How to properly drink an $8,000 glass of whisky
Whether you're a whisky drinker or not, it's safe to say that anyone can be turned into a fan when offered a taste of an $8,000 glass from one of the most reputable distilleries in the world.
It would have been a dishonor to our families to not at least even try the whisky so when we were offered the opportunity to do so, we anything-but-reluctantly agreed.
We met with Charlie Whitfield, The Fine and Rare Collection Manager for The Macallan, who gave us a quick lowdown on the history of the company before we delved into the specific bottle we'd be sampling:
"Macallan is one of the first legally licensed distilleries in Scotland, and the dates back to 1824 ... [Macallan] has a 390-acre estate where we have our distillery, warehouses, we have land the we actually farm, our own barley that we use to make the whiskey...there's a lot of history and heritage behind the brand."
Translation: there's nothing like this stuff anywhere.
But it's not the spirit alone that makes Macallan whisky such a novelty, but the container in which it's distilled.
We're not talking about just a fancy-looking cask — Macallan is known for bottling whisky from sherry oak casks, which sources oak from North America, Northern Spain and other parts of Europe.
The oak is air dried for two to three years and seasoned for about another two to three years — it's usually about a five year process before the whisky is even put into the cask. And the longer the whisky sits in there, the richer and more complex it becomes.
Enter the Macallan 40, a sherry oak batch of whisky that's been percolating for -- you guessed it -- four decades.
It's the second-ever release of a non-vintage 40-year-old by Macallan — and if that doesn't make it rare enough, throw in the little tidbit that only 500 bottles of the Macallan 40 were made worldwide, with only 70 bottles available for purchase in the U.S.
And though $8,000 for a bottle of this stuff sounds steep, you probably couldn't even find a bottle for a price that low anymore, explains Charlie:
"The retail price started at around $8,000 but if you track it online, you'll see it going for prices close to $10,000, sometimes up to $15,000 and that's only been a couple of months."
So, you know, no pressure at all when we lifted our glasses to taste it.
Watch our exclusive tasting of the Macallan 40 from the AOL Finance FB page:
To make the most of the tasting experience, Charlie explained the importance of nosing the whisky a few times before bringing the glass to your lips, that way you're able to anticipate the dozens of flavors that go into a single drop of Macallan.
Instantly, we were hit with a spicy profile, notes of ginger and cinnamon accompanied by dried fruit aspects, like dried fig and raisins.
Pro tip: Though Charlie insists "any vessel that holds whisky is a great drinking vessel," he recommends using any glass that tapers in towards the top, which allows the rich aromas to remain concentrated in the vessel, so you can experience the flavors before they ever even touch your tongue.
We also held the glasses up to the light to get a clearer look at the color of the whisky.
Macallan uses no artificial coloring, and this whisky was definitely darker in color than others we've tried, which can be attributed to the porous nature of European oak — there's more interaction between the oak and the liquid throughout the distilling process.
We tried our whisky "neat" (aka "as is"), and though Charlie recommends drinking the whisky that way, he also suggests dropping a touch of water into the whisky as a way to diffuse the flavor molecules, or enjoying it over ice, if you're looking for a less dense and more refreshing taste.
We slowly sipped the Macallan and — unsurprisingly — we were blown away.
We were hit with a complex and rich flavor that coated our entire throats, leaving a tingling sensation and a persistent, woody aftertaste. Notes of vanilla and caramel were also strong.
The flavors were intertwined yet independent, and continued to develop even after we had our taste, which is one of the best things about drinking a sherry oak Macallan — it's an experience from start to finish.
After finishing what will inevitably go down as the most expensive sip of whisky we'll ever have in our lives, we asked Charlie about what other factors give the Macallan 40 the $8,000 price tag, aside from its palette-packed, multidimensional taste.
For starters, this stuff has been maturing for over 40 years — in Scotland, the "40" on the label means the youngest possible whisky in the cask, meaning there could be whisky in the same batch that has been maturing for 41, 42, 43 years.
The time requires adequate storage and tending to, and many factors play into preserving the whisky throughout the process — since sherry oak is extremely porous, external influences such as the weather and other environmental occurrences can play into the taste and consistency of the whisky.
The main culprit? Evaporation.
In Scotland, the evaporation rate is about 2 percent per year, meaning that that hefty, full cask of whisky will lose a little bit to the atmosphere with each passing year (what the Scottish call the "angels share" of whisky).
Do the math, and it's easy to imagine just how much of that original batch of liquid won't be there at the end of the distilling process — let alone at the end of 40+ years.
And if you're looking to get your hands on one of these 40-year-old+ beauties, good luck — Macallan sold out upon their release.
Wonder who's actually buying these bottles straight from the release?
One very select group of people, mostly — those who are simultaneously wealthy, love whisky and know how to make a solid return on investment.
Whisky is whisky, it's not going anywhere — Investing in one or two rare and limited bottles now will only give you an even higher potential payoff later on.
But if you're a fan of Macallan and want to get your hands on a similar sherry oak-style bottle at an affordable price, fear not — there's a sherry oak Macallan 12 that sells for around $65 at most liquor stores in the U.S.
And in case you were wondering, this isn't the most expensive bottle Macallan has ever put out — the company previously released a 65-year-old bottle that retailed for around $35,000.
So, what's next for The Macallan brand?
Though Charlie tells us he "can't divulge," we have a feeling it's something big, rare and — naturally — expensive.
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