Macallan 12 Yr: 43% abv
Background: We are back to our second review of Macallan. You might observe that we bought a miniature of this single malt, and you might be wondering why. Well that is a perfect opportunity for me to get on my soap box and talk about my problem with Macallan. My problem with Macallan is not that they are a large scale producer of Scotch. My problem is that they have started advertising in partnerships with people NOT involved in Scotch. Do you know what that is? It is a distraction from what really matters. Macallan’s late and “great” 22 year old “The Flask” Scotch is a partnership between Oakley and Macallan. What does Oakley know about Scotch? Nothing. To make matters worse, the 22 year old Scotch is $1,500. I haven’t heard anything about the Scotch itself in all of Macallan’s advertising. That is why KCM chooses not to buy a lot of Macallan. They are focused more on brand recognition than they are their spirits. That being said, Macallan 12 is a very common single malt to see at the bar, and you need to know if you should take your chances with it.
Nose: This is probably one of the simpler and more straightforward sherried Scotches available. You certainly get that right in the nose, with a huge sherried, raison-like smell, with even some red grape and confectionary smells in the nose. It has an interesting blast of sugary sweetness to it, and throws some vanilla in to compliment the soft, pleasant aromas. Then again, this distracts you from the malt character that you might be getting otherwise. There isn’t much grain to be found here. Instead, you might find some vegetal qualities, with even some rose-like floral compliments, albeit they aren’t hugely prominent. Interestingly, there is also a rather leathery quality to the Scotch which you wouldn’t really expect from a 12 Year old, but it is a pleasant contrast to the sweetness. Despite all of these pleasant notes, you will still get some tingling and burn from the smell, and a mild spiciness, akin to cloves and mild white pepper. Overall, the sherry dominates the smell, but take the time and you will find some interesting alternative smells in there.
Arrival: Despite the strong smell, the arrival to this Scotch is actually pretty light. This certainly has a taste which creeps into the picture. It does not start off big or eventful, breaking down the doors. What it does do, is introduce some initial sweetness and gives off some graininess that you missed in the nose. There is also a hint of black pepper that can be evoked if the whisky is rolled around the tongue. On a different note, now and again you might start to notice an almost plastic-like taste coming forward in the later part of the arrival. I don’t get it all of the time, but it can be slightly unpleasant if you hold onto the flavor too long. You will start getting the sherry in the arrival, but not nearly as much as you would think. Just wait…
Body: Here is where you start to get the sherry profile in the whisky, but it also introduces a decadent milk chocolate flavor right up front. It is a sweet, whipped chocolate and sherry flavor, which inspires. Why not make a sherry chocolate cake? First person who does this, let me know how it works out. You will also notice a mild pepper note will carry over from the arrival, along with some malty barley. The body does have a pretty big presents with big, sherry flavor.
Finish: This is where the sherry really takes over, which is saying a lot considering how much it plays into the whole presentation. There is some significant maltiness that comes through at the end here, which is complimented with the notes of vanilla, milk, and rich chocolate which resonate from the body through the end of the Scotch. This is a pretty substantial finish, but doesn’t strike me as the most complex either. Like in the nose, you get a sugary, confectionary finish which has some semblance to Drambuie.
Nose: Well you might suspect that water will have an impact on this Scotch. It hasn’t really changed the nose at all. I mean, it is really exactly the same. Even after giving it fifteen minutes to marry with the Scotch and open up the flavors, it smells overbearingly of sherry.
Arrival: We have really pulled forward some grain character after adding water. It seems the arrival provides a much more malty and earthy character after a little water. It is actually a nice addition to the arrival, and it is much appreciated. Vanilla is also a big player here.
Body: The body doesn’t change much, although water does seem to help remove some of the less favorable tasting notes. There is still some pepper coming through here, but the sherry seems to become drier with the addition of water. There is some spiciness in the body as well, that wasn’t nearly as present before adding the water.
Finish: The finish actually pushes back some of the sherry after water, and brings out some vegetal and custard-like notes. It is a pleasant addition of complexity that really makes this a more interesting and diverse experience. There is definitely something with the aftertaste of fresh greens that jumps to the forefront after a few seconds. We got really excited when we started to taste some apple and even more so some pear in the finish, complimenting and adding to the raison quality that was already there. The diversification of fruit flavors makes this a less boring experience. After sitting for a second, wait and you might get some pleasant subtle nuttiness coming through as well. On the flip side of things, as was present in the arrival of this Scotch, there does appear to be a small hint of some worn flavors, that seem tired and almost stale. This comes in the aftertaste, and we believe this probably comes from the overuse of the cask or even just less quality grain.
Final Comments: This is actually one of my favorite Scotches to get out at the bar. It is affordable, pleasant, and more complex than it initially seems. It is also fairly easy to find if you aren’t looking for it at McDonalds. When comparing this to Glenfiddich or Glenlivet 12, I always grab this particular Scotch. There is no comparison in quality and complexity, and I truly enjoy the simple, but not overbearing presence of sherry, probably even more than I like drinking sherry by itself. That being said, it does not compare in the maturity of flavors, to a Glenfarclas or Highland Park, but I don’t think it is really meant to. I believe Macallan’s quality will continue to diminish, but for the time being, this is actually a really decent offering for a reasonable price.
Why you’d buy it: You want to know what a sherry-aged Scotch is.
Why you wouldn’t: You are like us, and don’t like ridiculous marketing.