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Macallan to replace 10, 12, and 15 year old core range with no-age statement single malt whiskies

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It gets better with age”? Well, to this Macallan says, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number” as they announce a new range of single malt Scotch whiskies to replace the well-known Macallan Fine Oak and Macallan Sherry Oak ranges that consumers have come to know. Their intent? To release three no-age statement expressions over the next calendar year.

This is bad news for people who believe age statement indicates quality and justifies price. But it could be great news for people who know that just because a whisky is old doesn’t make it good—or even mature.

Part of the impetus for change comes from Macallan’s initiative to alleviate consumer confusion with regards to their Fine Oak and Sherry Oak ranges—but it is also a bold step intended to challenge some of the established norms that have developed in relation to age-statement whiskies.

In 2009, Macallan launched a range of no-age statement malts as travel retail-only products and saw a significant increase in their overall sales. With the positive consumer reception and the new products either matching or outperforming their age-statement counterparts, Macallan made a decision that could change the way consumers think about single malts.

Macallan’s no age statement range, released for the travel retail market in 2009

This is a decision made both out of necessity and out of audacity—it really shakes the notion of perceived value of single malt based on age. Distilleries like Ardbeg have had great success with no-age statement malts such as Uigeadail, Supernova, and Alligator, but these expressions were conceived as a result of the distillery having been closed and re-opened so many times throughout the 20th century. They physically could not sustain a range of age-statement whiskies, and they have achieved fantastic results, winning awards and producing some of the most popular widely-available malts.

Ardbeg’s no age statement releases have been very sucessful

As distilleries use up their warehouse supplies to keep up with the demand for core ranges, all producers will be looking for a method to move product without the aid of plentiful, old casks. Is Macallan jumping the gun, or are they just a bit more prescient than the rest?

So, what makes these new malts different than other no-agies? The new Macallan range—the 1824 Series as it has been dubbed—will use colour to indicate a differentiation between expressions.

Yes. Colour.

Macallan’s no age statement range will use colour as a differentiator

Each whisky will be aged in 100% sherry casks (a move away from the American oak barrels seen in the Fine Oak range) and will highlight one of the six pillars of the Macallan brand—natural colour. Bob Dalgarno, The Macallan Whisky Maker, has hand-selected these casks specifically for their colour imbuing character. Their creation simplifies an otherwise difficult decision-making process: which whisky do I buy based on what I can see, rather than what I can taste.

Ben Ellefsen, our Sales Director here and Master of Opinions attended the unveiling of the groundbreaking strategy. He has this to say:

The idea seems to make sense to me, as I can’t immediately think of a whisky (at a young age) where natural colour achieved through sherry maturation hasn’t correlated with perceived maturity (an inherently subjective assessment anyway).

Because of this, the theory seems not only plausible, but quite sensible to me. There are obvious competitor issues, inasmuch as The Macallan are going to spend serious money on consumer education about colour = quality, and this can be undermined very effectively by a competitor with a few fractions of a pence worth of E150a.

Some young whiskies that have had the benefit of sherry maturation are just that—mature. Take the Aultmore 5 Year Old Single Cask. This little beauty belies its years with its rich colour and depth and balance of taste, but some consumers might perceive this whisky to be lacking in distinction due to the fact that it’s only been aged for 5 years (and this is not even representative of the “youngest in the bottle rule”, this being single cask). But, when the cake is done, you take it out of the oven.

One of latest single cask bottlings is just 5 years old, but it’s an incredible dram

The greatest risk here is that colour—not age—will become the measure (however incorrect) by which consumers judge the value of whisky: the darker the whisky, the better it is. One wonders, is this not just swapping out a new regime for the old? And what of competitors who, after Macallan does the legwork of educating the public of the value of colour can easily add a bit of E150a to their expressions to produce a colour that validates a high price tag?

Macallan will have to continue banging the drum about natural colour and sherry-cask maturation to prevent a new hierarchy from replacing the old. But here’s hoping that by removing age statements from single malts will open the door to the average consumer, making them feel more confident that their subjective opinion matters now that they don’t have to shell out £328 on a 30 year old whisky to impress their friends.

We at Master of Malt will continue to bang the drum that taste is subjective and preference is personal, and the only way to truly learn what you like, is to try before you buy.

And now, a Master of Malt tasting note premiere (drumroll, please):

macallan gold

The Macallan Gold – 40% abv – £35.95

Nose: Tangerine. Hugely citrus-y, but doesn’t feel at all ‘young’. Toffee and Crunchie bars.

Palate: Toffee, barley and dried orange peel. Intense orange oil. Bergamot, perhaps?

Finish: Parkin and a touch of cinnamon. Short, but very good.

You may be wondering, “Should I start buying up the Sherry Oaks and Fine Oaks as they will no longer be produced, become rare, and increase in value?” Yes. Yes you should

The new Macallan 1824 Series of releases will replace the Sherry Oak 10, Sherry Oak 10 Cask Strength, and Sherry Oak 12, as well as the Fine Oak 10, Fine Oak 12, Fine Oak 15, and Fine Oak 17 expressions. The Macallan Gold will be released in September 2012 and available for purchase on 1 October 2012.

Categories : News, Whisky

36 comments on “Macallan to replace 10, 12, and 15 year old core range with no-age statement single malt whiskies”

  1. Joshua London says:

    Am I wrong, or is this exclusive to the UK market for now?

  2. UK will be first, but this is a world-wide strategy.

  3. Simon says:

    If colour was the sole indication of quality, then this would be the best whisky in the world.

    Quite possibly the worst thing I have ever tasted in my life!

  4. Robert Maas says:

    Personally, I think that aging mellows the taste of most malts. Take any distillery you like and compare a 10 year old to a 20 year old. I’ll assume that any unaged Macallan could well be an eight year old and buy or not buy on the basis of price compared to similar distilleries’ eight yer olds.

    1. ruoungoai says:

      It costs to mature it and the cheaper stuff stays in the cheaper markets. Colour = quality ma erse! It’s all about profit. Not a criticism, as they are a business after all!

  5. Paul Gallacher says:

    Macallan has always been my favourite malt whisky especially the fine oak range I don’t think I’m going to be impressed by it being replaced by non aged bottles based on colour.
    currently the whisky industry is in the best financial state it’s ever been in due to the chinese and asian markets
    really opening up so i really don’t see the advantage of dabbling with established bottles.By all means do a bit of
    experimentation but don’t replace one of the the if not the best malts in the world.0


    whisky bhoy

  6. T Mac Williams says:

    The Macallan 18 has been my most-often favorite, yet I learned that the quality of it has varied depending upon which year, while the price went steadily up. Being able to note which year of the 18 became important. I am not sure that I trust The Macallan to provide consistency in their single malts where there is nothing to assure me that I have my choice of "batch". I agree that age is not the principal characteristic of a finest whisky, yet I do not wish to be the victim of a marketing ploy. If I like a single malt, I would wish more; however, if I don’t like one year, then I would not like to repeat an expensive purchase for second-rate goods. MoM: How do we track their successes and failures with our favorites, and skip over the batches we don’t care for?

  7. Robert Smith says:

    While I would agree that age doesn’t always make a whisky better – one of the best I tasted last year was a SMWS 7 year old bottling of Arran from a first fill sherry cask – I am rather dubious about this move by Macallan. I feel that their 10 year olds are already at a premium price, despite the, these days, relatively low strength and being chill-filtered. I would hazard a guess that when the no-age statements are launched, even if they are more youthful, the price will remain high to maintain the prestige brand status. Other producers like Auchentoshan, Benromach and Speyburn, to name but a few, have good no-age statement single malts on the market AND this is reflected in the price. It is to be hoped that Macallan are equally fair with the consumer.

  8. MIke Kinnaird says:

    What jobsworth came up with this idea.

    I cant get a 25 year old for my customers
    and we are 50 miles away come on Macallan do your duty make sure the home customers looked after first.

    Mike Kinnaird
    Landlord Bugsy Browns Aberdeen

  9. Michael Shedden says:

    Isn’t the correct solution to the potential E150a problem, just to ban the use of additives in scotch?

  10. Ed Walton says:

    I found this in my morning news summary. It captures the Macallan age-statement thing and puts it alongside the American small barrel aging spat.


  11. Jason Debly says:

    The real question is why did Macallan make the decision to abandon the convention of age statements? Is there a shortage of whiskies in their inventory to meet such labeling? Going to a no-age-statement format would be more lucrative too . . .

  12. James says:

    It’s sad because this whole change is not to improve the brand here but because they can simply earn more money selling the aged whisky in markets like China. Basically a giant FU to the British customers!

  13. John M Farquhar says:

    Having been an enthusiastic drinker of the Macallan sherry and fine oak whiskies for as long as they have been on the market (I’m 67 years young now so experience talking!) I had my first taste of Macallan Gold last night. What a disappointment! Sharp on the tongue and pallet, I don’t intend sampling it again! I can understand why the barman said they are trying to buy up as much as they can of the traditionally aged stock before it disappears. A bad move, directors of Macallan! Hopefully not an attempt to placate the emerging markets by downgrading quality? Think again and don’t consign my favourite dram to history.

  14. David Pert says:

    You’ve got to admire their nerve though. Simultaneously saying "age is no indicator of provenance" whilst calling the new range 1824 to give it added provenance. Marketing genius!

  15. S Farwell says:

    Didn’t Coka Cola try this years ago as a publicity stunt? Changing the formula so the public will be outraged and then be a hero by bringing things back where they started. …Save us the drama Macallan and save your self the embarisment! As I sat in Easter Elchies house and you preached to me the value of quality ingredience, Age, and "The Nose" I came to love you as my own. I took home to the USA what I learned and have been preaching The MACALLAN ever since. I’m on this site because I was looking for the age of The Macallan 1700 Director’s Edition that I found tastfull and wanted to know everything about it so I could compare it to all others. Yes, age is just one part but it should not be left out! Yes, the markets have screwed up the good stuff from the not so good stuff (Depending on your personal taste)by letting age dictate pricing but as long time Scotch drinkers WE (I) know the defference! I can’t understand how a 12 year Johnny Walker blended can begin to compare to a 12 year Macallan. That doesn’t mean you take your marbles and go home! It doesn’t mean you ignore the game you started and go start another one with new rules. It will take you less time and money to promote your longstanding quality then to preach another direction and denounce the fact that age is a facter in Scotch. I love you guys…and maybe it’s because im still drinking this wonderfull 1700 but let us be the judge of fine Scotch with AGE included!

  16. Matthew says:

    I was just wondering will they still be producing the age statement whisky along side their new stuff or are all the ones with age statements being discontinued?

  17. Hey Matthew,

    They will still be producing the Sherry Oak 18 year old, but the Fine Oak range and the younger Sherry Oak have been replaced by the 1824 no age statement range, yes.

  18. Richard Phillip says:

    IMHO Changes like this are rarely, if ever, done for the benefit of the consumer. Their business model now may be to foist a "blend" (if you read their bottle)on the US domestic market and market the more profitable wares somewhere else.

  19. Kent Liljegren says:

    This will never be good for us consumers in the long run.
    Macallan replace age with NAS, I replace Macallan with something non-NAS.
    Colouring and NAS is a no no for me.
    Luckily there is still loads of really good whisky at an affordable price. 🙂

  20. Kent Liljegren says:

    This will never be good for us consumers in the long run.
    Macallan replace age with NAS, I replace Macallan with something non-NAS.
    Colouring and NAS is a no no for me.
    Luckily there is still loads of really good whisky at an affordable price. 🙂

  21. Kent Liljegren says:

    This will never be good for us consumers in the long run.
    Macallan replace age with NAS, I replace Macallan with something non-NAS.
    Colouring and NAS is a no no for me.
    Luckily there is still loads of really good whisky at an affordable price. 🙂

  22. steve says:

    This is simply wrong. I refuse to buy any bottle without an age statement and will not buy any Macallan whisky which does not have it

  23. Ronald H Oliver says:

    I was at the shopping centre by the Britannia in Leith to accompany by "dear" wife (expensive rather than affectionate; just joking dear!) and happened to pass the Whisky Shop. as my wife was treating herself I though I might just do the same. I asked for a Macallan 10 year old and was advised there ain’t any due to a marketing ploy. it is now done by colour! I was picking whisky not emulsion paint. the salesman was not too happy because he had to explain this to numerous passing tourists and had been met by funny looks. one US citizen remarked that Coca cola had done a similar exercise and lived to regret it. he also opined that it confirmed that sales departments were governed by the Equine equation which states that at any one time in a sales conference there are more horses a*ses than horses. bring back the years!!!

  24. FiveScotchGuys says:

    Are there any projections or estimates on how much longer we may be lucky enough to find 15, 18, 21 and 25 on shelves before the stock is gone?

  25. Alan Carnegie says:

    It’s a simple matter of economics. Supply and demand. Single malt scotch is the best whisky in the world and there is an huge and expanding market in India, China, Japan and US for it. They value the age label, so justified or not, that is where we are selling it to. It costs to mature it and the cheaper stuff stays in the cheaper markets. Colour = quality ma erse! It’s all about profit. Not a criticism, as they are a business after all!

  26. James Friesen says:

    If colour determines the quality, which additives will take this major responsibility – other brands will now be more inviting, what a shame

  27. Hurricane says:

    mmmmmm, sipping the last little bit of my last bottle of the 18 year old! Don’t worry folks, someday the ages will be back because of all the bitching and sh*ty sales. Until then, enjoy a nice glass of….(answer with whatever u think comes close to taste and flavor as The Macallan 18, 15 and 12)

  28. G McSchroot says:

    This is all about one thing – money. Both Big Whisky and the newstart distillers simply want to get their greedy paws on the dosh – now. Its called a ‘good business model’. Why wait 10, 12 or 15 years when undiscerning aficianados will drink any old crap so long as its in a funny bottle (preferably coloured), branded (preferably something pronounceable) and celebrity-endorsed (preferably David Beckham). How else are they going to satisfy the burgeoning worldwide demand for malts from brand-addicted Asians who couldn’t tell the difference between a good whisky, a bad whisky and a bottle of horse piss. There was good reason for ageing whisky beyond the statutory 3 years – it adds taste, body and distinction. Too bad the quest for a fast buck is going to destroy a once great industry. Forget quality – bring on the bean counters and marketeers…

  29. Ryan says:

    Are there any projections or estimates on how much longer we may be lucky enough to find 15, 18, 21 and 25 on shelves before the stock is gone?

    Reply: it’s impossible to say. The older ages like 18, 21 and 25 will still be around at a hefty price but the standard 12 and 15 sherry and fine oak will be disappearing within the next year or so I’d imagine it be rare on the shelf.

  30. Charles Coonz says:

    My father in law gave me a bottle of macallan 12 yo sherry wood before he passed away.
    It’s one of the best things ever tasted. Unfortunately the bottle is almost out now and while trying to find out where the heck are all the 12 olds have gone i run into this article.
    Obviously this is a cost related strategy. Not a quality upgrade. Companies don’t care about customer satisfaction unless it is profitable. As the article states they found out that it is more profitable not to have bottles aging. Why reserve such a space and time while they can earn triple the money in same time.
    Be men enough to say: we change our strategy to make more money and stop selling that crap about color. BMW fabricated in china, US flags make in Vietnam and high end single malts with no age.
    Welcome to globalization.

  31. Jeff says:

    I'm confused. I'm still finding Macallan 10 and 12 regularly in my stores. Never seen the 15 or 17 anywhere anyway. There must be an enormous stockpile of this left to still be selling for only $40 here in the States. When will the supply run dry?

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  33. Antony says:

    An open proposition to the gentlemen at Macallan, should this idea proceed, In order to standardise quality I would happily purchase all the old stock of 15 year onwards at a reduce price as it is “old unsold stock”

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