Review: The Macallan’s M Single Malt Whisky

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The Macallan M
The Macallan M

Following on the success of their The Macallan Flask Edition, which was a collaboration with the designers at Oakley, The Macallan has returned with a collaboration with designer Fabien Baron and a premiere crystal house Lalique. The result of this collaboration is The Macallan’s M, a limited release of a rare whisky sold in an individually engraved and numbered hand blown crystal decanter. Because of it’s modern design, the individually hand blown decanter is extremely complex and labor intensive to make and it includes quite and extraordinary finishing process. The Macallan M is limited to 1,750 decanters of which only 355 will be sold in the United States.

The Macallan’s M (44.7% ABV, 89.4 Proof $4,500) – it would be naive to think that a fair amount of the price of this whisky is going to pay for the hand crafted decanter, and it is nothing short of stunning. The Macallan’s M decanter is the equivalent of diamond cutting a whisky and it showcases an amazing array of spectacular colors in M including the entire spectrum from deep amber to bright gold.  There isn’t an age statement on M, but  David Cox, director of Fine & Rare whiskies at The Macallan, tells us that  M contains whisky as old as  73 years (from 1940) and as young as 22 years (1991). This move away from age statements is a current trend that frees up a whisky producer to focus on flavor delivery over age. For M, the lack of an age statement enabled The Macallan to present extremely old spirit aged in sherry casks which would be much less palatable without  the use of younger spirit.

The nose on The Macallan M is a wonderful mix of wood, fruit and spice. The aromas on the nose are so well integrated that it draws you in to dig around and explore. After the initial oak aroma, there’s vanilla and dried fruit including raisins (both brown and yellow), dried orange peel, ginger and clove. The nose is reminiscent of older cognac and also has a touch of rancio, which can only be found in old spirits.

The entry for The Macallan’s M is a burst of flavor and spice, it’s rich with some of the vanilla and deep dried fruit from the nose but it quickly adds spice notes to the mix with deep oak, allspice, ginger and clove. It’s in the midpalate just before the spice begins to peak where The Macallan M is at its best. In the midpalate M does an interesting shift as it turns away from the deeper, richer tones and moves to the lighter dryer wood and citrus. We’re torn on this shift, on one hand it helps make The Macallan’s M a more affable spirit and softens some of the deeper notes you get with very old spirits, but it comes at the expense of some complexity and flavor. The finish for The Macallan’s M is of medium length and surprisingly dry with the oak spice and citrus showcased in the finish. For us, the finish is too dry and tannic, but its dryness is not out of step with The Macallan’s flavor profile which tends to be dryer due to the heavy influence of sherry cask aging.

At $4,500, The Macallan’s M is simply too expensive for most people to even consider, but it is a vehicle for a company like The Macallan to bring some of their rare spirits to the marketplace. With M, The Macallan has done a solid job of showcasing some of the more attractive elements of older whiskey for an audience that perhaps wants those elements softened a bit and made more accessible. The Macallan M has an exquisite nose and the first half of the flavor experience really matches that. It’s from the midpalate on which will probably divide whisky fans, some of which will adore this dry style while others might find it lacking in the lushness that is so well captured in The Macallan 18 year old signature release.

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+Geoff Kleinman, is the founder, and managing editor of DrinkSpirits.com. He is a nationally recognized spirits columnist and staff reviewer for Whisky Advocate Magazine. Geoff’s work has appeared in dozens of major magazines including Playboy Magazine, Black Book, and Mixology Magazine. He is a current sitting judge for the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, the founder of the Society of Modern Journalists, holds BAR certification from the Beverage Alcohol Resource Group, is a Certified Cognac Educator, and a Kentucky Colonel