On Monday 24 February we were invited to an exclusive tasting of the Macallan billed as a masterclass with cheese. Whisky and cheese? It would have been perverse not to attend.
20 of us gathered in the SH Palace hotel curious to experience this event, an activity aligned to the Valencia Culinary Festival which lasts until March 8th. It was conducted by Mariana Murad, Brand Ambassador for The Macallan, one of Scotlands newer and largest distilleries. She was accompanied by Javier de Andrés whose Sucursal group are intimately involved in the festival and who provided an aperitif and dessert for the event.
Mariana introduced us to the Speyside distillery, the first to be architect designed and its philosophy of using only the best Kentucky American oak, close grained, compact and fresh together with Spanish oak and Kentucky Bourbon casks. All of the colour of the whisky comes from its ageing in these different barrels and casks, not to mention with it the hints and flavours of Sherry wines because after seasoning the wood the barrels are crafted, they are toasted and then filled in Jerez with sherry wines (olorosos) .
Once they have been emptied of their first contents the barrels are sent to Craigellan to be filled with new whisky spirit to begin the second stage.
Whisky is a grain sprit made from malted barley distilled in this case at least three times in a series of copper alembics in Speyside. Once ready, Stuart McPherson the Master of Wood selects together with the distiller the barrels for each range of whisky they produce.
We began with a whisky cocktail with ginger ale and lemon slice, fresh and light it was paired with a Nekora, a soft shell small crab re-filled with its own meat.
Second was the Triple cask (using the three types of barrel) with 12 years ageing within them. A clear pale whisky it has a smooth and delicate nose, citrus notes, vanilla and fruit, with notes of coco, light fruit and a sweet note in the mouth. It was paired with a salty Parmesan from Frisona cows, and 30 months curing – salty, good texture and a surprisingly good match.
Next was a Double cask 12 year old which immediately had more notes from the sherry on the nose and more colour (mahogany). With Vanilla, ginger root notes on the nose, toffee and a lot of spice, vanilla cream balanced with some dried grape notes. This is warming and sweeter in the mouth. It was paired with Idiziabal de Oveja Latxa, nutty and salty, the effect was to give a smooth, well-balanced and integrated whisky.
Finally we tasted the Rare Cask whisky, a blend of single malt whisky´s from defunct distilleries which by their very nature can never be repeated. A much deeper colour, dark mahogany, a range of fruity notes such as ripe apple, citrus ,orange peel and lemon, ginger root, cinnamon, mixed spice and clove notes. In the mouth this was really interesting with tobacco and leather, a great persistency and with a little time in the glass rich chocolate notes. Nonetheless with all this sherry influence one could have been excused for mistaking this for a Cognac from Jerez on its’ entry and in the finish. It was served with a Cream of truffled chocolate with orange….a polished, rich and exceptional experience!
Altogether this was just that, an exceptional experience and a great way to start Valencia Culinary Festival!