Andy Simpson

Weekly Insight by Andy Simpson – November 18, 2015

Macallan Archival Series, Folio 1 – Drink, Collect or Invest?

Three of us recently found ourselves leaving Easter Elchies House under the shadow of vast looming cranes… the sort used to move big bits of shiny new distillery.

Having just tried the NAS Archival Series, Folio 1 (ASF1 from here-on in) in a nosing, we decided to make a purchase from the distillery shop… Macallan have been wisely releasing ASF1 in small, almost weekly, batches at the distillery to avoid the rabid Craigellachie-contagion known as Mac-madness, which usually accompanies a distillery only release.

massive queues in Easter Elchies Estate
Macalloonacy as frenzy grips the quiet Easter Elchies estate.

There were just two bottles left with more to be released at a later date.

One metal presentation box had a broken hinge (those hinges need sorting for future releases) but the other was in tip-top condition. Safe in the knowledge my bottle would be opened and consumed, I volunteered to take the broken packaging.

“WHAT, are you absolutely sure” was the cry from the Mac-colleague in the shop. “But, these are designed for collectors; you want a broken one?!”… An interesting retort. Clearly I was buying the bottle for the liquid on this occasion; the packaging went where packaging usually goes, nice as it is. But there-in lies an interesting concept: A bottle designed for ‘the collectors’. I actually applaud Macallan for being open about this. There’s so much bullshit flying round at the moment, so for someone to actually say, “know what, we had collectors in mind too when we bottled this” is refreshingly open. Being an almost life-long whisky collector I felt strangely included.

That does then beg the question of whether collector focussed releases contain lower quality liquid in the understanding that many will be left unopened? We shall see…

Macallan Archival Series, Folio 1 – DCI (Drink, Collect, Invest) Rated

Macallan Archival Whisky series

(D)rink : 7.5/10

There’s an immediate hit of meaty, slightly rubbery sulphur on the nose which I’m not keen on but can see many will like this character. That flashes off quickly in the glass. What’s underneath is actually really good Macallan. It’s not Macallan of old and it’s not going to compete with such as the early 1970’s 18 year olds but it’s not meant to. The dominant character is medium rich autumnal fruit and oak. It’s not Chrimble-cake in a glass, rather more subtle. The nose is more expressive than the palate which could benefit from a little more oomph. There’s something I’ve just realised: This is the first bottle of Macallan I’ve bought on a retail basis, I think, since 2012 when I fell out of love with a bottle of Macallan Gold (I remember describing it as 2012’s most disappointing dram). So, as a liquid, ASF1 is good. We’ll come onto price later as here’s not quite the place.

(C)ollect : 8.5/10

It’s Macallan. There are 2,000 bottles of it and it’s eye-catchingly, shelf stealingly packaged… and again, it’s Macallan!

Just on that, the packaging won’t be to everyones preference, it is massively bulky and heavy. Like fellow Edrington sibling Highland Park’s Valhalla series, it’ll eat shelf space. Can’t remember where I heard this but I’m sure I recall mention that there could be 24 releases under the Archival series. That gives longevity to a collector… maybe too much? Being this is the first release, it’ll always be in demand. A smaller release, higher ABV and/or an age statement/vintage would have seen a higher collectors score.

(I)nvest : 8/10

At £195 per bottle, it isn’t the first release of Bowmore Devil’s Casks in terms of a pricing-gift (see how long that lasted though!), so gains are not going to be on that scale. Nor are they going to be on the same scale as the discontinued Easter Elchies single casks. That said, the first bottles to hit the open market moved for c£400. New-release-curve then kicked in and prices currently hover around the £250 – £280 mark. Another worthy note is a bottle recently sold through an online whisky retailer for £540, further highlighting demand. We’ve also seen the concept of a shiny new series of bottles come to absolutely nothing (Balvenie’s Craftsmen series had just one release, the Cooper) which, if ASF1 were to be the sole bottling, would place it in the same investment league as many singular limited releases – Woodland, Ghillies Dram, Re-Awakening etc – but if the series is to be continued, the first bottle should still be worth buying at today’s auction prices.

DCI Score 24/30

Rated buy: But heavily dependent on the continuation of the series and also to some degree the general health of Macallan as a brand. A must-have for the Macallan collector and still at a broadly accesible price. More heavily weighted towards the collector but, given patience, investors should see steady gains. It’s way above average as a drinker’s dram from a quality perspective. If you’re passing, there might be the odd one still kicking round at the distillery.