Having troubles scouting examples of The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection? The hyper-aged, super-scarce single malts from Speyside that you pay for in Troy ounces don’t get around much, but the latest example will available by the glass at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s renowned restaurant in Napa Valley, California.
Inclusion of the 21-year-old whisky from 1989 coincides with Keller’s decision with sommelier Dennis Kelly to name The Macallan as the restaurant’s exclusive Scotch. Eight other rare examples of The Macallan are also available there.
The Fine & Rare Collection encompasses some 50 vintage whiskies. The other expressions date from 1926 to 1988 and represent some of costliest whiskies ever made ($1,000 to $60,000). Introduced in 2002, a new expression is added yearly. This latest expression is set to sell for $3,500.
But the problem with sampling such whisky is not just the paying for it, but the finding them. Bottles are quickly snapped up by collectors and specialty stores that mete them out to their best customers. On-premise establishments selling such wares are resources to be cherished. Casa Fuente, run by Michael Frey in Las Vegas, similarly makes rare finds available on occasion. The 1989 Macallan will also be sold in the Los Angeles area at a bar called £10 at the Montage Beverly Hills. (Alas, the price will be higher than £10—The French Laundry will sell it for $600 a glass.)
Among the French Laundry’s line of The Macallan are the Sherry Oak 18, 25 and 30 Years Old, Fine & Rare including the 1965, 1956, 1940 and 1939 and the 57 Years Old in Lalique.
The Fine & Rare Collection is sourced exclusively from former Sherry barrels. This year’s release came from assessing 500 barrels before No. 3,247 was chosen for the honor. We were lucky enough to get a dram and, of course, lit up some special cigars to go with it.
(Cigar pairings on next page)
The Macallan Fine & Rare 1989 (Cask No. 3,247; 110.4 proof, or 55.2 percent, alcohol by volume, 21 years old; $3,500 a 700-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Exceptionally dark, almost ebony, with red highlights. Its tiny legs take forever to tease out.
NOSE: So much going on with the aroma that it’s hard to know where to start. An abundance of meaty fruit is with met with honey, clove, leather and chocolate. Then comes a wood note—somewhere between sandalwood and a baseball bat.
PALATE: A complex flavor safari. A huge rush of spice—clove, licorice, nutmeg, cinnamon—is followed an explosion of nut—walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews—that soften into a graham cracker pie crust. On against that rich wood note enters and ties it all together.
FINISH: The whisky floats away on a raft of wood, nuts and meaty fruit (pears). Surprisingly, not an exceptionally long finish, but that’s quibbling.
Tatuaje Limited RC Series RC233 (9 1/8 inches by 55 ring gauge; price unavailable, no longer in production; 89 points, Cigar Insider June 21, 2005) This beautiful figurado has superb construction. It has an intense cedary aroma, with cedar, leather, coffee and white pepper notes. Big and strong with a long finish. The cigar and Scotch pair up to a scrumptious candy-bar effect with the nuts and leather on the whisky elevating and its chocolates and fruit matching nicely with the cigar’s spice and coffee.
Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial Tubo (5 1/2 inches by 50 ring gauge; £19.13; 91 points, Cigar Aficionado August 2013) Nutty flavors and coffee notes underscore this cigar’s leathery and earthy intonations. Balanced and tasty. The cigar marriage has a very similar outcome to the one above. The Macallan fills in sweetness on the Hoyo, while matching up well with its leather and earth. There’s a synergy here that creates a lot of savory saffron flavor.
Both cigars are near perfect pairings if you can manage to bring the components together at the same time.