Age: 12 years old
Obtaining a license to distil legally in 1824, the Macallan distillery is located in a beautiful manor house right on the banks of the river Spey. However, due to a set of regulatory changes in 2009, the Macallan is officially no longer a Speyside distillery and its bottles are now labelled as a Highland malt. Unburdened by legal wrangling, whisky experts nonetheless continue to consider Macallan as a Speyside malt. Being located only a mile away from Aberlour distillery, which is a Speyside whisky, this seems to make sense to me.
Either way, the Speyside/Highland debate is somewhat irrelevant, as Macallan stands out in whichever category you place it. It is praised by experts as one of the finest malts in production, and often sells for record prices at auctions. Macallan can even boast the likes of James Bond and Harvey Specter among its fans. Such marketing has paid off: Macallan is now the third best selling single malt in the world by volume. While I never ranked Macallan as one of my favourite whiskies, I recently tried the Macallan 12 years old Sherry Oak in a blind tasting and placed it head and shoulders above the other drams on offer that night. Where other whiskies might receive an additional few months in sherry casks, Macallan 12 years old was matured exclusively in sherry casks, and it shows. This is an exquisitely smooth and luxurious dram, to be savoured in front of a hearth fire on a cold winter’s day.
Colour: Burnished amber
Nose: The sherry maturation immediately leaves an impression. The nose has a deep, complex, oaky character and could easily belong to a much older whisky. Once the initial burst of sherry fades, scents of dried fruit and walnuts swirl in. Reminiscent of an underground bodega.
Palate: The body is oily and exceptionally smooth. Rich sherry flavours also dominate here, supported by notes of caramel, Christmas pudding and more dried fruit. Then a complex layer of oaky notes opens up, with toasted vanilla and the slightest hint of nutmeg.
Finish: Silky smooth and medium in length. Sweet fruity tones give way to a pleasantly bitter aftertaste of aged wood.
Verdict: Wow, this has to be one of the best 12 year old whiskies on the market. It displays a complexity usually only found in whiskies of much more advanced maturation. Beautifully balanced, the intense sherry flavours somehow do not drown out the oaky influences. Although this is a very pricey 12 year old, it is also an exceptional whisky for this age group. Much like the Macallan 12 year old itself then, the price-quality ratio is well-balanced.