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Water of Life – McNair

We have covered the fantastic Speyside distillery GlenAllachie and their tremendous expressions in all their glory as part of our series before, so when I became aware that its master distiller was going to channel his alchemy in blending peated and unpeated whiskies from both Speyside and Islay, it instantaneously established itself firmly on my to-try list.

Under the moniker McNair, a triumvirate of blended whiskies was released housed in a striking packaging and it could not wait to see what the new expressions were going to be like.

McNair’s entry level peated Lum Reek clocks in at 46% ABV and having been matured in a variety of casks, i.e. first-fill Bourbon, Oloroso sherry, virgin oak and red wine casks, hopes for an exquisite complexity were set high from the get-go.

Given my preferences, I was quite delighted when wafts of gentle smoke were amongst the first aromas that tickled my nostrils, framed by peaty outlines that are inhabited by apples, vanilla, pears and overall sweet notes that nuancefully play with the Islay notes.

The top of the roof experiences an extension of what the nose promised, i.e. honeyed peat, highlights of dark chocolate sprinkled with gingery spice, just a tad of zesty, citrussy tanginess and a seaside saltiness.

As expected, McNair’s Lum Reek 12-Year-Old takes things up a notch in terms of the aforementioned aromas and flavours being more pronounced: On the nose, the hint of smoke now enters bonfire-y territory and the accompanying aromas are more subtle, with cinnamon, dark chocolate and citrus being amongst the more prominent.

The palate is caressed with a nice creaminess texture that carries a foundation of delicious peat on which cocoa, gingery cinnamon and honeyed chocolate.

The medium-length finish is informed more of the delicate creaminess that now reverberates the bitter lemony chocolate notes around butterscotch flavours and keeps riffing on the peatiness.

Now, going about this feature in a vertical manner, we now come to the expected crescendo, i.e. MacNair’s Lum Reek 21-Year-Old.

Upping the ABV to 48% and having been matured in Oloroso sherry, Virgin Oak and red wine casks, this one ups the game quite significantly.

Upon uncorking, the nose is greeted with a bouquet of mouth-watering smoky peat. Ahhh! In the peaty aftermath there is a lot to be discovered, as there are stone fruits, nutty chocolate, pineapple, coconuts and cherries.

On the palate, things get complex fast: Everything that the nose promised is there, however, it is no longer compartmentalized and now the peaty smoke cross-pollinates the berries, tropical flavours interact with heathery honey and dark chocolate is married with liquorice. Delicioso!

The elongated finish bookends a veritable experience, that draws on the beauty and power of peat without being overwhelming, with loads of subtle nuance to discover.

In my world, McNair just raised the bar in blending excellence with smoke at its very core and I can only join in with the traditional Scottish toast and chant "Long may your lum reek!", i.e. an encouragement to ensuring that your chimney keeps firing on.


image from company website

September 7, 2020

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