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It's happened! The Macallan is dead, long live the Macallan!

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It's happened! The Macallan is dead, long live the Macallan!

Postby Lawrence » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:46 am

After much soul searching and many tasting sessions I am now firmly convinced that I like the Macallan Fine Oak series better than the traditional Macallan sherry based malts.

How the world can change :shock:

I am particularly fond of the FO 15.
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Postby DaveM » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:56 am

Too bad Macallan doesn't do a 100% bourbon finish. :lol:
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jun 28, 2005 3:19 am

What would the Amazing Revilo say? Never mind, I don't really want to know.

I've always thought that Macallan was overrated--a very, very good malt, to be sure, but not the be-all and end-all that some folks seem to think it is (or was). I look forward to trying the Fine Oak, and appreciate Lawrence's testimony that Macallan's quality was never all sherry.
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Postby MGillespie » Tue Jun 28, 2005 11:50 am

I was just thinking about Revilo's reaction too...

Haven't tried the Fine Oak yet, but will after I finish off a few other bottles first...

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Postby hpulley » Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:35 pm

I've had IB Macs that were 100% bourbon. They are good, I actually prefer them but that's probably just me ;)

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Postby posterboy » Tue Jun 28, 2005 2:59 pm

Heh. I thought it was just me. I greatly prefer the Fine Oak series, especially the 15 yr.

For SMWS members, the US branch is offering a Macallan 16 CS (aged entirely in bourbon casks) at $120/bottle.
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It's happened! The Macallan is dead, long live the Macallan!

Postby toshie » Tue Jun 28, 2005 3:22 pm

As a bit of a virgin, I'm a wee bit nervous about posting, but I'm just back from Majorca where I bought - and am now enjoying enormously – a 1992 Macallan Elegancia. I was actually a bit surprised at the prices there - much, much better than back hopme in Scotland
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Re: It's happened! The Macallan is dead, long live the Macal

Postby toshie » Tue Jun 28, 2005 3:23 pm

toshie wrote:As a bit of a virgin, I'm a wee bit nervous about posting, but I'm just back from Majorca where I bought - and am now enjoying enormously – a 1992 Macallan Elegancia. I was actually a bit surprised at the prices there - much, much better than back home in Scotland
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Postby MGillespie » Tue Jun 28, 2005 3:24 pm

It's OK...we were all virgins once! ;)

Enjoy the Elegancia...it's one I'd like to try someday...

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Re: It's happened! The Macallan is dead, long live the Macal

Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jun 28, 2005 5:09 pm

toshie wrote:As a bit of a virgin, I'm a wee bit nervous about posting, but I'm just back from Majorca where I bought - and am now enjoying enormously – a 1992 Macallan Elegancia. I was actually a bit surprised at the prices there - much, much better than back hopme in Scotland


Tosh, toshie! Post away. There aren't enough real Scots here, anyway.

I don't know anything about Majorca, but I'm not surprised that prices would be significantly lower in various low-tax markets. Even the duty-free shops, which presumably don't charge tax at all, make up a good bit of that with high markups. Do you recall what you paid for that Elegancia, and what it goes for at home?
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Postby toshie » Tue Jun 28, 2005 6:01 pm

I've never seen it at home, but ut was 36 euros in Puerto Pollensa ... for a litre :D
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jun 28, 2005 6:34 pm

Actually, it's a duty-free only, isn't it? Seems to me the price I saw on it was about double that, but I'm not sure. Anyone else have a price on it? As long as we're asking, has anyone else seen really good prices generally in any particular place? How about the Channel Islands?
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jun 29, 2005 12:51 am

Revilo? I always thought you spoke backwards, Mr T ! :)

In the interests of this discussion, I feel it is probably appropriate to contribute my own take on the Fine Oak versus 100% sherry affair....

I occasionally contribute reviews and interest pieces on whisky to a publication which is dedicated to fine food, wine, and spirits. Earlier this month, I wrote a piece comparing the Fine Oak 12yo with the 100% sherry 12 yo. The piece is re-produced in full herewith, (although I have blanked out a few surnames in the interest of personal privacy).

*****************************

The Macallan Fine Oak – How fine is it?
By Andrew XXXXXXXXX

Devotees of single malts will be no stranger to The Macallan. One of the more famed Speyside distilleries, The Macallan earned its reputation by making consistently brilliant sherried whiskies.

Malt whisky today is matured in oak casks that have previously held either bourbon or sherry. The selection of one or the other is no accident, and each distillery usually has a dedicated wood policy or regime designed such that the selected wood is the one that best suits their spirit. Many distilleries will mature their spirit in both types of wood, and then vat them in appropriate proportions at bottling stage to achieve the desired flavour profile.

For The Macallan, the decision was made in the late 1960’s to mature their single malt chiefly in sherry butts, which had previously held dry oloroso. These casks imparted a rich, nutty sweetness to the whisky, and Macallan came to epitomise the sherried style of malt whisky sought after by so many today.

However, sourcing sherry butts is an expensive exercise. The figures are now a little out of date, but about five years ago, a distillery could purchase an ex-bourbon cask for around US$90, whereas an ex-sherry butt cost closer to US$600 (bearing in mind that a Sherry butt has a holding capacity roughly double that of a bourbon barrel). Whilst Macallan’s single malt bottlings were matured exclusively in ex-oloroso butts, they also matured some of their spirit in ex-fino casks and ex-bourbon casks, which they sold off to blenders.

Unfortunately – for us as consumers – it seems the practice of using only ex-sherry casks for their single malt expressions has became prohibitively expensive for Macallan. The Macallan has recently launched a new range of single malts under the name “Fine Oak”. Available in a range of aged expressions, (e.g. 12, 18, 21 years, etc), the Fine Oak range is a vatting (combination) of both sherry-matured and bourbon-matured Macallan.

The product matured exclusively in sherry casks has been withdrawn from several markets (including Australia), and many countries will now have to adjust to this new style of Macallan. Not surprisingly, the move has attracted its fair share of controversy. Given that a 30 y/o Fine Oak expression is available, one wonders how long ago this new launch was planned, as it is unlikely that stocks destined for blenders would be kept for this amount of time!

So with all this as background, how does the Fine Oak compare against the Macallan we all knew and loved? I pitted the Fine Oak 12 y/o against the “normal” Macallan 12 y/o, both sampled without the addition of any water. Let’s compare the two at each stage of analysis, starting with the nose:

NOSE: It’s difficult to describe the 100% sherry version without resorting to the signature Macallan characteristics, but they are all there in spades - rich toffee, some sweet dried fruits, (dates, apricots, figs), and healthy malty, cereal aromas. Other concealed spices flit around the nose, making for a tantalising mix of aromas that are complex and not immediately or obviously identifiable. A delicious nuttiness also revealed itself after 10 minutes or so. The regular Macallan 12 y/o seemingly suffered a dip in quality in recent years, but the nose on this bottling suggests a return to fine form.

The Fine Oak version certainly demonstrated some of these features, if a little weakly in places, although the signature Macallan fruitcake-type scents still shone through. I went looking for some caramel or vanilla notes, usually a good indication of bourbon wood, but none were immediately obvious. Nevertheless, it was still a pleasant nose and as attractive as most going around Speyside.

PALATE: The 100% sherry version was silky in its texture. The sweetness present on the nose follows through into the palate, integrating well with the rich & spicy flavours. The nuttiness is again evident, but well balanced against the fruity, malty background. The sherry is very abundant and at the forefront of everything, but strangely not in a negative way. “Smooth” is a somewhat crude and simplistic term for describing a whisky, and I usually try to avoid it, but I’m stuck for a more apt description in this instance.

The Fine Oak version was surprisingly sweet. Almost candied – I likened it to fairy floss. It was still spicy, and a very interesting pineapple note floated around, adding further to the sweetness. However, the spirit was a little hot, and I suspect this could have overpowered some of the more subtle aspects of the malt. A perfectly good palate in its own right, but still somewhat inferior to its predecessor.

FINISH: Both whiskies had a good length on the finish; they were warming, and also maintained their sweetness. This is a plus for both whiskies, as many malts trail away leaving a bitterness behind. Neither malt seemed to add anything new to the finish, but both held their ground and confirmed all that was evident on the palate.

SCORES & COMMENTS: The 100% sherry version scored 7.85 and the Fine Oak version came in at 7.3. It took considerable effort at all times throughout the tasting to judge the Fine Oak on its own merits, rather than compare it against what a Macallan “should” be. However, without the legacy that comes with the Macallan name, it must be said that the Fine Oak was still a pleasant whisky, and was reasonably well crafted. It did exhibit less complexity, (ironic, given that not one, but two woods were used to mature the spirit), and this is chiefly where it lost ground against its stable-mate. The flavours in the Fine Oak were also less integrated, and the whisky as a whole did not strike as good a balance.

The Fine Oak Macallans will have their detractors, and fans of the Macallan brand and style will have to work hard to overcome their bias and shed the baggage. This comparison of the 12-year-old expressions suggests we have been short-changed in the affair, although I have it on good authority that the Fine Oak 21 y/o is a particularly stellar dram.

As a consumer though, I still have one question… if bourbon casks are so much cheaper than sherry casks, why does the Macallan Fine Oak range retail for the same price as the 100% sherry range?

Editor’s notes: Talking to Shane XXXXXX, Australia’s foremost Macallan collector he had the following to say about the Fine Oak range:

"I have tried the 12 y/o, 15 y/o and 18 y/o only at this stage. I find the 15 y/o the most palatable of the three (score 8.2/10). The 18 y/o is thin and watery and lacking intensity with a short finish (Score 7/10). The 12 y/o is a lot fuller in flavour and has a much better finish, but it also has a raw and unappealing spirity character (Score 7.6/10). The 15 y/o is in between the two, with a bit more sherry and spice, although still quite dry, showing the maturity of the 18 y/o with the zest of the 12 y/o (Score 8.2/10). There is no doubt in my mind that the traditional, sherried range is far superior!"

*************************

Cheers,
Admiral
Last edited by Admiral on Wed Jun 29, 2005 2:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby MGillespie » Wed Jun 29, 2005 12:57 am

Very well written, Admiral! You clearly know your whisky, and are well qualified to be a uisgeophile, a uisegeologist, or whatever you want to call yourself...

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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Jun 29, 2005 4:38 am

He ain't nothin' but a Feinschmecker! 8)

Admiral wrote:Revilo? I always thought you spoke backwards, Mr T ! :)


I daren't say it forward....


Admiral wrote:As a consumer though, I still have one question… if bourbon casks are so much cheaper than sherry casks, why does the Macallan Fine Oak range retail for the same price as the 100% sherry range?


I don't think the butts were breaking the bank, Admiral; there simply weren't enough available, or not enough for Macallan to maintain and (more important, perhaps) expand its market presence. As to pricing policy.... I hate to say it, but now that he's long gone, Revilo's criticisms of Edrington Group ring fairly true. He just made me want to disagree with him!
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Postby bernstein » Wed Jun 29, 2005 6:06 am

Admiral wrote: ...why does the Macallan Fine Oak range retail for the same price as the 100% sherry range?l

Thank you, Admiral, for your excellent contribution. I tasted the MacFO 12 a while ago, and was quite pleased with it.
But the pricing is indeed bothering me. At the price-range of the MacFO 15 I'll find a Glenrothes 1984, a Longmorn 25, a Strathisla 25, a Mortlach 21...
I know, it was always more expensive just for the name's sake to drive a BMW, even if the engine was like a VW - but Macallan is overstretching here.
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Jun 29, 2005 8:07 pm

I understand also that Macallan were having great difficulty in sourcing enough quality sherry casks to support the sherry line up. I recently had a Macallan 18 that was sulphered. As to price, once you reached a price pint in the market place, why would you lower it?
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Postby hpulley » Wed Jun 29, 2005 8:18 pm

How much of this is a recent decision? Has demand for it increased so bourbon casks which went to blenders before is now going into Fine Oak? Or did they have a problem with sherry casks in the past that has now caught up to the present? Or have they just recently discovered that many of their sherry casks were not the best so they had to salvage it?

Harry
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Jun 30, 2005 2:08 am

Maybe the Amazing Revilo would know...or at least have a conspiracy theory to explain it...

Mark
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Postby Admiral » Thu Jun 30, 2005 2:17 am

Actually, I was just beginning to think that we were raising a few questions that had already been pondered in that previous thread of which we speak! Could it be that we are coming round? :wink:

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Jun 30, 2005 2:20 am

Lord, I hope not...good thing we're in this thread. Would have to see them shut down the "what did you drink last night" thread because we got out of hand...
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Postby bernstein » Thu Jun 30, 2005 6:49 am

:D
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Postby kallaskander » Fri Jul 01, 2005 10:09 am

Hi there,

last week I had the chance of tasting a 15 year old Glenfarclas 1989 cs 55,8% vol, ncf from a single cask which was first filled with Bourbon. This Glenfarclas without any sherry is a very good malt. Should they ever decide to quit the sherry cask usage that would be a loss but I myself would probably not grieve too much. Ok, it is a bit far fetched from one tasting experience but that was very promising. On the other hand (greetings to Mr TattieHeid) I tasted the Macallan FO 18 years some month ago. My initial reaction was - so what? It was a fine Speyside whisky but not brilliant or overwhelming nor in any other way especially intriguing. Other Speyside distilleries can do better and they do. I happen to know the collecter with the greatest Macallan collection in Germany and in discussing his favourite malt he disclosed how fed up he is with it! I don´t think I can retell all of his arguments but some were that the new 12 year old in the new FO bottle has not enough sherry content to be called a Macallan, that this trend goes on over the last 10 years or so already, that the 18 year old of 1983 was the last drinkable one and I will not repeat what he had to say about the FO range. Ah yes furthermore he was determined to stop collecting Macallan alltogether because of the prices and for the reason that in his opinion you can not drink Macallan anymore. I think he spoke about the latest bottlings only. Macallan began the famous and somewhat excessive use of sherry casks in the late 1960ies when the company was in troubled waters and Suntory was called in to help save it. In order to make the Macallan something outstanding they built the image of the "Rolls Royce among the malts" over all these years. If you taste the fine oak range, you may find the un-sherried Macallan quite ordinary. Is it the price of sherry barrels that makes them think they can in parts go back in time to the 1960ies when their trouble started in the first place or do they believe the name (or should I say trademark) Macallan will pull them through anything?
Macallan has built a fairly big congregation of brethren unified in the believe that Macallan is the best in heavily sherried malts and now they want to change the gospel. What will the faithfuls think about that, what are they to do in a time of crisis like this? I do not want to be offensive but what Macallan is trying to do to his followers comes close to being forced to renounce ones faith. Or so it must appear to a real devotee. Needless to say that if the FO range will take more and more space and room in the Macallan market segment that the prices for sherry expressions will soar, isn´t it?

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:19 pm

I bought a bottle of MacAllan FO 15yo earlier in the week. I had heard good reviews, but didn't know what to expect.

The packaging promised oranges and chocolate - both of which would have been welcome - perhaps Longmorn meets Braes of Glenlivet - but I thought the notes were wildly off.

At first opening, the nose and taste were pretty nondescript. But a little air seemed to open both up. I was struck by the sweet maltiness of the taste and found this middle almost a carbon copy of the Glenmorangie 10. The overall taste was sweet, but there was some underlying bitterness. I thought the esters were rather floral - certainly no chocolate or oranges. But the most memorable feature was a very long finish that was just like an oaky white wine.

Overall, I thought the whisky was deeply weird - and the winey finish was disconcerting. But for all that, I loved it. Perhaps not at first tasting, but over an evening, the character came through really strong. I also noticed that as the first glass turned into the second, and then into the third, different aspects of the flavours came to the fore. From sweet, to dusty, to bitter.
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Postby bernstein » Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:27 pm

kallaskander wrote: I happen to know the collecter with the greatest Macallan collection in Germany and in discussing his favourite malt he disclosed how fed up he is with it! I don´t think I can retell all of his arguments but some were that the new 12 year old in the new FO bottle has not enough sherry content to be called a Macallan, that this trend goes on over the last 10 years or so already, that the 18 year old of 1983 was the last drinkable one

Hmmm, some people around this forum might have given your friend an answer to that. :wink:
However, my experience with the Macallan-range is quite limited. I liked the old and new (sherrycask) 12yo (still one of my favourites, so challenged by an Aberlour 10 lately!)), wasn't at all annoyed by the 12yoMacFO and sat down in awe after tasting a '1985 Macallan 18'. Talking about the last, I heard several contradicting (no surprise, we're talking about individual preferences here!) opinions about whether the 1983-vintage marked actually a turning-point, as the excellent 70s style returned to the malt-loving public. The '1985'- so no vintage anymore - was described as a preliminary peak of the development.
As I remember it rightly, our honourable downunder Amir-al-bahr (nor Rear, no Vice!) had a lot to contribute in this matter.
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Postby Admiral » Fri Jul 01, 2005 1:29 pm

As I remember it rightly, our honourable downunder Amir-al-bahr (nor Rear, no Vice!) had a lot to contribute in this matter.


I guess we all have different opinions on each of the Macallan 18yo vintages. The general consensus amongst my local brethren of Macallan afficionados is that the 1981 was a big drop in quality compared to the '79. The '82 and '83 vintages each improved on their respective predecessors, and then 1984 was a return to what we were used to.

One of my colleagues, indeed an occasional contributor to these pages (Shane), offered that the 1985 was the best in many years. Besides what the palate detects, there is possible logic behind this, since the 1985 is known to have whiskies older than 18 years in it, whereas the previous vintages were all from one year.

Shane posted the following on January 20th, 2004 under the thread "What an improvement on Macallan 18":

Just had a bottle of Macallan 18 1985 and older vintages over xmas and new year. One pour will last in the glass for ages as the nose is so rich you can almost taste it in your mouth. This is Macallan 18 back to its old form allthough it aint a single vintage (who cares with whisky this good). Anyone disappointed with Macallans of late (last 5 years or so) go out there and get yourself a bottle or two, open it, drink it and remember what Macallan used to taste like years ago. Pass on the rest of the range as they are still pretty average i.e 12,25 cask strength. ENJOY.


Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Admiral » Fri Jul 01, 2005 1:45 pm

I tasted the Macallan FO 18 years some month ago. My initial reaction was - so what? It was a fine Speyside whisky but not brilliant or overwhelming nor in any other way especially intriguing. Other Speyside distilleries can do better and they do. I happen to know the collecter with the greatest Macallan collection in Germany and in discussing his favourite malt he disclosed how fed up he is with it! I don´t think I can retell all of his arguments but some were that the new 12 year old in the new FO bottle has not enough sherry content to be called a Macallan, that this trend goes on over the last 10 years or so already, that the 18 year old of 1983 was the last drinkable one and I will not repeat what he had to say about the FO range. Ah yes furthermore he was determined to stop collecting Macallan alltogether because of the prices and for the reason that in his opinion you can not drink Macallan anymore. I think he spoke about the latest bottlings only. Macallan began the famous and somewhat excessive use of sherry casks in the late 1960ies when the company was in troubled waters and Suntory was called in to help save it. In order to make the Macallan something outstanding they built the image of the "Rolls Royce among the malts" over all these years. If you taste the fine oak range, you may find the un-sherried Macallan quite ordinary. Is it the price of sherry barrels that makes them think they can in parts go back in time to the 1960ies when their trouble started in the first place or do they believe the name (or should I say trademark) Macallan will pull them through anything?
Macallan has built a fairly big congregation of brethren unified in the believe that Macallan is the best in heavily sherried malts and now they want to change the gospel. What will the faithfuls think about that, what are they to do in a time of crisis like this? I do not want to be offensive but what Macallan is trying to do to his followers comes close to being forced to renounce ones faith. Or so it must appear to a real devotee. Needless to say that if the FO range will take more and more space and room in the Macallan market segment that the prices for sherry expressions will soar, isn´t it?


I must say, I agree with your comments and sentiments, kallaskander, and also the thoughts of your comrade whom you refer to.

Much of what you say above has already been expressed by others in reasonably recent discussions, particularly in the thread "The Decline of The Macallan" (I think it was called that? Something along those lines, anyway).

In case you were wondering about some of the off-beat comments a few of us have thrown around, one particular forum member by the name of Oliver contributed quite a few anti-Macallan posts. The tone of Oliver's posts suggested considerable personal grievances with corporate Macallan, and were characterised with some particularly vitriolic comments, (which seemingly disenfranchised a few folks round these parts!) :)

Again, I don't disagree with anything you said above, but I suspect many people here might feel that this subject is tired and has been overdone.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby bernstein » Fri Jul 01, 2005 2:32 pm

Admiral wrote:Shane posted the following on January 20th, 2004 under the thread "What an improvement on Macallan 18"
Thank you, Admiral! That was indeed the quote I tried to remember.
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Postby kallaskander » Fri Jul 01, 2005 3:21 pm

Hi there,

ok then Admiral. Let the dead bury their dead in hope of resurrection. I was not around while that thread was alive.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Jul 01, 2005 3:25 pm

Hi Nick, I had a similar experience with the FO 15, it took a few drams over the course of the evening to start to appreciate the malt. However what was interesting to watch was the other three people in attendance. One has limited whisky experience and hates peated whiskies and the other two drink very little, all three kept coming back to the bottle for more.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jul 01, 2005 10:01 pm

The folks who have turned on Macallan the hardest are those who bought into the cult in the first place. Neither attitude is entirely reasonable, in my mind. When you put something that high on a pedestal, a fall is inevitable. Really bad when it's a bottle.
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Postby bernstein » Fri Jul 01, 2005 10:14 pm

...or humpty-dumpty.
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Postby kallaskander » Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:52 am

Hi there,

well Bernstein let´s not fear for the worst. All the king´s men and all the king´s horses could not put Macallan together again! That would be too hard a fate - and not entirely deserved. Of course they climbed high Mr T. and they seem to want to fall deep. We can not even begin to guess why. The cult was surely not rational but the policy Macallan seems to follow now is neither. Well I just realise that my position on Macallan is somewhat split. I´ll grab a glas of malt and go meditating on that.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby bernstein » Sat Jul 02, 2005 11:39 am

kallaskander wrote:I´ll grab a glas of malt and go meditating on that.

The early bird... :wink:
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Jul 04, 2005 11:13 am

Hi there,

the early worm is cought by the bird. Which just proves the worm shoulda have stayed in bed.

Greetings
kallaskander
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