A review of the MacNair’s range has been long overdue. I first heard about Billy Walker’s plans for this range in early 2018, when I visited GlenAllachie for an article on Scotchwhisky.com. He acquired the rights to MacNair’s as part of the GlenAllachie deal with Chivas. At the time he said, “we’re going to launch [it] as a blended malt, or as I would know it as an old man, as a vatted malt.”
Cue the end of 2018 and true to his word, Billy Walker presented a trio of new, richly peated vatted malts. The no-age-statement expression has been matured in first-fill ex-bourbon, Oloroso sherry, virgin oak and red wine casks. The 12-year-old is created from whiskies matured in first-fill bourbon, ex-red wine and Pedro Ximénez casks. Finally, the 21-year-old has spent time in ex-Oloroso casks, virgin oak and red wine casks.
It’s not quite clear which malt whiskies are included in the MacNair’s recipe, although Billy Walker lifted part of the veil in a recent blog post. “In terms of the peated malts in MacNair’s Lum Reek, there is some Islay Peat, and surprisingly some Mainland peat from a distillery which would surprise even the most informed consumers who know a lot about malt whiskies and what various distilleries have released over the last five, ten fifteen, twenty years. I would prefer not to disclose the name of the distillery, but personally it was a surprise that The GlenAllachie Distillers Co could get access to this distillery and style. So, there are definitely one or two very big surprises in there!”
I find blended malts an interesting, maybe even underutilized whisky category that allow a master blender to really tap into their creativity. If done right, it should lead to new and sometimes even unexpected layers of complexity.
MacNair’s Lum Reek Peated Small Batch (46%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Sweet peat smoke with notes of vanilla, lemon peel, bran and draff, but also a whiff of tobacco, heather and hemp rope. Taste: Pleasantly smoky with a touch of charcoal and diesel, but also somewhat salty and with bright citrus zest. Finish: A whisper of rubber, peat and barley sugar. Medium in length.
A straightforward peated malt that’s clearly very balanced, but could do with a little more complexity. Easy sipper.
MacNair’s Lum Reek Peated 12 Years (46%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Very light and gentle peat with a nice earthy touch, but also apricots, vanilla pods and peaches. There’s a whisper of melted butter and pralines, with just a touch of damp oak and prunes. Taste: Creamy texture. Good balance between the sherry and peaty notes. The subtle spices (pepper, nutmeg) enhance the dried red fruits, creosote and diesel oil. Finish: More of the above with a slight winey edge. Long.
More depth and richness compared to it’s younger sibling. Certainly less smoky also, the extra maturation has worked well here.
MacNair’s Lum Reek Peated 21 Years (48%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Slightly green but with subtle smoke, cigar tobacco and touches of sandalwood, but also notes of vanilla, orange peel, sultanas and peaches. Finally just a touch of menthol and cocoa powder. Clearly the most mature of the three. Taste: Velvety and buttery, there’s a good amount of leather and tobacco, combined with gentle pepper and pleasing oaky notes. A whisper of honey, chocolate and fudge too. Finish: Lingering spices and a touch of pralines.
A high-quality blended malt by Billy Walker that shows its age in all the right ways.
Working through the MacNair’s range, the whiskies show a natural progression. From a fairly straightforward (despite the creative cask recipe) young peater to an elegant and mature malt whisky with subtle smoke influences. Each is a quality product, but the MacNair’s 21 Years clearly steals the show.
Samples provided by The GlenAllachie Distillers Co