, but it’s a surprising departure from expectations.

Macallan Colour Collection 30 Years Old 43% ABV – Other Peoples' Review

 

I didn't have the opportunity to sample the 30-year-old expression which wasn't made available during my tasting session. 

Surveying friends who've tasted it, it exhibits some fairly basic notes of caramel and sweet cream, well-integrated with a harmonious, smooth and rounded experience. The general consensus, though, was that it was quite light and relatively one-dimensional, and could have been a lot better if bottled at a higher ABV. Almost everyone I spoke with preferred the more vibrant 15 YO and the 21 YO over this 30 YO.

Overall Verdict:

From the feedback I’ve gathered, my top picks within the Colour Collection mirror the preferences of those who have tasted all 5 expressions.

Both the 15 YO and 21 YO are my top picks, with the 15 YO edging out the 21 YO.

The 15 Year Old emerged as my favourite, with its seamless melding of honey, cocoa, and spices. Again, not a supremely complex dram that requires too much analysis, but it’s the most flavourful and also best showcases the harmony and nuances you could get when you age a whisky to just the right level of maturity.

The 21 Year Old, is a close second because it embodies the complexity and refinement of a good Highland Scotch, with its surprisingly fruity undertones and Camomile tea-like nuances. Yet I personally couldn’t get over the absence of the signature chocolatey note that I’ve come to associate with Macallan. Perhaps it’s flaw in my character, but if I were drinking a Macallan that I’ve paid a pretty penny for (at a RRP of US$1,100), I’d like to know for certain I’m drinking a Macallan.

@CharsiuCharlie