The Macallan 18 Years Sherry Oak certainly changed the world of whisky. Especially in the 1980s and 1990s Macallan equaled sherry cask maturation and their 18 Year Old is bottled at a great age which shows maturity and balance.
The ongoing 18 Year Old Sherry Oak was launched in 1984 and was ahead of its time: older than most other single malts on the market but also stating a vintage (a tradition they’ve let go a few years ago).
It certainly impacted my personal whisky experience, setting a benchmark for what good (old-fashioned) sherry casks were supposed to be. It got on my radar just in time to try a few really good ones before they got really expensive. In a way this also paved the path for the whole whisky collecting and investing idea.
The Macallan 18 yo Sherry Oak (43%, OB 2019, Oloroso seasoned casks)
Nose: a modern European oak sherry profile, pretty flawless really. A lot of toffee notes, candied ginger, sultanas and cinnamon. Toasted brioche and roasted nuts. Plenty of fruitcake and marmalade. Also walnut cake and hints of spicy leather. Clean, elegant, still a benchmark for this style.
Mouth: less complex and wide now. A lot of toffee again, against the backdrop of dried fruits, caramelized nuts and milk chocolate. Rather oxidative after a while, although orange peel makes it brighter. The woody side is present but well under control – peppery heat, ginger and aniseed. Christmas cake and bitter chocolate. Missing a bit of crunch in the middle, maybe because of the modest ABV.
Finish: not very long, on warming spices, over-infused tea and loads of toffee again.
I still had a 10cl sample of a Macallan 18 Years Sherry Oak 1983, bottled in 2001, which I tried afterwards. I don’t fully trust the sample any more because it has been in my closet for a long time now, but still it was clear that the old version was deeper, with a darker edge and less punchy oak spice.
The issue price of this 2019 edition was around € 320 (even higher in some stores) and that’s where things get less exciting. A pretty hefty price tag considering the meager ABV. You can get a similar profile from other sherry-oriented distilleries but it must be said that this 18 Year Old is still a really consistent quality offering. You can get the full sample set from The Whisky Exchange.