Macallan 12 Year is a classic sherry-cask-matured Speyside that makes a very good gateway into the single malt category. Flavors of fruitcake, warmed bread, soaked raisins and clove lead to a warm, medium to long finish noted with pear, cigar and peppery clove notes.
Classification: single malt scotch
Company: Edrington Group
Distillery: New Macallan Distillery
Cask: Ex-oloroso (Jerez) sherry oak casks
Still Type: Forsyths alembic-style Scottish copper pot stills
Proof: 86 (43% ABV)
Aged: 12 years (minimum)
- Very good entry into the single malt category, as well as a solid go-to
- Fans of first-fill sherry-aged whiskies will be pleasantly sated.
- It may be too light-bodied for Islay whisky drinkers seeking smoke and peat.
- Those who prefer their scotch aged in ex-bourbon barrels won’t find what they’re seeking in this sherry bomb.
Color: Deep gold
Nose: Strong raisin, currant, plum and baking-spice notes, with hints of honey and heather as it opens up
Palate: Upfront, it’s a fruitcake medley of warm bread, soaked raisins, cloves and a hint of black pepper. On the midpalate, it’s medium- to full-bodied, with a buttery softness and more baked bread. Toward the back of the throat, you get a warm spice-and-fruit exit, with a hint of wet tobacco leaf.
Finish: Medium to medium-long finish of baked pear, cigar, black pepper and clove
Macallan is a brand in an enviable position: It’s one of the largest single malt distilleries in Scotland with a dedicated fan base. It has solid and popular entry-level options but also boasts one the most robust (and expensive) upper-tier portfolios with 40-, 50- and 60-year expressions regularly released and auctioned for ridiculous sums. In 2018, the label, which dates back to 1824, opened a brand-spanking-new distillery and visitor experience. The highly stylized state-of-the-art distillery with a grass-covered roof boasts 24 of Macallan’s “curiously small” copper pot stills designed specifically to create an “oilier” and more full-bodied scotch. That said, thanks to a lack of peat and the use of sherry-seasoned casks for aging, the overall effect of most of this Speyside range is a rounder, somewhat more fruit-driven experience compared with many single malts.
The 12-year sherry-oak-cask bottling probably embodies Macallan at its most essential. Once, all of the brand’s expressions were aged exclusively in oloroso sherry casks sourced from Jerez, Spain. (The brand claims to use the vast majority of all first-fill sherry casks employed in scotch.) These days, the double- and triple-oak-cask series means fans of bourbon-barrel-finished scotch have options as well. On the nose, the sherry influence is immediately evident, with dried raisin and spice notes dominating before oak or heather appear. On the mouth, it’s indeed rich and “oily” but with the clarity of a fine cigar. Again, the dried fruits and baking spices lead but with just enough body and spice to keep things interesting through the medium-long finish.
While it’s primarily intended to be sipped neat, the sweet-and-spice nature of the spirit lends itself nicely to a Rob Roy (or Bobby Burns). It stands up nicely in a Penicillin (in place of the blended scotch component). It also pairs beautifully with bittersweet chocolate or a creamy blue cheese.
There’s really very little to complain about in this bottle. Fans of bolder Islay whiskies may find it a bit too easy-going, and scotch drinkers who prefer the caramel and toffee influence from ex-bourbon barrels will likely shy away. Regular drinkers of Aberlour’s non-chill-filtered sherry-driven options may find Macallan’s dram to be somewhat less complex and too “mainstream.”
Instead of using existing Spanish oak barrels from the sherry industry, Macallan selects a mix of new European and American oak barrels to send to Spain, where sherry is used to season the barrels for a year or more. In 2018, the 12-year-old got a stylish new bottle makeover.
The bottom line: Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak cask provides an excellent entry into the world of single-malt scotch, though be aware of the sherry influence.