The Macallan. Since 1824, that name has meant a lot to many people. These days it is synonymous with two things: 1) quality Speyside whiskies, and 2) fanaticism of the highest order. Any new limited release by The Macallan seems to require entering a ballot, and (im)patiently waiting in hope for someone to take your money. And often, that can be a lot of your money.
But on what foundations has all this hype been built on? Well, you just have to look at their core ranges to find out. Their mainstay and signature of those core ranges is the Sherry Oak range. These comprise a series of single malt, age statement releases that have spent their entire lives maturing in Olorosso sherry seasoned oak casks. Here, we are looking at the youngest sibling and entrant to that roster: the 12 year old.
As the name suggests, this single malt Speysider has spent its 12 years housed in handpicked ex-Sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. The casks themselves have been “Sourced, crafted, toasted, and seasoned under the watchful eye of the Master of Wood, the hand-picked casks are delivered to the demanding specifications of the Whisky Mastery Team.” [ed: Some phenomenal job titles there!]
The final product is captured at 40% ABV in The Macallan’s signature broad-shouldered bottles, with an RRP of £70 (direct from The Macallan).
Sherry oak by name and (lots of) sherry and oak by nature. By that I mean that there are lots of both the sherry and oak flavours wafting out here. It has a strong perfume-y smell spouting from the glass too, like an oak polish in fact. With a bit of time it reveals steeped fruits – think booze-soaked raisins, sultanas, oranges, and some stewed apples – and a lot of festive baking spices such as cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg.
A surprisingly light body brings rich flavours with it. Dark chocolate and orange join those boozy fruits from the nose. There’s a little taste of cherries now too. All those festive spices are there again and melding with the boozy fruits, bringing Christmas cake to mind.
The fruits fade away but the spicy tingle goes on. Black pepper, stem ginger, and clove close out the tasting notes with a final dry oak flavour.
Well, they are not messing around here. This might be the early entrant into the Sherry Oak range, but it seems that they are not scrimping on any quality or compromising in any way on their output. You’d hope so for £70 a bottle – and that’s direct from Macallan without adding the postage charge. I’m currently seeing this at £72-77 in stores. And therein lies the issue for me. It is undeniably good. It is undeniably quality. BUT £70+ for a 12yo seems like madness.
There’s no doubt it is a satisfying whisky and there’s so much hype around Macallan that people are obviously paying for it. At the time of writing, the remainder of the Sherry Oak range (18, 25, 30, & 40) is completely sold out online. Every release of theirs that I have tried, including this one, has a beautiful quality about it and they clearly have high standards that they have set for themselves – it does exude a certain type of class. If I was being hyper-critical I would say that from the nose and flavours I was expecting the body/texture to be a little bit thicker and unctuous. Then again, that is what I did get with the 18yo Sherry Oak to be fair (some quick fire tasting notes here). The cost though is just putting things ever beyond reach. I guess that is their prerogative but that makes me not want to like it as a result. But I do like it. I think it is distinctive. It has the quality you’d want. It is their own high benchmark for an entrant whisky. It is just overpriced compared to others out there, but a price is just what you’re willing to pay for something, right?
Sample disclosure: This sample was purchased from Master of Malt using Drinks by the Dram. All notes are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.