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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Single Malt Report: The Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak (w/guest reporter!)

Distillery: Macallan
Brand: Sherry Oak
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

There it is.  The gateway drug.

Sure the Johnny Walkers or Glenfiddich 12 can be starters too, but something seems to happen once the drinker takes to Mac 12.  Perhaps it's the first Scotch that he drank neat.  Perhaps it's the first Scotch that she actually enjoyed.

It's the one I've been recommending for years.  If you're new to single malts and have the money on hand (and spending $12 on a drink at the bar doesn't offend you), try a Macallan 12 neat.  Or perhaps with an ice cube or two if the flavor is too intense.  From there I usually recommend Redbreast 12 (yes, it's not Scotch, but I don't segregate), then Oban 14.  After that, we need to go drinking together.

But Mac 12 is the starter.  It has a creamy texture, a bright nose, and possibly the most accessible sherry-finish palate.  It's also very easy to find in bars, grocery stores, and small liquor shops.

In the US, it's simply known as The Macallan 12 year old.  In other markets it's called The Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak due to the prevalence of their Fine Oak brand.

Upon return from the Long Beach Scottish Festival on February 18th, my Gaelic-Gallic (raised in the Highlands and Glasgow) buddy James and I took on the challenge of a three-part Macallan Taste Off.  I'd been looking forward to this for some time.  We've enjoyed some exceptional whiskies in the past and these bottles of Mac were burning a hole in The Whisky Closet.

We'd each had these three Macallans in the past, but never side by side by side.  We started with the 12y Sherry, using a 50mL mini I'd obtained from some happy hooch seller in town.

First, notes from James:

Color - Medium to dark gold, some orange, a brassy look
Nose - Light caramel scent, nutty in back, walnuts perhaps?; reminded me of an ice cream and whisky dessert "de mystère" I used to have with my grandfather Pappy P.
Palate - Dark chocolate and sherry
Finish - A good long fin full of cherries

Then, my notes.  But first, damn, I want a French ice cream and whisky dessert!

Color - Dark gold with orange hints
Nose - Caramel, chocolate rum cake, walnuts, almond extract
Palate - Thickly textured; Cocoa, nutty, fresh cherries, sherry, some alcohol heat; adding water sweetens it up
Finish - Decent length, sherry and cherries

High approvals from both of us.  It has the classic Macallan nose, the only nose I have pinpointed in a blind tasting (James was there, as was considerable alcohol that night at The Daily Pint).  A very lush sherried, nutty, caramel, chocolatey nose.  I'd even argue that the scent can be better than the palate at times.

This was the first time I'd noticed the cherries, an element I'd found in Glenfarclas's sherried whiskys.  Other folks have found honey, currants, brown sugar, pipe tobacco, and cinnamon.

As per all of these descriptors, Macallan 12 works best neatly as an evening sipper.  You can add water, ice, or club soda to it if you choose, but go ahead and try it neat once in a while.  For dessert, perhaps.  Or breakfast.

Pricing - Excellent at $40, but don't pay more than $50 because someone somewhere has it for less
Rating - 87

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at one of Mac 12's older siblings...


  1. Either my palate or the whisky has changed but I recently opened a new bottle of Macallan 12 and found myself underwhelmed. Sure it's a good sherry bomb but it's boring. I had more fun with an indie ex-bourbon cask Macallan than the 12 which I find has too much sherry covering up the distillery character.

    You've got the Diageo boycott but I'm going to stop buying official Macallans.

    1. Yup, this report here was the last time I purchased a sherry oak Macallan. I bought one Fine Oak last year, but I'm done now. Their NAS color-coded release system certainly didn't inspire me to buy more of their stuff either.

      You're the third person this year who has told me that their new bottle of Mac 12 was boring and/or unimpressive. And I REALLY don't recommend you buy a bottle of the 18...

  2. i love this article so much. i have been able to grab some knowledge. the macallan brand is best brand. thanks