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The Macallan Fine Oak (15 Year)

Whisky Review: The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Year Old Scotch Whisky  (94.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 14, 2010

After a year of blogging about whisky, I decided I deserved a treat, and so I went into my private stash of rare whiskies, (well maybe not so rare), and I brought out a bottle of The Macallan Fine Oak 15-year-old Scotch Whisky.

The Macallan Fine Oak Series is a series of single malt Scotch whiskies, produced at The Macallan Distillery at Craigellachie in the Speyside region of Scotland which are matured in seasoned American oak casks, (sherry as well as bourbon), as well as sherry casks from Spain. This series is quite a departure for The Macallan who are renowned for their whiskies which have been aged solely in Sherry  Oak casks from Jerez, Spain,  The new Fine Oak Series has drawn rave reviews some quarters (Jim Murray for example awarded it “Best New Scotch Brand” when it was launched), and dramatic criticism from others who considered the American barrels inferior due to the lighter flavour profile of the American Bourbon Cask.

Since I was treating myself to one of my more favoured whiskies, I thought it might nice to write a review to share my thoughts about why I enjoy this particular whisky so much.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The elegant display box housing the The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Year Old is full of information about The Macallan Whisky, where it is made, how it is made,  and why the distillers feel this is important. These boxes add a touch of ambiance to the occasion of opening the bottle for the first time especially in front of friends. They also protect the spirit from the deleterious effects of light ensuring that when I sample the whisky, it is as close to the distiller’s and blender’s intentions as possible.

The boxes also contain important information regarding the expected nose, palate, and finish of the whisky. Because Scottish Single malts can vary so much in flavour profile, this information is very important to help you choose one which will be suitable to your particular palate.  The glass bottle containing the whisky is of the same typical Macallan style which they use for most of their whisky range. It is a slightly wide shouldered whisky bottle topped with a solid high density cork.

My only quibble with the presentation is that this is essentially the same presentation that is used for the lower end of The Macallan range. My expectation when I spend the additional money at the higher end of the range that even in the presentation I will receive a little more for my money.  It is this unrealized expectation which caused me to deduct 1/2 point for presentation in my score.

In The Glass 9.5/10

When I pour the 15 Year old Macallan Fine Oak into my glass,my nose is greeted by a soft honeycomb/butterscotch, a firm little dollop of vanilla and firm oak spices. A light sherry smoke is in the air carrying wisps of dry fruit (prunes and raisins) and a smidgen of treacle.  As you allow the glass to decant, a demerara sweetness  becomes evident as does a wonderful floral meadowland with saw grass, timothy and wild flowers presenting themselves to the delight of the nostrils.

This is very similar to the nose the 10 Year old Macallan Fine Oak presents. But the additional aging has mingled the various scents together, provided a firmer oak presence, and added a welcome vanilla tinge to the aroma. The higher alcohol content of 43 % versus the 40 % of the 10-year seems to bring things up a notch with a little more concentrated aggression. I love nosing the fifteen year old both before and after the Whisky is consumed.

In The Mouth 57/60

This is slightly aggressive in the delivery and it presents the palate with rich complexity. The whisky flavours are pushed forward  firmly by the higher alcohol content. Oak vanilla, honeycomb, dabs of brown sugar, and a trace of malty barley are all wound up in a soft sherry smoke which seems to entwine them in a delightful chorus of flavour.  Dry fruits flavours accent the smoke, while fresh citrus fruit seems to be bursting out of the sides of the whisky flavour.

At some point, in the aging of any spirit we reach the place where the oak is melting into the flavour of the whisky rather acting as a distinct component.  If the spirit is aged too long the oak will begin to dominate and the subtleties of the other flavours will diminish.  My feeling here is that the spirit was taken from the oak barrels at just the right time such that all of the goodness that oak can impart was captured. The spirit is full of character and complexity with everything in fine balance.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The exit shows a little caramel treacle which for me is very nice.  The final flavours that leave my throat are the ghostly vestiges of the sherry smoke which trail flavours of green grapes, figs and raisins at the very end.  Most satisfying is the gentle burn which stems not from the alcohol but rather from the oak spices.

The Afterburn 10/10

This was a dangerous bottle for me to open as I seemed to be continually drawn back for another sip the next day.  I finished the whisky sooner than I anticipated as the subtle complexity of the flavours continuously impressed me.  It seems that the flavour profile of the Macallan Fine Oak 15-year-old hits all of the right notes on my palate.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

I am going to get myself in trouble again as I am once more recommending that a stellar whisky can also be enjoyed in the realm of the cocktail. I guess I just cannot help myself. In my defense I also recommend sipping The Macallan Fine Oak 15-year-old Single Malt Whisky neat or on the rocks. But, I will confess that about a third of my recent bottle went towards the construction of some of my favourite cocktails.  The one I will share with you is  based upon The Commodore, but has a very small modification

The Commodore Splash
Made with The Macallan Fine Oak (15 year Old Whisky

2 oz The Macallan Fine Oak
3/4 oz (Fresh squeezed) Lemon and Lime juice
1 to 2 tsp sugar syrup
dash bitters (orange bitter if they are available)
dash of soda
citrus peel (use orange peel if you had no orange bitters)

Build in a rocks glass with Ice
Lengthen with a splash of Soda
Garnish with a threads of citrus peel


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


4 Responses to “The Macallan Fine Oak (15 Year)”

  1. Sharon said

    Artic Wolf,

    I must say THANK YOU for the review! My dad enjoys single malt Scotch that is smooth and not Islay peaty style. I wanted to get something special for Father’s Day but as I am not a Scotch drinker I went searching for that something special on the internet from the “experts” and found your review. I just got off the phone with my Dad who had just tried this straight up neat. He absolutely loves it; says best Scotch he’s ever had and so very smooth. For a man of few words, he went on a good bit about how great it was. My investment in the pricier Scotch paid off thanks to your review!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post your tasting notes!


  2. Chip, do you find the price high for what you get or are you satisfied with your bang for the buck?

    • That’s such a tough question, Jason.

      Overall The Macallan Scotch Whiskies seem to be on the expensive side based upon offerings by other distilleries when I compare whiskies of similar age, (although I have noticed a modest decrease in the Macallan price lately.) But it is a mistake to equate price with age. Price should equate with quality, and there is a lot of quality that I taste in this dram.

      Reasons why The Macallan is more expensive may relate not to the age of their whisky, but rather to the way it is made. My information is that The Macallan uses an extraordinarily fine cut off the still, and they also use smaller stills to create their whisky. There is also a meticulous approach to aging The Macallan whisky in relatively young (and therefore more expensive) reused barrels. So a direct comparison to other similarly aged scotches in terms of price is rather futile. The only comparison that is fair is quality for the money. In the end, The Macallan 15 year Old Scotch (the Fine Oak) is one of my very favourite whiskies. My opinion is that it is good value based upon the superior flavour I feel I am getting, so I guess for me it is a good bang for my buck.

      A fifteen year old Scotch which carries more of the heads and tails of the distillation into the final product, produced on a large column still, aged in barrels that previously held whisky (or Sherry) for five years instead of two, might end up being priced substantially lower, but also might be a terrible deal.)

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