The Macallan Ruby (Single Malt Whisky)
Review: The Macallan Ruby (Single Malt Whisky) 91.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 18, 2014
The Macallan Distillers Ltd is a single malt Scotch whisky producer (distillery) which is situated near Easter Elchies House, at Craigellachie, in the Speyside region of Scotland. The brand and distillery are owned by the Edrington Group which purchased them from Highland Distillers in 1999.
Recently the brand launched a new line of Single Malt Whisky which they call, The Macallan 1824 Series. Each whisky in the 1824 Series is 100 % Sherry Cask whisky, and each whisky within the range draws its name from the colour of the whisky inside the bottle as the series moves up the ladder from Gold to Amber, Sienna, and finally to Ruby in that order. These whiskies carry no age statement. Instead, the consumer is asked to draw a parallel between the colour of the whisky in the bottle and its age, complexity, and quality. Because these whiskies are naturally coloured by the casks from which they are drawn, the implication is that the richer darker whiskies have aged longer, and/or have had more of their blend drawn from the higher quality Sherry oak casks.
The subject of this review is The Macallan Ruby (Single Malt Whisky), which is currently the darkest production whisky in the series. The Ruby is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume, and all of this whisky was matured exclusively in European oak sherry casks (the labeling on the bottle tells me these sherry casks are all from Jerez, Spain). According to Canadian Brand Ambassador, Dan Volway, the 1824 Series does not (at this time anyway) signal the end of age statements on The Macallan Single Malt Whiskies. The Fine Oak Cask and Sherry Oak Cask Single Malt series will each continue to carry age statements in the selected markets where they remain available (the USA and certain overseas markets).
Note: I received the sample for this review from the Beam Global Team here in Alberta. Beam Global is currently responsible for the distribution and marketing of The Macallan (and other Edrington Group spirits) in Western Canada.
In the Bottle: 4.5/5
The entire 1824 Series shares a similar presentation style. The whisky is housed in a rather large white/beige box with the name of the whisky reflected by the colour of the metallic stripe at the bottom of the box, the colour of the piping around the top label, and the colour of the slender stripe across the top pf the box. For the Ruby Single Malt Whisky, a metallic coloured foil is also employed on the 1824 crest at the top of the box, and colours the image of Easter Elchies House at the bottom of the box. When the box is opened the ruby colour is extended to the inner liner, and the bottle is set into the box in such a manner it looks like a trophy on display as well as a whisky bottle. Of course the ruby and beige colour scheme is extended onto the bottle itself as well as shown by the photo to the left.
My only quibbles are with the bulkiness and the colour of the box display. A sleeker box would fit more easily upon my whisky shelf, and that brilliant white/beige colour is sure to pick up the dust rather quickly diminishing its appeal on that whisky shelf.
In the Glass 9/10
When I pour the Ruby whisky into my glass, I notice that the nice reddish, ruby-like hue of the whisky in the bottle-shot (jpg) sent to me by Beam Global is a bit of a mirage. Instead the whisky displays in the bottle and in my glass as a bronze coloured spirit which actually looks far more inviting to me than the almost glowing ruby coloured liquid in the bottle shot. There are reddish hues apparent within the bronze spirit which I suppose is the inspiration for the ‘Ruby’ name given to the spirit.
When I brought the whisky to my nose and inspected the breezes above the glass, I received strong impressions of oak aging and the rich complexity of a sherried spirit (which I am sure was the intent of the Master Blender). I sensed a dominant trio of sharp sap-like oak spice, Demerara sugar, and rich baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg) in the air, which, as they combined together, gave me impressions of caramel toffee and pipe tobacco. I received additional impressions of orange peel and marmalade, and a firm smokiness of dry fruit (in particular raisins and dates). Dark chocolate, Oolong tea, and espresso coffee beans were all hinted at with both the chocolate and the sappy oak spice gaining momentum as I let the glass breathe.
In the Mouth 55/60
The entry into the mouth brought somewhat of an unexpected rush of oak and spice forward as the whisky carried even more oak spice across the palate than what the nose implied. The complexity is top-notch as I tasted bittersweet dark chocolate, caramel toffee, raisin filled fruit cake, canned apricots, and zesty orange peel all mingling within that spicy rush of oak sap. A rum-like sweetness of Demerara sugar tempered the sap-like spiciness, and as I let the glass breathe, even more sweetness seemed to evolve bringing the complex whisky into balance. Subsequent visits to the glass allowed me to discover more, a light walnut bitterness underneath and rich tobacco flavours which lay alongside the oak spice. I found myself enjoying the Ruby Whisky more than I had anticipated.
In the Throat 14/10
The Ruby Whisky has a long spicy finish that seemed to reverberate in the very back of the mouth after I swallowed. It is a dry, spicy exit full of oak sap which parched my palate and caused my mouth to water. The effect of this was that I seemingly was forced me to pour another dram. Alongside the oak spice is a wonderful sensation of rich dark chocolate and sweet dark brown sugar.
The Afterburn 9/10
I am one of those who was unhappy to see no age statement on the new line-up of The Macallan 1824 Series. I think (if I am honest with myself) I have always placed a subconscious premium upon these statements disregarding what common sense has always told me. That being, that an age statement is only part of the equation of maturity. A spirit placed in an old used up oak cask will not mature in the same manner as a spirit placed in a young cask which still carries an abundance of oak vigor. This is why bourbon whisky can display such a bevy of complexity and oak flavour even at a relative young age (when compared to Scotch or Canadian Whisky).
The Macallan Distillery seems to be traveling down a path where they are placing the quality of the oak ahead of the age statement. It is the correct path to take in making quality whisky; but only time will tell if the marketing of the age statement has become an unstoppable monster that will destroy good intentions. With or without an age statement, The Macallan Ruby is a great Single Malt Whisky, only time will tell if spirit enthusiasts will warm up to a whisky series defined by colour instead of age.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)