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Macallan raises the stakes with new launch

News and announcements from the Whisky Magazine team

Macallan raises the stakes with new launch

Postby Sally Toms » Thu Sep 02, 2004 11:23 am

Macallan is describing the launch of its new Fine Oak Range as the most significant in the brand’s 80 year history. And it is hoping that
the eight new bottlings will put a line under recent controversy and drive the brand forward.

The whiskies range in age from eight to 30 years old, and contain top quality whisky matured in a mixture of sherry and
bourbon casks.

Early indications are that the new releases will live up to the company hype. Experts who have tasted them are very impressed indeed. For instance, Dave Broom, who tastes the new range in this issue, describes them as “very exciting indeed. There are some very good whiskies here and a couple of crackers. Because the sherry doesn’t dominate you can taste the true distillery characteristics in them.”

The range is tasted by Dave and Gavin Smith in this issue’s new release section on page 60.
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Postby Tom » Tue Nov 09, 2004 6:54 pm

and apparently because of the launch of the Fine Oak wich they sell at the exact same price as the normal Macallan, they now raise the prices of the old Macallans, with all due respect, but the Fine Oak isnt worth that in my opinion.
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Postby hpulley » Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:18 pm

One wonders, if less sherry influence allows _more_ of the whisky character to come through then why not release some Macallan matured in NO sherry at all?

I tried the Fine Oak at a recent whisky show and was unimpressed. It is a decent speysider but nothing to write home about and certainly not worth the price. Here the 15yo is $110! The "winey, astringent" CS as MJ calls it, is not a bargain either at $95... though compared to the "Fine & Rare"s they are at least in the realm of affordability.

Harry
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Postby Iain » Wed Nov 10, 2004 11:03 pm

Over-rated, over-priced and (in terms of mature stocks) over-stretched?

Is it all "over" for Mac?
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Postby Admiral » Thu Nov 11, 2004 3:29 am

As I understand it, the Fine Oak range is a vatting of both sherry casks and bourbon casks, (i.e. not exclusively one or the other).

I've tried three different single cask Macallans that were ex-bourbon, and whilst they were good, drinkable whiskies, they didn't blow my socks off.

These days, a great Macallan is identified by its sherried richness, sweet fruits, and good balance. To change the formula by vatting in bourbon casks, they can't honestly expect a knowledgeable market to get excited about it!?

It strikes me as an exercise in cutting costs, and increasing profits: Bourbon casks are considerably cheaper than sherry casks, so - in theory, with all other things being equal - the Fine Oak range should actually be CHEAPER than the regular bottlings.

If Macallan want to return to their hey-day, just start sourcing some good sherry casks again, go back to using Golden Promise barley only, and then see the market start to sing their praises again!

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:11 pm

I agree with you Admiral, the Macallan needs to return to its roots and re commence making whisky the way they used to. The Fine Oak range is the simply reality that the Macallan does not have enough stocks of its 'tradtional' oloroso matured malts. As you mentioned the non oloroso matured malts, such as the SMWS bottlings which have been mostly bourbon matured, are really nothing special.
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Postby SpiritofShetland » Fri Nov 12, 2004 12:32 pm

I agree with the above.

Got to taste the new range at the Oslo Whisky Festival and they are good whiskies - misunderstand me correctly. But they lack the richness I want from a Macallan. Also the finish is a bit on the short side. The 25yo just left the palate shortly after swallowing - as compared to the sherry 25yo which lasts and lasts.

It's a good thing you can get purely sherry-style whiskies from other distilleries - e.g. Glendronach.
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Postby primemover12 » Sun Nov 28, 2004 5:21 pm

Admiral wrote:If Macallan want to return to their hey-day, just start sourcing some good sherry casks again, go back to using Golden Promise barley only, and then see the market start to sing their praises again!

Cheers,
Admiral


I'm supposing this inplies that The Macallan is no longer made with Golden Promise only? The packaging on the newest Christmas gift sets seems to advertise only using Golden Promise. Is there any truth to this?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Nov 29, 2004 6:19 pm

Primeover,

The Macallan still uses Golden Promise Barley, but only a small percentage of it roughly 25%. Hope this has answered your question.

Cheers,

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Postby Hendriks » Mon Nov 29, 2004 7:05 pm

Love the new fine oak range.
Good on them, a wonderful product with all Macallan inthere. Maybe not as dry as the old sherry ones but the character is still in there.
Even the old Macallan ,which i love, sometimes was to overpowering in sherry.

Very good to see a company as Macallan forseeing a shortage in good serry casks and try something else.

Maybe you should try more sherry if you miss the old Macallan, and it isn't them that raise the prices of the old series, that's retailers for you.

Dennis
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barrels

Postby richard » Fri Dec 03, 2004 2:05 pm

i wonder if it to do with the price of the sherry barrels i was talking to ewan mitchell of springbank a few years ago and he mentioen it then
so could this be a knock on effect if it is we will end up paying for in the end
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Postby Shigga » Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:25 pm

The pricing policy somehow stems my enthusiasm on all Mac's... I think they're more than a little off the mark there...
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Postby Tom » Fri Dec 03, 2004 11:51 pm

in my club they say that macallan introduced the fine oak because Sherry casks are too expencive. they also sayd that the 25 will soon be gone and there are no plans to make new ones because again the casks are too expencive. Furthermore the price of the original macallans (sherry casks) has raised 20%!! im very interested if the same has happened anywhere else. i just love the macallan, the sherry casked macallan that is, and i think it would be a great loss for us the whisky loving community if they would stop making the 25Y, it is so far my best malt ever tasted. As for the Fine oak, here in belgium we can only get the 12, 18 and 25Y, and none of them can even tip on the 12 Y normal mac. What i dont get is that all the so called connaiseurs find it extremely good. while everyone i know, and even inhere on these forums, the normal whiskylovers arent even impressed with it. Personally i like the fine oak 18 best, and the 12Y goes in great AFTER you had a couple of other drams, but the original 12Y goes in every time, every day. to me this seems like a marketing move to make the Macallan even more snobistic then it already is. and i dont agree with their prices, they should make the fine oak cheaper then the regular mac instead of raising the prices of the good mac we all know and love.
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Postby primemover12 » Sun Dec 05, 2004 3:47 am

I wonder if this is a move that might make fans of the original Macallan happy too. If the Fine Oak really takes off and impresses people, then there would be less demand for those sherry casks, this would slow the rise in prices. I have not had the Fine Oak, and personally have little interest in it. I love and own many good bourbons already. Furthermore, the best and most interesting part of the Macallan taste (in my humble opinion) is the effect produced by the use of sherry casks.

As a result, I don't anticipate purchasing any of the Fine Oak any time soon.
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Postby Admiral » Sun Dec 05, 2004 4:41 am

Another possibility is that Macallan are predicting a decline in the popularity of sherried malts, and they're taking early steps to establish a product on the market.

Given that (good) sherry casks are becoming increasingly harder and/or more expensive to source, perhaps they forecast that lack of availability will cause the market to turn away from sherried malts?

Just a thought.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Tom » Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:17 pm

yes Admiral, no doubt you are right, but if everyone follows this lead, increasing their prices of sherry casked whiskys with 20%, honestly, what other choice do we have?
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Postby hpulley » Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:30 pm

Honestly, if it gets more expensive and less people buy them then the price will go down. The margin on single malt scotch is so high (sherry cask or not) there is a LOT of room for it to come down if the demand drops. I fully believe prices are going up because of supply and demand, not because of cask scarcity.

Harry
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Postby Lawrence » Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:56 pm

Harry I believe you are mostly correct, the Macallan is reacting to the success they've had in the last few decades and well deserved it was. All the whisky producers are commenting on the increased demand for sherry casks and are looking for new sources of any type of cask, they're even re establishing relationships with wine producers in Sciliy.

Remember though that the Macallan, buys American oak, builds the casks, has them shipped to Spain and filled with the sherry of their choice for two years and then finally has them re shipped to Speyside for filling. Also in some cases the sherry in just used for seasoning the cask and is never bottled. You can imagine the expense, the average Macallan cask costs 10 more than a normal ex sherry cask.

Macallan has been producing non sherry finished whisky for Famous Grouse fillings, it seems to be a reasonable business move to want to expand their market share with a whisky that they already make.

We will see if the market will reward them for their past reputation by paying the very high prices they are now charging.
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Postby Admiral » Mon Dec 06, 2004 10:02 pm

Also, I understand that the Spanish bodegas are starting to favour US ex-bourbon casks more and more (quercus alba), which means the demand and requirement for Spanish or European oak (quercus robur) is diminishing at the same time. I suspect there is definitely an increasing supply problem for Macallan to mature their whisky in the way they've been accustomed to for the last few decades.
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Postby Leonidych » Fri Dec 10, 2004 11:47 am

Whatever market, financial, or historical reasons for the new range launch the Macallan may have, I would like to comment from the veiwpoint of an ordinary malt consumer. Frankly, the Macallan is not my favorite dram, however I found Fine Oak rather satisfactory. Not good, not bad, just satisfactory: no abnoxious sherry, more mellow, less old-copper aftertaste, interesting coconut notes... But is it really the Macallan way? I scent identity to be at risk.
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Postby Admiral » Sat Dec 11, 2004 7:12 am

Leonidych,

Your last point there sums it up beautifully.....identity is at risk. Macallan have marketed themselves in such a way for the last 10-15 years to the point where their status, policies, product and profile are legendary. They've definitely taken a new tack, and - at least to me - it seems to go against the profile and "aura" that they've created previously.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby maltcollector » Sun Dec 26, 2004 2:53 pm

the fine oak range is excellent, its another expression of the fine macallan spirit, and as for price, its exactly the same as the sherry oak.
I had quite a lot of the 10yr old fine oak last night for my Christmas dram and enjoyed it immensley, well done Macallan.
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Postby Lawrence » Sun Dec 26, 2004 8:12 pm

Maltcollector, thanks for your straight to the point comments. I've had limited exposure to the fine oak range and have found them to be pleasant whiskies but remember the prices won't always be the same as the sherry finish in different markets. In Canada we're seeing very high prices as compared to other malts and the sherry finish.
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