The Macallan 12 Year

Macallan 12The Macallan is one of the undisputed titans of the Scotch industry. It is also one of the top sellers of Scotch in the world, close behind Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet. Though classified by recent whisky regulations as a Highland Malt, many experts (and the distillery themselves, sometimes) consider it a Speyside. Being a very large and well-selling brand for almost 200 years, it is perhaps no surprise that  Macallan boasts deep offerings across four distinct lines. Another record the distillery has repeatedly broken is for the most expensive bottle of whisky sold at auction. The current holder is The Macallan “M” Imperiale, sold in 2014 for $628,000.

This is the first time Scotchology has reviewed what might be considered an entry-level Scotch (or perhaps a slight step up, given the price), and one of the more popular ones at that. We wanted to draw attention to this because after trying more complex and expensive single malts, we had to take a collective step back to not judge a whisky like this through a lens we shouldn’t. We used a Glenlivet 12 as a control in between tastings of this whisky. The things we do for a good review.

Distillery: The Macallan
Region: Speyside (Highland)
Age: 12 years
Strength: 43%
Price: $50.99
Location: Moray
Maturation: Sherry cask
Nose: Hay, sherry, toast, seaweed, syrup
Palate: Clover, toast, sherry, raisin, spice
Finish: Peat, green pepper, tobacco, butyric, warm

Comments: Even the bottle has a classic shape and feel to it. 

Adam – This Scotch generated a surprising amount of spirited discussion amongst the group, elevating quickly to such ideas as “what does a generic Scotch taste like?” and “how does our expectations predispose our tasting or sense of worth?” Make no mistake about it, this Macallan is a true single malt and marks a clear distinction from a regular blend or even low-end single malt. Decidedly not unpleasant. And yet…and yet there’s still that nagging feeling after the paint brush sherry taste has evaporated from your mouth, that this could have been a great deal more. If I were to have this in my own collection, it would probably be saved for guests. The Macallan has started many people off into the world of single malts and there are worse places to begin from. Just be sure to not linger too long.

Kate – This is the Mad Men Scotch. It’s a bit pretentious and what you go to when you want to say “I’m a businessman and I’m sophisticated, now let’s get down to business.” I’m not surprised this Scotch is so popular; it appeals to the masses. It isn’t as harsh as other whiskies and is fairly mellow. Basically, it’s inoffensive and unimaginative. I simply prefer Scotches that have more to them, not superficial ones. 

Meghan – To rant or not to rant? Well, why not a little of both as I have more issues with the perceptions of The Macallan than the actual whisky. Prior to sitting down to write this, Adam handed me a glass of whisky. Since I’d just stated my back hurt (after he caught me in odd contortions trying to stretch it out) I didn’t know if the dram’s purpose was medicinal or ‘work’ (yes- we sometimes refer to reviewing whisky as work). I asked what it was and he said “It’s a surprise!”After a sniff and taste I asked “Is this the Amrut?” Not the reaction Macallan probably wanted for a blind taste. Without knowing what it was, I found the nose cloying and over powerful. Kind of like the way the dishwasher smells after having maple syrup soaked dishes sit in it all day waiting for a full load to build up. It is more generic and grainy on the palate with a mild medical/iodine finish. There is nothing technically wrong with this Scotch. But, there is nothing interesting about it as well. It is generic but not in any kind of way where you’d want this to be your epitome of Scotch or your only bottle on the shelf. Well… *warning: climbing up on the soapbox now* it is not the only bottle you’d want on your shelf unless you are the type of person who only cares about appearances and what others think of you. It’s THE Macallan- it’s presence in my liquor cabinet must mean I am successful, smart, wealthy… and I need you to know it! Did I mention I have THE Macallan? Also, notice my brand new iPhone, car with latest upgrades, and other items I found on the bandwagon. This is the Scotch the VPs in American Psycho would drink while comparing the fonts of their business cards… and drink it thinking that it is the right Scotch to drink for their status, whether they know a thing about whisky or not. There are probably people out there who do think this is the best drink possible and believe it’s hype. They probably also think vanilla is the best pudding flavor, always toe the line, think only inside the box, and spend more time worrying about whether they are living up to others expectations than they spend actually living. If that is you, hey- it’s your life but I’m not going to be your drinking buddy (there is a also a strong chance you are misogynistic and find it inappropriate that women drink Scotch (a man’s drink) or have opinions so you wouldn’t want me around even if you could handle it) and will find ways to wander out of the room when you walk in. I’ll be seeking out the adventurers, the rebels, the misfits, those of us who didn’t fit and broke the cookie cutter mold and be drinking something memorable. Will that drink be as inoffensive as The Macallan 12 actually is? Maybe not. It might be wonderful, it might be terrible but it will be something I drink because I want to try it, not because I want to show off, fit in, or pretend to be someone I am not. Here endeth my rant.

Henry – Pleasant, warm, even-tempered, sweet, and ultimately forgettable. I know Macallan is capable of producing Scotch masterpieces; this is not one of them. The sweetness and complexity of the nose imparted by the sherry finish does not compensate for the essentially boring flavor profile. It tastes like Scotch – definitely a huge step up from your average blended affront to peat, barley, and oak, but I want more. I expect more, especially when considering The Macallan’s reputation for excellence. Watering is not necessary, and a slightly larger sip serves to enrich and amplify the understated flavors. A not unpleasant oily finish stays with you.