Which Scotch is Best? A Macallan Taste Test

27 September 2014 · 15 comments

Last week at Fincon, I spent some time becoming acquainted with Shannyn Allan, who writes about finance and fashion at Frugal Beautiful. Though we’ve known each other for three years, we’d never spent time getting to know each other until this conference.

Shannyn says that she can be an enigma to some men. She’s a self-confessed nerd. “Plus, most men don’t know what to think of a woman who orders a ten-year-old Scotch.”

If that’s the case, most men are dumb.

On the final night of the conference, a group of us (a horde of us, really) sat around the hotel lobby, chatting and drinking drinks. The subject of whisky came up again. Since I was sitting with Shannyn and Jim Wang (among whose many blogs is Scotch Addict), I decided to have a little fun.

I found Sylvana, the woman who’d been our waitress all week. “Sylvana,” I said, “I want a couple of glasses of your very best Scotch.”

She went behind the bar and looked at the shelf. “We have a Macallan 18,” she said.

“That’ll be just fine,” I said. I’d never tried the Macallan 18 before, but I suspected it would be good. And it was. I took a glass to Shannyn and I kept one for myself. Once Jim discovered what we were drinking, he ordered one too. We sipped the Scotch and marveled at its smooth and silky nature.

“That’s good,” Shannyn said. Jim and I nodded in agreement.

When we’d finished our drinks, I went back to Sylvana. “It’s my last order of the week,” I said, “and I’d like another glass of the Macallan.” She gave me a sly smile. Then, presumably because I’d tipped well for the last five nights, she gave me a whopper of a pour. The three of us gratefully shared the drink.

Fast-forward to last Tuesday. I was driving home from errands when Shannyn sent me a text. “Is the 15-year Macallan as good as the 18-year Macallan?” she asked. Her timing was impeccable. I was just passing the last liquor store before home. I pulled in to the parking lot.

“Don’t buy anything,” I replied. “I’ll do a little test.”

And so I bought a bottle of the 15-year Macallan and a bottle of the 18-year Macallan. Then, for good measure, I bought a bottle of the 12-year Macallan to add to the mix.

Note: Under no circumstances was this a frugal thing to do, I’m well aware. But I’m a whisky drinker. I knew that these bottles would fit nicely with my existing library of Scotches.

Then I drove home and made a little video:

As you can see, I had a lot of fun with this project. (And as you can also see, I forgot to edit the title card at the end of the clip. Haha.) It’s been pleasing to find that the folks who watch this find it as amusing as I do.

This is the second video I’ve posted this week. (It’s actually the third if you count the video of our recent motorcycle trip.) There’ll be more.

Kim and I are embarking on a fun, open-ended project in 2015 that will be very video intensive. As part of that, we’ll be filming interviews with dozens of people.

But while I feel I’m an acceptable amateur photographer, I know next to nothing about videography. I’ve solicited advice from some of my colleagues (David Hobby, Wes Wages, etc.), and their recommendations will help me track down the lighting and sound gear I need. Having good gear is great, of course, but what I need to do most right now is get practice using the gear.

To that end, I’ll be creating lots of short one-off videos. Many of them will be about silly things — like drinking Scotch. I won’t publish all of them here, but I do hope to share the best ones.

Next up? This afternoon, Kim and I are headed to Oregon’s wine country to do a bit of tasting. Who knows? Maybe I’ll put together a short clip about that…

1 jlcollinsnh September 28, 2014 at 12:46

I don’t care for Scotch, but watching this tasting video almost makes me reconsider…

Maybe I’ve just never had the good stuff. ;)

2 JKC September 28, 2014 at 14:42

I love Scotch! But the only way to do a taste test is to do it blind. There have been several studies done with wine where people will prefer the bottle that they are told is more expensive. Even if it’s not true! I let my budget be my guide. Cheers!

3 LB September 29, 2014 at 04:37

Even living in Scotland, some people find it a little odd that I drink good whiskies, rather than a “woman’s drink” whatever that is. But who cares? Not me :)

4 PawPrint September 29, 2014 at 15:34

I would have been on the floor after the first 3 tastes. But it would have been fun. You mentioned not having the words to describe what you were smelling/tasting. That reminded me of a poster I saw that indicated all the words that wine reviewers use and what those words mean. I always wondered why a reviewer would say “notes of graphite,” or strange things like that, but looking at that poster helped me figure out wine terminology. I still think they’re weird, though.

5 chacha1 September 29, 2014 at 16:14

I’m not a whiskey drinker either but am about to dive in at what may be the delicious end or the paint-thinner end of the pool. In clearing my father-in-law’s hoard, we found an unopened bottle of Glenlivet-Macallan 25 from the early 1970s. All we know about this is that collectors would pay some money for it. However, we would rather use it to have some fun. So we offered it to a friend of mine at work who just celebrated his 25th birthday. We said, if you decide to sell it we’d like 50%; but if you want to open it, we’d just like to taste it with you. He went for “open it.” We’re scheduled for this coming weekend. :-)

6 Janet September 30, 2014 at 14:29

I hope you’ll report back, chacha1.

7 jdroth September 30, 2014 at 17:45

Me too! I want to know how it tastes!

8 chacha1 October 3, 2014 at 11:38

hey, since you’re a whiskey aficionado, maybe you can advise: should we try it before dinner and then again after? or just empty, or just full?
:-)

9 jdroth October 3, 2014 at 13:50

Haha. Well, I would drink the whisky both before and after dinner, just to see whether there was a difference. But in general, when I’m with friends, we take our whisky as an after-dinner drink. Depending on the type of whisky, it might be good with some blue cheese or some dark chocolate.

10 Ian B September 29, 2014 at 19:20

Give the Balcones Texas Singlemalt a try, it’s quite nice.

11 Jim September 30, 2014 at 06:42

That was a whopper of a pour… it was easily 3x the standard pour and it was fantastic. :)

12 Bill October 4, 2014 at 09:38

Nice little video JD. A couple of questions:

While the video was almost 8 minutes in length, over what actual time period did you do your sampling?

Did you cleanse your palette, and if so, how did you do that?

13 chacha1 October 6, 2014 at 13:31

quick report for Janet and J.D. :-)

The Macallan-Glenlivet 25 was … very good indeed. We had this trepidation, because bottles of wine from the same hoard were absolutely ruined. But this stuff was good.

We had a little taste before dinner and all agreed on the smoothness, but what really impressed me was the aromatic quality – it basically evaporated right up into your sinuses. There was just a bit of sweetness, just a bit of smokiness. At 100 proof, strongly alcoholic but with a distinct scotchy flavor.

After dinner, tried again (I had mine with a little ice, others added a mixer here and there) and I thought “I could drink this any old time.” So, yay old bottle.

14 Mike October 7, 2014 at 14:50

While it definitely was not a frugal move, it’s a very tasty one. I’ve loved the Macallan 18 since first taste. I only hope to one day try the 25 and 30.

15 Tim January 12, 2015 at 22:12

i didn’t have one scotch. i had 7. its called a tasting. and its CLASSY. nice line up! Macallan offers tasting events occasionally, they are amazing iv’e been to a few in SF. not sure how to get an invite as i was a lucky +1 but im sure if you dig around enough on the web you can find out.

Previous post:

Next post: