AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

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After enjoying quite a few delicious drams of The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years, I’m starting to realize I’m a big fan of sherry-finished whiskies. The extra couple years of maturation in sherry oak casks give them a nice mellow finish that is really interesting, and I find I much prefer them to rougher single malts such as Glenfiddich 12.

This is perhaps the first real pattern I’ve come to discover in my journey of exploration so far, and it’s very encouraging. To be perfectly honest, at the beginning I was more than a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the subtle variations between different drams but so far, I have yet to find a single malt without a well defined personality.

Now that I’ve managed to establish my love for sherry-finished whiskies, it’s time to step it up a notch and try a full sherry oak single malt, and what better way to do it than with the name that is perhaps the most coveted and recognized in the world of Scotch whisky: The Macallan.

This particular denomination, The Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak, is the youngest of them all, and it used to be a staple in the company’s portfolio until it was discontinued a couple years ago. This seems to be a recurring theme, with both the 12 Year Old and 18 Year Old Sherry Oak denominations becoming harder and harder to find in recent months.

The Macallan distillery

Founded in 1824 by Alexander Reid and located in the village of Craigellachie, The Macallan is one of the oldest and most renowned distilleries in Scotland. The spiritual home of the Macallan brand is the Easter Elchies House, a gorgeous Highland mansion built for Captain John Grant in 1700.

Traditionally considered a Speyside single malt, The Macallan now labels their bottles as Highland single malt whisky, following a change in regulation that stopped including Craigellachie in the Speyside region in 2009.

Later that year, The Macallan overtook Glenfiddich to become the second largest-selling single malt in the world by volume, trailing only Glenlivet. It is indeed one of the most valuable brands in the world of whisky, and it’s always enjoyed a stellar reputation among whisky connoisseurs.

Easter Elchies House, the spiritual home of The Macallan since 1700. Photo credit: The Macallan.

According to their own website, The Macallan distillery uses “the smallest stills on Speyside”. These small stills apparently give their whisky some of those rich, fruity flavors so commonly associated with The Macallan.

The Macallan whiskies used to be exclusively matured in sherry oak casks, but in 2004 they introduced the Fine Oak series, which uses bourbon oak casks instead. The original Sherry Oak series is what gave The Macallan most of its fame, but the newer Fine Oak series has been generally well received by critics as well. Nowadays, both series have been discontinued, with the new 1824 series replacing them in most markets.

Easter Elchies House in the snow. Photo credit: The Macallan.

In general, The Macallan is moving away from having explicit age denominations in their collection, effectively leading a trend that is already becoming the new normal among some of the most established distilleries in Scotland.

Personally, I’m a fan of age denominations, although I realize there’s not much science to support this belief. By all accounts, all denominations in the new 1824 series are excellent single malts, but there’s still something about not having an explicit age denomination that rubs me the wrong way, for whatever reason.

The Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak

Simply put, this is a whisky like no other I’ve tried before. It’s matured exclusively in sherry oak casks brought to Scotland all the way from Jerez, Spain, a city made famous by its sherry production. Compared to sherry-finished whiskies like the Glenmorangie Lasanta and The Balvenie DoubleWood, The Macallan is decidedly darker, and I’d rate it between a 1.6 (mahogany, henna) and a 1.7 (burnt umber) on the Whisky Magazine color chart:

Click or tap on the chart to view it full-size.

The presentation is extremely elegant and classy, just like the rest of their lineup, and adds to the overall sense of luxury that the brand so effortlessly exudes.

The Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak. Photo credit: The Macallan.

The nose

It’s just fantastic. I’ve spent 2 good hours just smelling it while typing the beginning of this article, and I just can’t get enough of it. Caramel and honey are almost impossible to miss, but there’s a good bit of complexity here, too. Fresh oranges are also in there somewhere, along with a hint of nuts. It’s incredibly well balanced and in this case, the total is way more than the sum of its parts. I love it.

The palate

I’ve never tried a whisky as silky and smooth as this one. It just caresses you on the way down. It’s perhaps a bit less complex here than in the nose, but it retains the same charm and wonderful personality. An easy drinker, for sure.

The Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak is bottled at 40%, so water should be used sparingly, if at all. I honestly don’t think adding more than a couple drops will do you any favors, and you run a significant risk of drowning it. Just take your time and enjoy it as-is. It’s well worth it.

Here, the initial fruitiness is dominated by the same orange notes as in the nose, but they’re soon eclipsed by some wood and a tiny bit of spice. No trace of peat in this one, at least not that I could see.

I couldn’t find an “official” review, since this particular denomination has been discontinued, but the folks at Master of Malt say that “there are notes of walnut and salty melted butter. Hints of fudge and crème anglaise.” I don’t know about crème anglaise — my culinary culture is not that refined, I’m afraid — but I’d say the rest of it sounds about right. Butter is definitely not the first thing I would have mentioned, but I suppose I can see it if I try really hard. Anyway, choose whatever descriptive terms you see fit, but know that at the end of the day, this is a mighty fine whisky.

The finish

It’s very pleasant, but a bit shorter than I’d like. The same wonderful honey accents I noticed in the nose — but were conspicuously absent in the palate — reappear here, and stay at the back of my throat for a little while. However, as nice and mellow as the finish is, my eagerness to take another sip is always stronger than my desire to enjoy the aftertaste. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book.

Perfect for

It really is too bad Macallan decided to discontinue the 10 Year Old Sherry Oak, because this wonderful single malt punches well above its weight. Normally, younger whiskies like this one are preferred in socially relaxed atmospheres like pubs, but The Macallan follows its own set of rules. This single malt would feel right at home in the most select venues, be it in the Casino in Monte Carlo or in Piazza San Marco in Venice, but it also makes for the perfect evening sipper on a nice spring day in your local watering hole. Perhaps that’s the key to The Macallan’s success: attainable luxury with impeccable credentials and flawless execution for the discerning customer. Sounds like a winner to me.

Final Words

The Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak used to be the perfect entry into the single malt world because its price vs. quality ratio was simply unmatched by anything else in the industry. Back in the day, bottles of this whisky used to go for about $40 a piece but now that it’s discontinued, prices have gone up considerably. If you can get ahold of a bottle at a reasonable price, just go for it. You won’t regret it.

If this single malt was still widely available, it could very well challenge The Balvenie DoubleWood as my social drink of choice. Unfortunately though, the chances of finding it in the wild today are pretty much nonexistent, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for your social enjoyment.

Disappointingly, the current Macallan Amber, which also claims to be matured exclusively in sherry oak casks, is nowhere near as mellow and well-wounded as the 10 Year Old Sherry Oak. I find it to be a lot rougher around the edges, and not to my taste at all. Therefore and until I find a proper replacement, The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years will continue to be my go-to single malt for late night drinking and socializing with friends.

The worse thing about this whisky is that after trying it, I’m just incredibly curious about The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Oak, the crown jewel and the most iconic denomination in The Macallan’s range. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.

The Macallan 18 Year Old is big game, and I must finish my journey through the rest of the younger single malts first. Patience is key but rest assured, dear reader, we’ll get there soon enough.

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Matt Gemmell on permalinks →

February 25, 2015 |

Matt Gemmell:

We’re all familiar with those URLs. The date of the post is explicit, so you need never wonder when it was written, or how recent it is.

Here’s the thing, though: they’re horrible.

Lots of interesting points and solid advice in this piece. Well worth your consideration.

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Top ten ways to hate on pedestrians →

February 25, 2015 |

Mikael Colville-Andersen is on a roll:

4. Criminalize Walking
With simple legislation your community, too, can clamp down on humans moving unaided by fossil fuels through your paradisical motorised world. Follow the lead of this New Jersey town and ban texting while walking and reduce exponentially the irritating dents caused by human bones striking the smooth, elegant paint jobs of your citizens’ cars. If only we had thought of this back when people walked around reading newspapers in cities. Damn.

At the same time, you can go all Spanish on your population’s asses and ban Drunk Walking. Laugh in the face of those who suggest restricting cars or lowering speed limits in densely-populated nightlife districts and keep your police force fresh and battle-ready by enforcing this sensible law.

Looking at the bright side: if they ever do ban drunk walking, our only legal option will be to just stay in the bar forever.

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Apple featured in today’s ludicrous patent infringement case

February 25, 2015

Today Apple was ordered to pay $533 million for infringing several gaming-related patents held by licensing firm (a.k.a. professional patent troll) Smartflash.

Brian S. Hall has a point:

This huge patent loss cost the company about 2 days worth of profit. Why the fuck not infringe, copy, outright steal? I’m being serious. The money Apple has to build, buy or otherwise take is nearly unfathomable.

He’s absolutely correct, and it goes to show just how broken the US patent system really is. As things stand today, giant companies like Apple and Samsung can pretty much get away with stealing or copying whatever they want, while small businesses and indie developers are absolutely helpless to defend themselves against any patent infringement lawsuits.

This gaping hole in the US legal system is what patent trolls are routinely exploiting to force individuals and smaller companies to settle, often with ludicrous terms.

Something needs to change. Unfortunately, the problem is there’s no easy fix for this. If you raise fines to dissuade large corporations from stealing ideas, you’re collaterally granting even more power and leverage to the trolls. If, on the other hand, you make it more expensive to register and patent ideas, you’re severely hindering individuals and small businesses’ ability to protect their bread and butter, leaving them defenseless against unscrupulous competitors.

But what if patents couldn’t be sold and their licensing under fair terms was mandatory? That would solve the troll problem (nobody would be able to buy patents to use as weapons), without stifling competition (patent holders couldn’t use them to stop competitors from entering their businesses, but would be fairly compensated for them). Add to that a reasonable expiration date (say, for example, 30 years) and we may be on to something.

That would strike me as a sensible middle ground, where all parties’ interests would be protected.1 It still wouldn’t eliminate all cases where companies are accused of stealing and copying ideas, but the remaining cases would be far more legitimate because patent trolls would simply cease to exist. I’m no legal expert, but that definitely sounds better than the current situation.

Now, would someone get me Obama’s phone number, please? I got this.


  1. Well, all parties other than lawyers and patent trolls, that is.

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The original Macintosh User Manual →

February 24, 2015 |

Today I came across this wonderful article from 2007 thanks to Cesar Contreras. It’s an overview of the original Macintosh User Manual, over at peterme.com:

It’s been an intriguing read. It’s a remarkably handsome manual, beautifully typeset, which, considering par for the course at the time was probably Courier with few illustrations, is saying something.

Also, even back in 1984, there was no definite article. You get phrases like “With Macintosh, you’re in charge.” No “the”s or “a”s.

The lack of definite articles in Apple’s product descriptions was one of my favorite things about the company but, for whatever reason, they seem to be doing it less and less these days. If I remember correctly, the original iPhone keynote was one of the last major product introductions where everyone just said “iPhone”, without the “the”. One Steve Jobs quote from that keynote in particular comes to mind (at about the 25:30 mark):

“What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been, and super easy to use. This is what iPhone is”.

Well said, Steve. Well said. And by the way, happy birthday.

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Konost seeks funding for full frame digital rangefinder camera →

February 24, 2015 |

This is interesting. Konost is a company that’s currently seeking funding for their Konost FF project: a full frame digital rangefinder camera, much like the Leica M.

The prototype shown on their website is drop-dead gorgeous, with an all-metal body that looks very similar to the recently introduced Leica T. They claim the Konost FF is “the world’s first true digital rangefinder”. But what does that mean, exactly?:

There are only a handful of digital rangefinder cameras on the market today, a domination held by Leica Cameras. The Konost camera is unique in that instead of using rotating mirrors and prisms in the rangefinder mechanism, it uses a secondary image sensor and image processing algorithms to display the rangefinder patch in the viewfinder. This allows the camera to be all-digital, decreasing manufacturing costs, and does not require high maintenance or re-callibration.

At first sight, it looks like the Konost FF and I could get along pretty well: all manual operation, simple and elegant lines, and it uses the classic M-mount for full compatibility with Leica glass. No mention of price, though. Color me intrigued.

Via The Phoblographer.

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Jordan Steele’s tips for shooting in the cold →

February 24, 2015 |

Jordan Steele:

For many, when the temperatures drop and the snow starts falling, the first impulse is to cozy up inside and pack the gear away. However, I’ve found that the coldest mornings and sometimes even during somewhat heavy snowfall, the conditions can align to provide something special. Obviously, shooting in a blizzard isn’t a great idea most of the time: it can be dangerous as well as yield poor images, as very little can be visible in these situations, but steady snowfall or cold temperatures can lead to some very nice opportunities.

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Steve Huff compares the Olympus E-M1, the Fuji X-T1 and the Sony A7s against each other →

February 23, 2015 |

Steve Huff:

Moral of this story? Anyone who tells you Micro 4/3 cannot hang with larger sensors is 100% incorrect, as I have said for years. Not only does it hold its own, it does better in many scenarios. Also, what was not mentioned yet is the fact that the best made and designed body here is the Olympus E-M1. It is built to a much higher standard the the Fuji X-T1 from solidity, quality of dials and buttons, and unlike the Fuji – ZERO hollowness and zero cheap feeling parts. In other words, I found the Fuji’s build quality to be the lowest of the three from body to dials and switches to the D-Pad, etc. The E-M1 feels and operates like a pro camera, the Fuji feels more toy like. The Sony is solid and hefty without any cheap feeling parts but again, the E-m1 beats it in build quality and feel and control. The new Sony A7II stepped it up and is now about equal to the E-M1 in build.

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