Single malt whisky - tasting notes

16 Aug 2013

Macallan Ruby (1824 series)

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in Macallan

The Macallan 1824 series is in the eye of the storm when it comes to recent evolutions in the whisky industry. After years and years of telling customers that colour didn’t matter (as it could be faked) and that more mature was better, they are now claiming the opposite, releasing No Age Statement whiskies that are named after… their colour. Quoting the press release:

A whisky doesn’t need to be 30 years old to taste like a 30 year old.

Is The Macallan wrong? Not entirely at least. Of course the colour of a whisky – when not troubled by caramel – does tell us a few things about its maturation and possibly also its taste. And of course a 20 year-old can be as mature as a 30 year-old. But in the end it is a symptom of declining old stocks, thus a need for creative marketing in order to sell a younger spirit that tastes like older spirit, preferably at a higher price than the age would justify.

It’s a fact that consumer education (or confusion) is sometimes tricky, and focusing on colour may backfire as it’s not a linear element like age. Obviously using only first-fill sherry casks (like Ruby) will give you a lot of colour in no-time, but refill casks (part of the recipe of the other three) can be a lot more complex and elegant. Moreover, while the concept of colour sorting may work within the Macallan range, you will find other first-fill drams darker than Ruby sitting in the same shelf, with an old-fashioned (comforting) age statement as a bonus, and some of them at half the price.

Speaking of price. It’s easy to say older whisky is more expensive: it takes more investment, more care, and it’s more rare. But in this case, theoretically Ruby could be a younger mix than Sienna. On what grounds will they claim it should be more expensive? Because the distillery thinks it has a better taste?

Anyway it’s a complex matter – we’ve only scratched the surface here – and it’s not a move without risk for the distillery. Let’s see what the resulting whisky is like. The Macallan Ruby is the oldest darkest of the series, after Gold, Amber and Sienna. It is aged exclusively in first-fill Spanish oak sherry casks.



Macallan Ruby - 1824 seriesThe Macallan Ruby (43%, OB 2013, 1824 series, first-fill sherry casks)

Nose: overall quite delicate, it shows a nice profile but it’s a little shy. Notes of fresh figs, red plums and oranges. Baked apple with cinnamon. Rum & raisins. Dried apricots. Nice overtones of sharper citrus zest. It shows a light, youthful freshness rather than a mature body. Mouth: not too punchy, some honey and red berry notes but mostly spicy notes. Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and soft pepper. Soft tannins from the oak too. Still some zesty oranges and raisins, but less fruity than the nose suggested. Fades on toffee, chocolate and something of apricot syrup. Finish: quite long, spicy with oranges and lingering apricot.

The Macallan Ruby is a decent, modern dram but I wasn’t entirely convinced of its premium status. I’ve had NAS drams with a similar colour that had a fuller body and more juicy fruits on the palate. Hey, even an entry-level Macallan bottled in the 1990’s held more quality sherry inside. Around € 140 – too expensive in my opinion.

Score: 84/100

Macallan Ruby (1824 series) 3 Ruben Luyten 2013-08-16
  • Miguel Angel Blanch

    We had this topic on the #MacallanTT tasting… do you think Ruby is the oldest? I really think Sienna looked older, more mature.

  • kallaskander

    Hi there,

    I am not sure Macallan is educating consumers rather the contrary I would say.
    It is not only that the age statement is gone and that it was replaced by an arbitrary colour coding.
    Macallan did not achieve to free the new 1824 range from any inner hierarchy.

    The hierarchy of age is easily understood and consumers are prepared to translate this hierarchy into another – the hierarchy of different prices for different ages of the whisky on offer.

    Macallan tries to replace this function. They attempt to combine the hierarchy of colours with the hierarchy of prices.
    In all quietness they assume that consumers still make the connection of an increasing price tag with increasing quality or qualities in the whiskies.
    Next to the hierachy of pricing we have the darkening in colours emphasized by the naming of the new range and an implied or rather postulated hierarchy of the casks used for the four new whiskies – or why are the differences in the vattings of the 1824 Selection mentioned at all?

    There is a lot of talk about the freedom of the master blender in creating new expressions – in the range of casks which have matured less than 18 years. For there is the inconsistency in Macallan’s logic that from the age of 18 years upward age matters very certainly in their offerings. Here it matters to justify prices – with the 1824 Selection they try to rip customers off without giving them any clue but colour and cask types used.
    It would have been more concise with Macallan’s reasoning if they would have released just only one new whisky and not a selection like they did an just saying: look that is our new whisky the best we can do with our stock at this place and time and when time is ripe there will be new expressions you can be sure about and rely on because they will be Macallans.

    There are many more things to be said about the matter but let it end with the remark that around 48.- € is a lot of asking for an entry level malt that is no age and named after its colour. Gold.


  • geert

    the rolls royce lost his engine along time ago,now It is ready for the Flintstones to drive it!!



December 2015
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Coming up

  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Lagavulin Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1934 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.