Macallan 18 Year as Costco Kirkland Brand

Correction: My wife found the 15 year, not the 18 year, and it was $49.99.

My wife stopped at a Costco store in Delaware, where they are able to sell liquor, on her way to a friends’ house. While she was there, she saw a bottle of 18 year old scotch sporting both the Kirkland brand, which is Costco’s private label, and The Macallan Distillery! (I was very surprised to see this, but apparently they’ve done this in the past)

She immediately called me up, asking me if I wanted to give it a try. Apparently The Macallan does this regularly with any extra scotch that doesn’t make it into their other bottles because 1,200 cases are available at $59.99 a piece. A typical Macallan 18 goes for around $150, so the $60 price is a steal.

This particular bottle has a sherry oak finish and you can read more about it from the product label. I’ll be sure to give it a try the next time I get a chance!

Celebrate The Macallan Whisky Tasting in Washington D.C.

My friend Mapgirl at Mapgirl’s Fiscal Challenge let me know about a Macallan whisky tasting going on in early October in Washington DC. Macallan lists its tasting events on and a quick search of the area yielding a tasting going on at Mellon Auditorium at 1301 Constitution Ave NW, Washington DC on October 6th, 7th, and 8th. There are two sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday and only one on Thursday. Each day has a 6:30 PM – 8:30PM tasting with Tuesday and Wednesday adding an 8:30 – 10:00 pm tasting.

Not sure which day I’ll be going, leaning towards Wednesday, but I wish there was more information online about what happens during these celebrations. I’m thinking it might be like the tasting I experienced at the Macallan distillery?

The Macallan Fine Oak 30 Year

Macallan Fine Oak 30 YearThe other Scotch-related treat I had while in Scotland was the chance to try The Macallan Fine Oak 30 Year as part of The Macallan Most Precious Tour. The Most Precious Tour, which cost us a mere £15 a person, ends with a tasting of their New Make Whisky (whisky before it’s put into the barrel), 10 Year, 15 Year Fine Oak, 18 Year, and 30 Year Fine Oak, and is overseen by the guide, who tutors you on the process. They have slides that help explain the various flavors and notes of the whisky, which gave me, the novice, a bit of guidance. When we sat down, I had no idea I was going to be able to try whisky that normally sells for £321 a bottle (in the distillery store, it retails in the US at around $900).

The Fine Oak line is a fun idea because they mature it in three different casks – Spanish oak casks seasoned with sherry, American oak casks seasoned with sherry, and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon. My novice ability probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between triple cask matured versus a blend of three separately matured whiskeys blended together but I imagine there’s a difference. You don’t go through all that trouble for it not to come out in the end product (or it could just be marketing?).

Incidentally, they say that the Precious tour takes two hours but the guide will stay with you in the tasting room as long as you want. The Precious tour normally has ten people but six people on our tour never showed up, so it was an intimate four-person tour that lasted nearly three hours!

So how was it? Smooth… so smooth that my wife, who doesn’t like whisky, said that she liked it. She liked it! She went from hating the taste of scotch to liking a Macallan 30 Year Fine Oak… she has expensive tastes. 🙂

So, here are the notes they offered on the nose that I found entertaining – “Rich, exotic, heady and aromatic, reminiscent of an orange grove.” I get everything in that statement except… exotic. What does an “exotic nose” mean?

Besides that little descriptive quandary, I definitely got a lot of orange peel, vanilla, with a spiciness on the back end. It’s light color, atypical for a 30 year, gave away its slightly muted oakiness. All of the Macallans in the Fine Oak line are far lighter than the standard bottlings, so I’d imagine the oakiness is toned down as well.

Scotch Barrel Sizes: Firkin, Kilderkin, Hogshead, Butt & Tun

Macallan Barrels

One of the best parts of the Macallan tour was the special barrel/art of coopering section they had above the warehouse. In it, they explained the difference between American oak and French oak, barrel construction, and other aspects of coopering.

Did you know that a barrel has a standard volume of 36 Imperial gallons? (43 US gallons)

I didn’t, I figured barrel was a general term for a container of that general size and shape. Well, to make things more interesting, there are actually many varying sizes of “barrels,” some of which have very funny names (all gallons are Imperial gallons):

  • Firkin – 9 gallons
  • Kilderkin – 18 gallons
  • Barrel – 36 gallons
  • Hogshead – 54 gallons
  • Butt – 108 gallons
  • Tun – 216 gallons

Firkin – It’s an old English term derived from a Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means fourth. It’s appropriate because a firkin is a fourth of a barrel in volume.

Kilderkin – Again an old English term derived from Dutch but it doesn’t mean half, it just means small cask, but it is a half barrel.

Hogshead – I wasn’t able to find the origin of the term but it was standardized as 54 gallons by an act of Parliament in 1423.

Butt – This size in wine is called a pipe, so when The Balvenie Portwood Finish 21 states it was finished in Port pipes, it means barrels of this size.

Tun – It sounds like ton because it shares the same origin though the latter refers only to mass/weight.

Finally, what’s the difference between Imperial gallons and US gallons? The US measurement comes from the English measurements of the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until 1824 that the English derived the Imperial system, which was after American independence. An Imperial gallon works out to be a little over 1.2 US gallons (technically, ~1.20094992550 US gallons).

It’s always interesting to learn a little bit of trivia!

(Photo: schlaeger)

Amber Macallan Liqour

While in Edinburgh, we stopped by the Scotch Whisky Experience. The Scotch Whisky Experience has a restaurant and scotch bar in the basement, with the restaurant cleverly named Amber.

While we were waiting for a table, we stopped by the bar which boasted a selection of three hundred scotches. While we didn’t count them, it certainly looked as if they had close to that number!

We sat at the bar, enjoying a few drams as you would expect, and chatted up Steve, the young man working the bar. We asked him what he enjoyed, what he thought was the best value (Glen Goyne 21 was his choice as best value if you like a smooth and long finish, as a bottle is a great price for a 21 year scotch, though his first pick was the Balvenie Double Wood, also one of my favorites).

Macallan Amber Whisky Liqueur

Macallan Amber Whisky Liqueur

Eventually, he pointed out the Amber Macallan. None of us had heard of it before, though later internet research would reveal it is hated by most whisky enthusiasts (rightfully I think), and my friend had to try it. Just one sniff of the bottle was enough to dampen my interest!

It’s not whisky and if you try even a little bit with the expectation that it is, then you’ll hate it. However, if you accept it as it is, a liqueur, then it’s actually quite nice. You’ll need no tasting notes, as the maple syrup and pecans practically assaults you from the glass (when I sniffed it from the bottle nose, the maple syrup flavor dominated everything).

My friend, Rick, enjoys anything sweet. This liqueur was nearly perfect for him and that gave me a chance to try it. Since it smelled so strongly of maple syrup, I was surprised by its mouthfeel. It was like a regular whisky, not like a syrup despite its smell! The flavor of pecans is unmistakable and mixing it with the syrup actually gave it a flavor similar to hazelnut.

I was glad to have tried some of it (thanks Steven!) but there’s no way I could have more than a sip. It’s said that it goes well over ice cream, not surprisingly, but I can’t imagine drinking a whole glass of it. I do have to give Macallan points for creativity!