Whiskey Review Round Up: Grand Macnish - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review Round Up: Grand Macnish

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as free samples to review by the party behind them. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.

Picking up a new round of whiskies to review commonly results in what is quite literally a mixed bag. There are highs and lows to any assignment, to be sure. When being presented with five full-sized bottles of Grand Macnish, part of me wondered if the producers had sent their entire on-hand reserve and not simply a representation of their currently available line up. Another part of me wondered how I must have disappointed my editor in the recent past. Neither of those parts of me were in control of my locomotion as I dutifully loaded the haul into my Jeep.

MS Walker is the company behind today’s Grand Macnish. The roots of the label extend back to 1863, making it “…one of the oldest blended scotches still on the market today” according to them. As a distributor, MS Walker itself dates back to 1933. In addition to the range of Scotch blends bearing the Gran Macnish name, the wine and spirits wholesale distributor brings an assortment of vodka, gin, tequila, and other Scotch whiskies to markets worldwide in addition to a host of other adult beverages.

Make no mistake; Grand Macnish is distinctive. In some respects, it sets the mold for distinction. From an aesthetic point of view, there is certainly no other bottle in the market that would be immediately mistaken for the trademark dimpled glassware which houses these blends. In addition, Grand Macnish has had the good fortune of celebrity endorsement. Legendary author Ernest Hemingway has been credited with being a fan of the brand, for what that may or may not be worth.

On to the reviews, but in case you are more curious about the history of this brand, here you go.

Grand Macnish

image via Joshua St. John

Tasting Notes: Grand Macnish 12-Year

The opening salvo from Grand Macnish is launched in the form of their 12-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky. Also known as a dual-cask release, this version features maturation in sherry and bourbon casks. The blend is is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume.

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), aged 12 years, blended Scotch whisky, available below $30 per 750 ml.

Appearance: Amber. Quick legs.

Nose: Soft nose overall. Alcohol and oak. Pretty straight forward.

Palate: Sweet. Banana, vanilla cream, cream soda. Soft caramel candy. Quick and soft. Light flash of a burn. Fun, easy sipper. Solid mixer. Priced extremely well.

Final Thoughts:

This was where my experience with Grand Macnish began. Unfortunately, this was also where it peaked. The bottles are somewhat rare, but they are not expensive. What lies inside a bottle of Grand Macnish 12-year-old is a perfectly serviceable mixer and not at all objectionable sipper. There is no great complexity here, but there is also a conspicuous lack of any flawed elements. If I were to chose a bottle from the range, this would be the one. No doubt about that whatsoever.

Score: 80/100

Tasting Notes: Grand Macnish 15-Year Sherry Cask

It seems everyone in Scotch whisky wants to be in the sherry game. Grand Macnish is no exception. The blend is composed of over 30 whiskies from the Highland and Speyside regions. The whisky serves the first 15 years of its sentence in ex-bourbon barrels before being paroled for six months of supervised release in ex-sherry casks. The final product is then bottled at 40% alcohol by volume.

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), aged 15 years, blended Scotch whisky, available around $35-45 per 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Ever so slightly deeper reddish tones. Otherwise amber with quick legs.

Nose: The most prominent nose of the bunch. I could argue that this makes it the Gonzo of the lineup, but that would be silly and I refuse to do so. Note that quantity does not necessarily correlate with quality. Perfume. Rubbing alcohol. It smells…off.

Palate: Delivers on exactly what the nose promised. Drinks like perfume and rubbing alcohol. I am assuming, anyhow. This isn’t a finish. This is a mercy killing. The nose and palate were not promising, and the finish is cold and quick. Not at all what I hope for in a sherried whisky.

Final Thoughts:

No. No, no, no, no, no.

Score: 68/100

Tasting Notes: Grand Macnish 150th Heritage Blend

2013 marked the 150th anniversary for the Grand Macnish label. The name of this Heritage Blend reflects this occasion. This version features the classic and most well-known orange/peach Grand Macnish label and is available in 1.75 liter bottles if you should be so inclined.

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), no age statement, blended Scotch whisky, a 750 ml bottle will run you under $20. Some listings for 1.75 liter bottles are below that same price point. Yup. Shop around.

Appearance: Amber. Quick legs.

Nose: Disinfectant, orange peel, bandages.

Palate: Citrus up front. Very soft through the palate. Lightly sour. Just not a great deal of flavor overall. Quick and mild burn. A flash. Lingering notes of orange zest.

Final Thoughts:

This edition was probably the most indistinct for me. There were no individual qualities screaming for my attention out of the blend. A very middle-of-the-road release, though that highway may be in dire need of resurfacing.

Score: 72/100

Tasting Notes: Grand Macnish Black Edition

Of course there is a Black Edition. How could there not be?

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), no age statement, blended Scotch whisky, available in the upper $20 range.

Appearance: Orange and amber. Quick legs.

Nose: Disinfectant, bandages, coal dust.

Palate: Soft and sweet initially, opening up to a puff of smoke. Notes of caramel and buttery sweet corn. A bit more character in the lineup. Quick flash of a burn with a somewhat smoky tail. No discernible aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:

This version of Grand Macnish is interesting to me for the smoky characteristics. The rest of the body is as hollow as others in the range, so the smoke is a highlight for sure. It says a lot when smoke is the single most tangible of your characteristics.

Score: 78/100

Tasting Notes: Grand Macnish Six Cask Edition

Are you still with me? Good. Six Cask consists of six single malts representing each of six whisky-producing regions of Scotland, namely Highland, Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, Lowland & the Islands. The MS Walker marketing information refers to this release as “Scotland in a Bottle.”

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), no age statement, blended Scotch whisky, available under $30 per 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Amber. Quick legs.

Nose: Dishwashing detergent. Yup. It is definitely dishwashing detergent that I am picking up.

Palate: Incredibly soft and subtly sweet, but not in a finessed sort of way. Sweet malt notes, a bit of tangerine. Not much flavor or body to speak of. Quick, muted finish. Nearly nonexistent. Left me wondering if that was all there is.

Final Thoughts:

At this point, I am honestly exhausted. Just get the 12 if you must.

Score: 70/100

In Conclusion

I had made a mental note that compiling tasting notes on these blends sometimes felt like reviewing water. The problem with this comparison is that I have recently reviewed water, and it was far more compelling than my experience with Grand Macnish was as a whole. While not the easiest bottles to find on store shelves, the prices of a couple versions cannot be beaten. There is no disputing that.

I do feel that the line up would benefit from streamlining and perhaps focusing on the promise of the 12-year-old bottling. That was the absolute pinnacle for me. The rest of the range were competing for obscurity over complete and utter disappointment.