[Review] Macallan 1989 - Private bottling 56% VS Whisky Galore 40%

I set off on my whisky journey over 5 years ago now. My first stop was Islay and it's peat. I went round the island's distilleries before heading to mainland peat and French peat. I followed peat with sherry; moved on to blends and blended malt and progressively extended my interest to the wider whisky/whiskey horizon. So where do I go next? Independent bottlers is one path I want to continue exploring. The other one is older whisky. However, older whisky can mean two things: older in terms of age statement or older in terms of distillation date. And that is when it starts getting a bit trickier, firstly because these bottles are much rarer to come by, secondly because even if you can find them, they will be rather expensive. So when I come across a new company which prides itself in sourcing, opening and sharing these older/rarer bottles, I am bound to be interested.


The company in question is called Cheaper by the Dram. It was created by Mark Littler, an antiques consultant and whisky broker, over a year ago, with a simple idea in mind: "to bring whisky back to its original audience: the drinker." As per the website, Mark and his team "have sourced the finest rare and collectable whiskies from the world’s best distilleries. [...] By splitting otherwise inaccessibly expensive bottles of whisky into drams, [they] share the cost of a bottle between [their] customers, allowing [us] to enjoy the very best whisky at an accessible price." And I must say, looking at the current drams available on the website, there are definitely some little gems there! Think along the lines of Octomore 1.1, older Macallan, Laphroaig from the 80's, blends from the 50's, Bruichladdich and Highland Park from the 80's, or even a bottle of Glen Flagler, a distillery which only produced whisky between 1964 and 1985! Of course, for some people, spending around £20 on average, for a 3cl measure of whisky is not that cheap, but think about what you're getting... As I mentioned before, where would you find these if you wanted some and how much would a bottle cost you? Probably hundreds if not thousands of pounds. And even if, somehow, you came across an open bottle in a bar, how much do you think you'd have to pay for a 2.5cl dram? I guess if you're at the same point in your whisky journey as I am, it will probably make sense!

As far as presentation is concerned, each individual dram is nicely presented in a sturdy cardboard box and comes with a 'Top Trump' style card with all necessary information about the whisky. Each release is also numbered and it is the number you find on the sample bottle rather than the name of the distillery.

Now for the whisky itself. I am not going to hide the fact that these 2 Macallan samples were given to me by Mark for a review. They are Number 15 and 16. I did however purchase a sample of the Glen Flagler (Number 9) and the last sample available of the 1976 Bruichladdich bottled by Cadenhead (Number 12), which I am looking forward to reviewing soon. But for now, on with the Macallan.

Number 15 is a private bottling of Macallan, distilled in 1989 and bottled for Sandy MacFarlane. It is 18 years old, non-chillfiltered, I guess natural colour and 56%. There is not information regarding the type of cask used but the pale gold colour could indicate an ex-bourbon cask or maybe a less active refill sherry cask. We don't know either how many bottles were released but this one is number 158.
Number 16 was also distilled in 1989 but there is no age stated on the bottle (possibly 12-14 years?) It was bottled at 40% by Duncan Taylor as part of their Whisky Galore series. There is no indication of whether or not the whisky has been chillfiltered or coloured. The colour is also more amber than with Number 15 (more sherry influence?)

Number 15

Nose: Sweet, fresh, zesty with citrus notes, honey, fresh fruit (pear). It gets a little richer after a few minutes in the glass with more oak spice, hints of raisin and milk chocolate.

Palate: Again some citrus, fresh with a little bitterness, spice. Some grapefruit, pepper and milk chocolate. This isn't the flavour profile I would expect from a 18 year-old Macallan. Surprising but very interesting!

Finish: Spicy with some bitter elements, raisin and some nutty oloroso hints too.

With water: Sweeter, creamier but still some spice/bitterness. I think a few drops definitely allow this one to open up.

This is not the dram you'd picture for a cold winter's night by the fire. You definitely need some time with this one. It actually reminds me of a fresher take on my Ben Nevis 21 from Chorlton Whisky. 

Number 16

Nose: Rich, old books, linseed oil, sweet fruity notes, dried fruit, hints of salted caramel, vanilla, some sherry notes and oak spice, a bit dusty.

Palate: Sweet vanilla, oak spice, mix of richer dried fruit (raisin and prunes) with fresher greener notes, Brazil nuts and linseed oil again. This is more recognisable (for me) as a Macallan.

Finish: Drying oak spice, prunes and nuts with a hint of bitterness.

With water: Sweeter nose, the palate is diluted (despite adding only 4 or 5 drops of water) and I get a bit more spice on the finish. No need for water on this one. 

Unlike the 18 year-old, the sherry influence is definitely more obvious on this one!

Wow, what an experience! I am very glad I managed to try these two, even if they were not at all what I was expecting. You think Macallan and rich, sherried, nutty Christmas cake comes to mind but it's not the case here, especially with the 18 year-old. Would have I ever considered buying one of these? At £825 and £325 (retail) a bottle, the answer would have to be no. But for £25/dram, in my opinion, it is money well spent, and it allows you to go an extra mile on your whisky journey!

Slàinte all!

Thank you again Mark for these two.
And if you want to try for yourself, you can find them here:


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