The Macallan 12 years Sherry Oak

"The nose is a pleasant take-off that does not fit with the disappointing quickly fading palate"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

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The name of Macallan, or rather I should say Thè Macallan (please do not forget the The), is undisputed associated with two things: sherry and luxury. Already, or I should rather say in particular, before the take-over by the Edrington Group in 1999, Macallan has made a name for its rich quality of sherry-matured whisky. Based on that, the Edrington Group build a brand that focussed on the luxury whisky market, calling it the ‘cognac of whiskies’. Not rarely can you read the news of another old Macallan that has been sold for a record money on some auction. Controversially, their current range has been subject of many discussions, in particular the quality, or should I say the lack of. The shift towards the 1824-range without any age statements, and solely based on colour, has enraged many Macallan enthausiasts. Good news for those is that in recent years Macallan has refocussed towards age statements on their sherry cask and fine oak (which also contains bourbon cask-matured spirit) series. A new £100M version of the distillery is currently build and composed of a rather distinctive subterranean design that reflects a Scottish broch.

Macallan is fairly open about their method of acquiring sherry casks. The were among the first that created so-called ‘bespoke’ casks, which means that they control the selection of the wood, the coopering of the casks and the seasoning using, in their case, oloroso sherry liquid. A smart move in retrospect as the limited availability and high costs of sherry casts have become a major problem in the whisky market. They also openly admit that they season the casks for a short time (probably months) with sherry, and not feed the fantasy that casks are used in which sherry has been matured for many, many years. For more information on sherry casks in the whisky industry I refer you to an excellent and elaborate article written by whisky and sherry blogger Ruben Luyten, here.


It starts with a reasonably sherried nose containing all the usuals (raisins, Christmas cake, dried figs), along with a hint of leather.  After a while it becomes nuttier and goes more towards cereals, dried apricots and complete beehive of honey. The spices are nicely balanced, also containing some slightly metallic notes, and is not too overly sherried. A pleasant take-off.


The mouth is much lighter with candied oranges, nuts, apricots and peaches, (light) milk chocolate, caffe latte, topped off with a few pieces of red fruits. Then it pretty much fades away. Too bad. I was expecting much more sherry on the palate, but that is not per see a bad thing. What also bothers me is that there is something off-putting in there, a chemical, slightly burned, metallo-herbal note. The finish is light and fast-fading.


At first sight this indeed has class, the packaging, the developing nose, the initial taste. Unfortunately this is only the surface, beneath that it feels thin, incoherent and   shallow. Are these the famous seasoned sherry casks? Well, that is a bummer then. This was my first Macallan, but I think I really should try some of the better bottlings from yesteryear.

What others say

Whiskybase: 80.20 (7 votes) * Ruben @Whiskynotes: 85/100 * Serge @Whiskyfun: 81/100
Read for yourself

Many thanks to the for the sample (part of the Drinks By The Dram Whisky Advent Calendar Tweet Tasting)!


these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
Sweet <-> Spicy
Nose 83.5%
Taste 81%
Balance 78%
Depth 75%
Finish 75%