The Macallan Sienna Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml)

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The Macallan Sienna Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml)

Speyside, Highlands, SCOTLAND
$170.00 Bottle
  • ABV 43%

Traditionally one of the 'Grand Marques'of Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Macallan have been on a marketing revision that's lasted several decades. Most recently they announced a new range to replace their ''Fine Oak'' and ''Sherry Oak'' ranges - the "1824 Series" (in reference to the year the distillery was founded).

All the whiskies in the range are from ex-sherry casks - these include both European and American oak casks, of which there is a mix of first-fill and second-fill casks. These are of differing ages, with the 'average age' increasing as you progress through the series, with the darker colours said to be more representative of traditional Macallan.

Reportedly, "...part of the impetus for change comes from Macallan’s initiative to alleviate consumer confusion with regards to their Fine Oak and Sherry Oak ranges—but it is also a bold step intended to challenge some of the established norms that have developed in relation to age-statement whiskies".

Macallan's contention seems plausible to this point - afterall, anyone whose sampled whiskies of vastly divergent ages will have come across relatively young whiskies that belie their youth, as well as extremely old whiskies that have fallen out of balance after an excessive period in oak. Hence, age statements are exactly what they appear to be - but they're not a certificate of style or quality.

However, Macallan have implemented a more radical change - they've differentiated their new collection according to gradations of colour - Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby - rather than disclose age statements. (For what it's worth, to our eyes, the difference in colour between the Amber and the Gold editions is almost indiscernible). But more importantly, it's a given that while the colour of a wood matured spirit may be a very general indicator of age, a deep colour doesn't necessarily imply a great drink. Colour remains largely irrelevent to a spirit's quality.

The logical end to this approach is that Macallan seem to be asking consumers to swallow what is an over simplification at best - that certain colours in whisky will relate to certain flavours.

In short, marketing on colour alone rather than disclosing age statements is a questionable strategy that seems ultimately geared in the producer's favour, not the consumers. So far the blogosphere is alive with debate on the subject and has bestowed mixed reviews on the '1824 range. We'll endeavour to post tasting notes as soon as samples come our way.

The Sienna is made from older stock than Gold and Amber, and from a narrower range of casks. All are first fill ex-sherry casks, although there is a mix of American and European oak.

Tasting note: Polished copper penny colour. Enticing scents of hazelnuts, fruit cake and light marzipan. Middle weighted, fuller and slightly richer than the amber edition, and with better overall balance; The pepper is less salient and there's nicely integrated dried fruit flavours, but shows some restraint towards the finish. This expression also comes in at a slightly higher strength. 43% Alc./Vol.

Other reviews... [pre-bottling sample] A huge and pleasing improvement. 94.5 points - Jim Murray's Whisky Bible