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Whisky Review: The Macallan Sherry Oak (12 Year)

Whisky Review: The Macallan Sherry Oak (12 Year) 86/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted July 2010

The Macallan is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery, located near Easter Elchies House, at Craigellachie in the Speyside region of Scotland.

I was given a bottle of The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak and the 10 Year Old Fine Oak by J. Wheelock, the Brand Ambassador West for The Macallan, Highland Park, and The Famous Grouse. Mr. Wheelock ask me to do a comparative tasting of the two styles of oak as part of my series of reviews of The Macallan Single Malt Scotches. For those who do not know, The Macallan Sherry Oak whiskies are aged exclusively in oak barrels seasoned with sherry from Jerez, Spain.  The Fine Oak Series is a relatively new series of whiskies which uses American Sherry and American Whiskey barrels in addition to the Spanish Sherry casks.

Both bottles presented to me were 750ml bottles, each bottled at 40% alcohol by volume. I shared my review of  The Macallan Fine Oak 10 Year Single Malt Whiskey earlier and you may click on the link to read it for comparison.

And this is my review of The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky.

In The Bottle 5/5

I love the elegant display box the back of which is full of informationabout the whisky, where and how it is made, and why this is important. These Macallan boxes always add a touch of class and  ambiance to the occasion of opening the bottle for the first time.  They also protect the spirit from light ensuring that when I sample it, the whisky is as close to the distiller’s and blender’s intentions as possible.

A nice tidbit of information from the display box confirms that The Macallan Sherry Oak is exclusively matured for a minimum of 12 years in Spanish oak casks, handcrafted and sherry seasoned in Jerez, Spain.

This should deliver the classic Macallan style with rich sherry notes and strong complexity.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I poured the Macallan Sherry Oak into my glencairn glass the immediate nose was complex and tainted with sherry.  I sensed a firm woodiness in the air which had an exotic ‘fruit-like’ flair. Treacle and sherry smoke slowly drifted out of the glass with the firm imprint of wild berries and tart cherries.  As I let the glass decant, leather scents arose as did a smattering of tea leaves (Oolong).

The colour of the whisky is a waxy brownish bronze which seems to have hints of  reddish highlights.

In my Mouth 51/60

When I was tasting the Macallan 12 year Sherry Oak for the first time I had some friends over to help me. (The very same friends that helped me with the Macallan 10 Year Fine oak.) We again, sat around my table on the deck outside in the early evening, and shared our thoughts.  Unlike the experience with the Macallan Fine Oak, this time the impressions were a little more scattered from person to person.  We all agreed that a heavy sherry smoke dominated the flavour profile.  A firm fruity flavour was inside the smoke but we disagreed as to exactly which flavours of fruit we were tasting.  I tasted purple fruits like plums and dark schubert cherries; whereas some of the others tasted grapes and red cherries, and yet another tasted the fruitiness but could offer no real identification.

I also tasted a firm woodiness in the spirit as well, which  I want to say was accented by that flavour of Schubert cherries I  had noted earlier.  Cocoa, leather, dry fruit rounded and a smattering of tea leaves filled out the flavour profile.   I tasted a perhaps a light maltiness in the spirit as well but my friends did not.

When an ice-cube is added to the glass the smokiness was muted and the sweeter flavours in the glass seemed to gain expression.  Everyone at the tasting observed great complexity in the initial delivery of this whisky.

In the Throat 13/15

The Macallan 12 year finishes with a smooth long finish filled which leaves trails of smoke and unsweetened cocoa in the throat. A vague hint of nuttiness seems to be left behind as well as a nice spicy woodiness which stays on the palate and throughout the mouth.  The finish is not nearly as sweet as the delivery but it is every bit as enjoyable.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The Macallan 12 Year was not initially my preferred whisky when I began to compare the 10 Year Fine Oak and the 12 year Old Sherry Oak.  However, as I tasted the whiskies more often I began to appreciate  more and more the rich complexity and the superior finish this whisky offered.   In the end I scored the 12 Year Sherry Oak just a tad higher based mainly upon the superior finish the whisky provided.

I want to be careful when drawing conclusions between the two whiskies however. The 12 year old Sherry Cask whisky has had a full two years of extra aging; thus a direct comparison between the two whiskies is thus fraught with difficulty, especially as I found the flavour complexity of the 10 Year Old Fine Oak to be very good as well.

In the end it is a subjective choice between styles of whisky. The Sherry Oak displays an ‘in your face’ approach to flavour and complexity whereas the Fine Oak has a more subtle approach. It will be interesting as I  move higher up the chain of The Macallan Whiskies to see which style grows on me more.

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


Suggested Recipe

For the most part I sipped the Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak neat or on the rocks during my tasting sessions.  It is rich and complex with a plethora of subtleties to tickle the palate.  But I will confess that I am a mixer at heart, and I firmly believe that the best cocktails are those mixed when the best ingredients are used.  So it is that I came to mix a rather interesting cocktail with the Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak. It is called the Tartan Breeze, and I found the original recipe on page 205, in my handy-dandy cocktail book, 1001 Cocktails (compiled by Alex Barker):

Tartan Breeze

1 1/2 oz Scotch Whisky
1/2 oz Apricot brandy
1 ounce of Orange Juice
dash Angostura Bitters

Shake all of the ingredients over ice in a metal shaker until frosted.
Strain into a suitable glass with more ice
Garnish with an Orange peel

Enjoy Responsibly!


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)


One Response to “Whisky Review: The Macallan Sherry Oak (12 Year)”

  1. EricH said

    Something I find interesting is that Macallan 12 is bottled at 43% for certain markets like the US. I believe Highland Park 12, Glenmorangie 10, and Teacher’s Highland Cream are also bottled at 43% for the US market and 40% for in other places.

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