No-age whiskies worth a shot

The Macallan's director of super premium whiskies David Cox (left) and The Macallan Rare Cask (above).
The Macallan's director of super premium whiskies David Cox.PHOTO: THE MACALLAN
The Macallan's director of super premium whiskies David Cox (left) and The Macallan Rare Cask (above).
The Macallan Rare Cask.PHOTO: THE MACALLAN

Is older better when it comes to whisky?

The Macallan's director of super premium whiskies, Mr David Cox, says this is not necessarily so.

The 62-year-old Briton says more mature whiskies have more intense and heavier flavours. A well- rounded whisky can be achieved by marrying younger whiskies that inject fresh floral and fruity notes.

He says the best of both worlds can be experienced in no-age- statement whiskies, which do not carry the age of the youngest spirit in the bottle on their labels.

It is an issue that has whisky drinkers divided, but The Macallan is producing more of such whiskies.

One of them is The Macallan Rare Cask, which is a blend of whiskies that have been aged from 13 to 30 years old . They have been selected from 256 sherry-seasoned oak casks, which make up less than 1 per cent of the total number of casks in its distillery in Speyside, Scotland.

He was in town recently to launch The Macallan Rare Cask. About 1,200 bottles are available in Singapore. A 700ml bottle costs $525 and it is sold in about 10 bars and alcohol retailers including The Refinery in King George Avenue, Olde Cuban in Trengganu Street and online wine retailer Oak Cellars.

The ruby red-hued whisky, which is blended with spirits matured in casks made from American and Spanish oak, has well-balanced notes of raisins, vanilla and chocolate with a zesty citrus finish.

Mr Cox says: "The Rare Cask is narrowed down from the widest range of variables."

In comparison, a 12-year-old Macallan whisky label has seven to eight cask profiles. The Rare Cask is part of The Macallan's 1824 series, which is a quartet of bottlings defined by the whisky's colour.

On why The Macallan is heading towards no-age-statement whiskies, he says the company is unable to satisfy the rapidly growing global demand of its age-stated whiskies, such as the flagship 18-year-old Sherry Oak whisky.

Worldwide sales have increased by 9 per cent on a year-on-year basis over the past five years, with younger, well-educated and well-travelled consumers embracing single-malt whiskies.

Other distilleries have also released no-age-statement whiskies. These include Glenlivet, which launched its Master Distiller's Reserve range earlier this month, and Suntory, which introduced the Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve and Hakushu Distiller's Reserve last year.

To alleviate pressure on aged whisky stocks, The Macallan hopes more drinkers can turn to alternatives, such as the Rare Cask label.

With age out of the equation, whisky masters are free to create whiskies with diverse styles. Mr Cox says: "The age of whiskies is massively important, but what matters is the relative age of the whiskies when they have matured to their peak characteristics."

He adds that whisky masters now have the flexibility of using whiskies when they have achieved their best aromas and flavours and are not "bound by the shackles of age".

However, he admits that it is an uphill task to convince drinkers not to judge a whisky by its absolute age. "For years, drinkers have been accustomed to buying whiskies based on their age, so we need to explain the situation to them and expose them to whiskies that do not carry an age statement."

One such platform is The Macallan Rare Cask Experience exhibition at The White House in Scotts Road, which runs next weekend.

Visitors can learn about the production process of the whisky, from the crafting of oak casks to its bottling, and they can also sample the Rare Cask.

•For details on The Macallan Rare Cask Experience exhibition, go to www.themacallanrarecask.com.sg. Registration is required.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline 'No-age whiskies worth a shot Tipples'. Print Edition | Subscribe