...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Macallan 12 year old Fine Oak

Readers of my earliest whisky reviews (if any of you good souls still come here) may remember my fondness for Macallan's Fine Oak series. In fact, I believe I am the only person on the planet who liked their Fine Oaks better than their Sherry Oaks. Macallan retired the Fine Oak series from their major markets right around the time they launched their stupefying color-coded NAS range. But then, around two years ago, a Double Cask and Triple Cask series was launched...

Now one can find the Sherry Oak, Fine Oak, 1824, color-coded, The Editions, Double Cask, Triple Cask, Rare Cask, Quest and fancy decanter ranges co-existing on retailers' shelves all in the same country at the same. That is some crystal clear branding right there.

Back to the ol' Fine Oaks. Fine Oak 12 year old has some history in my household. Eight years ago, Kristen had a pour of Fine Oak 12 while on a business trip in San Francisco (without me!). I couldn't find a bottle in the US because it wasn't released in the US. I also couldn't find a bottle in London the following year because I was told it wasn't released in the UK. Fine Oak 12 was, at that point in time, only for sale in Asia (so I was informed by a UK retailer). So I never had a chance to try it.

It was in the UK, Scot-land in particular, that I found this mini in 2016. A random tourist shop had a shelf full of these minis, minis that had been hanging around for 3 years. And now I get to try Macallan 12 year old Fine Oak for the first time.
Distillery: Macallan
Range: Fine Oak
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: American oak bourbon casks, American oak sherry casks, Spanish oak sherry casks
Bottling Code: L0509S L3
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtration? Yes
Caramel coloring? Yep

Re: color. Mit some serious farbstoff. Encroaching on DiageoGold™. There's a burst of anise on the nose upon early sniffs. Then lemons, prunes, barrel char and citronella candles. Apples and vanilla. More oak, grape jam and chocolate notes appear after 20 minutes. The palate is mostly vanilla and sweet sherry. Lots of grape stuff and roasted nuts. Lime lollipops and ground cloves. More nuts and bitter chocolate show up after a while. The sweet finish is loaded with citrus and grape candy. PB&J with a little more salt.

This is almost surgical in its inoffensiveness. Had it been bottled at 46%abv, or even 43%, then Macallan would have had a popular classic on its hands. As it is there are two issues. First, all the dilution and filtration has rendered the palate's texture thin as a blend. Secondly, those practices have been so aggressive, and the cask batch likely so large, that the whisky has been left devoid of specific style. It could be from any distillery anywhere. Lack of character is its character. It drinks very well, though.

Availability - some European retailers
Pricing - $45-$75 
Rating - 83


  1. Having read the tasting notes first, it took me a while to realize you're talking about the 12yo Fine Oak and not the 10yo Fine Oak. Which is why I was surprised to hear that this was so hard to get anywhere on the planet. The 10yo, on the other hand, is equally pleasant/inoffensive, but much more available - when you lived in CA all you had to do to get one is add $32 or so to your Trader Joe's bill. (I also remember a sample you sent me, many years ago, with the 17yo - or was it 15yo - Fine Oak. That was one fine oak indeed!)

    1. 'Twas the 17! That was my favorite whisky for a couple years (pre-blog). Per winesearcher, Fine Oak 10yo is still widely available in a number of states for $45-$70(!). The old TJ's price was right on.

  2. Michael, here in Canada we were stuck with the Fine Oak series for a few years after they withdrew the classic Macallans. They were not all that well-received after which they replaced them with the 1824 series, which fell flat on their collective faces. I have no idea what Macallan is any longer.

    I did have a Fine Oak 18 a few years ago which was lovely. But here the entry-level was Fine Oak 10 which was Not Good. Not sure if we ever got the 12 or not as I have flushed most of that experiment from my memory.

    1. "I have no idea what Macallan is any longer." Ditto. I mean, I can say some sarcastic stuff, but they've brought this upon themselves. Their ranges are so clogged and cluttered that they're bound to confuse or bore anyone from a whisky newbie to a long time enthusiast.