Whiskey geeks have two major weaknesses: Products that are a.) extremely rare or b.) super expensive. At a recent Macallan tasting at the Freakin' Frog, they got the chance to try both.
John Dupont, former Macallan Brand Ambassador and introduced to the capacity crowd as "liquor advisor to the stars," brought along some of his private stash to the Frog's Whiskey Attic, including a 10-, 12-, 15-, 18- and 25-year Macallan, as well as The Famous Grouse. This was a night for serious whiskey drinkers, and I can confirm that some of the city's more hardened veterans were in attendance.
Dupont passed out some souvenir Macallan booklets for our enjoyment before diving into the amazing world that is Macallan, one of the world's best-selling spirits and a long-standing benchmark of quality. As he explained how Macallan, a Highland single malt Scotch, is divided into the sherry oak and fine oak categories, we all anxiously awaited our first pour: The Famous Grouse, a product of Macallan which incorporates several excellent whiskies, including Macalland and Highland Park, into a very well-balanced blend. Dupont explained that Famous Grouse is currently the best-selling whiskey in Scotland. When you consider its competition, that's pretty impressive.
The 10-, 12- and 15-year Macallans were uniformly excellent, each richer and more satisfying than the last, and Dupont kept the crowd entertained with his anecdotes (he learned distilling from two of the powerhouses of bourbon, Booker Noe and Jimmy Russell). His introduction to Macallan sounds a bit Tall Tale-ish, but hey, it could have happened: "When Macallan wanted to introduce Scotch to America, someone said, 'Get a redneck.' But someone else said, 'Rednecks tend to be pretty quiet.' So someone else said, 'Get a Cajun redneck.' And here I am. I lost the accent a long time ago, but I'll be in New Orleans soon, and it will come back very quickly."
As the evening progressed, Dupont dropped a bombshell on our unsuspecting crowd, announcing that Macallan is discontinuing one of its most popular products, its cask-strength whiskey. "Because, quite honestly, by adding water to the cask strength, I can make one and a half bottles. Macallan sells every drop it sells every year, so we needed the extra inventory."
"Well, I just lost my taste for Macallan," said one (former) fan. Another chimed in, "That's a real shame, because that's one of my favorites." "Tonight has turned out to be a real bummer," said another.
But that rumbling died down considerably once Dupont brought out the night's highlights: The 18- and 25-year-old. Even though the 25-year-old is more expensive ($800 a bottle and up, assuming you can even find one), Dupont explained that the 18-year-old is actually the rarer of the two, and he called the 18 "the benchmark for what a Macallan should be. There's not a whole lot to say about this one because most people have tried this already. The difference is more sherry wood, because it is 100 percent sherry cask."
The 18-year-old had the crowd buzzing before they even took a sip. Indeed, the spirit has an almost cognac-like smell, and a deep, lush taste. And, as Dupont mentioned, "There's a little bit of smoke, and I don’t understand where that comes from, because there's no charring in the wood."
The 25-year-old genuinely surprised me. I was expecting much more of an oak influence, but it was almost completely absent. Instead, I got a rich, spicy bite, one that had me finishing off my glass much faster than I intended. "Really livens up the tongue, doesn't it?" said one of the members of our group.
Once our tasting was completed, Dupont began topping off glasses with his remaining stock--including the 18- and 25-year. Yep, there's just something about whiskey tastings that brings out the generosity in people. I strongly encourage anyone with the remotest interest in whiskey to pay attention to upcoming Freakin' Frog offerings. They are more than worth the time and money.