The good news is Scotch exports are now at a record high – in 2011 they hit a whopping £4.23bn. The bad news is that this unquenchable thirst from overseas has left many distillers struggling to find stocks of sufficient age.
One way round the problem is the no-age-statement whisky – and you can expect to see a lot more of those in the future, starting with The Macallan’s new 1824 Series, which encourages consumers to focus on the colour of the liquid, rather than a number on a bottle. The range of four whiskies, which replaces the sub-18yo Fine Oak and Sherry Oak expressions, is wholly aged in sherry casks of increasing activeness, resulting in increasingly intense colour: Gold (RRP £35/70cl), Amber (c.£35/70cl), Sienna (c.£75/70cl) and Ruby (c.£125/70cl).
We’ve so far tasted the Gold which is all buttery Victoria sponge, orange cream, golden syrup and a touch of warming, spiced shortbread. But rather more interesting is still the concept itself. While Macallan do not add caramel to their range, the addition of caramel is not, in fact, banned in Scotch whisky making, making colour a rather unreliable indicator of quality and age. Macallan 1824: a pioneering piece of marketing or a cynical exercise in stock management?