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April 09, 2004

Macallan Scotch

It could be the single malts I have had have been unrepresentative. Is this stuff supposed to taste like it was strained through socks? Give me an Irish blend anyday. Then again, this Macallan deal would tempt me in the $50 range.

Until now, the Macallan Scotch whiskey vintage collection of 38 bottles, which is valued at $170,000, has only been sold by the bottle. But the Borgata hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has decided to offer the 38 different vintages by the glass, where one glass can cost anywhere from $50 to $3,500 depending on the vintage.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at April 9, 2004 10:02 AM

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I am a big fan of the Macallan 18-yr-old, which can be had from your local LCBO for about $143. But then I like the non-sweetness of the typical Islay malt. But they're not everyone's cup of tea, certainly. It took me a few months of tentative tasting before I really started liking them.

Posted by: Chris Taylor at April 9, 2004 12:01 PM

The Island Scotches are probably the best because of the variations in tastes, and the strength of the tastes. This an advantage because you can juduciously add water (to reduce the heaviness and taste strength, and liberate some of the lighter elements). Until you are accustomed to the strong tastes, add water.
Macallan's attraction is being able to talk about drinking an expensive Scotch; its taste is undistinguished.


Posted by: J.M. Heinrichs at April 9, 2004 08:32 PM

With all due respect Mr. Heinrichs, your sweeping generalization is hard to justify. There is a sweeter taste to sherry-cask-aged Macallan, just as the seaside air lends a salty aspect to the gentle peat flavour of an Oban. You may not favour Macallan, but arguably the Edrington Group's 201m in sales and placing 64th in the Times' 100 Best Companies to Work For (2003) says they must be doing something right.

Posted by: Chris Taylor at April 10, 2004 01:51 AM

I have already signalled my philistinism in these matters (being a bourbon drinker) but would appreciate further thoughts on the adding of water to whiskey. Is this to best avoided? When is it appropriate? And what water should be used for this subtle purpose?

Posted by: Flea at April 10, 2004 10:16 AM


According to my sources, adding water to whisky was considered a North American eccentricity but has become more commonplace these days. One of the most effective ways to do this is to ask for ice chips (rather than cubes) in a glass from the bartender. Thus you can gradually add water content easily, without risking a spill, and without overdoing it. Many people also like to add club soda rather than water.

Adding water or soda to a blended scotch as a pre-dinner drink is fine, but severe whisky snobs will consider it blasphemous if you add ice to a single malt. I don't abide by that kind of alcohol legalism myself. Single malts are usually consumed neat before, during or after dinner, like cognac.

I have seen people add soda or ice to single-malts (and have done it myself on a couple of occasions). They are never ejected by the bartenders in this city. As J.M. pointed out, it's a great way to acclimatize your taste buds until you can tolerate the full-bore strength. But in Scotland or when dining with the Windsors, you may want to take your single-malts neat to avoid controversy.

Posted by: Chris Taylor at April 10, 2004 05:47 PM