If you’re a scotch fan, then you know The Macallan. The self-proclaimed “luxury single malt” is positively ubiquitous, right down to its frequent appearances in entertainment (see: Better Call Saul, Cobra Kai, Skyfall). Head to the company’s website and you’ll find no shortage of branding and product ranges. And unlike Glenmorangie, The Macallan have a site that looks clean and stylish while running like a dream. This is matched in kind by pricing that would be considered bold were it not already widely accepted. Expressions start at around $70 and can easily top the cost of a brand-new automobile. Most of us will settle for the former.
This then begs the question: Just how good is an entry-level Macallan? I intend to find out. A recent liquor store visit brought me to obtain a 50ml bottle of their 12-year sherry oak expression. At $10, it’s the most I’ve spent on an individual mini thus far, yet compared to what most bars might charge, I don’t feel so horrible about it. No details are given on the exact type of sherry used, but a couple sources list Oloroso as the variety of choice. Let’s dive in.
Nose: Fruit basket with some honey, brown sugar, and nuts, like a charcuterie board that trades meat for more fruit. Generous dose of raisins with dried fig, grapes, and apricot—unsurprisingly characteristic of sherry. Fruitcake and oatmeal raisin cookie. Some pecan and butterscotch held together by the honey and raisin. After sipping I get a slight maple note.
Palate: Somewhat light. Dried, slightly bitter fruit with some oak. Honey, dried apricot and cranberries, pecans, and almond butter. Brief taste of pear quickly followed by more grapes. A touch of molasses and toffee.
Finish: On the short side. An initial whisper of tobacco, oak, and red wine. More honey and golden raisins.
I think the length for each part of my tasting notes speaks for itself. The nose on this whisky is just lovely. Even when I felt like I uncovered everything that I could, I still returned to savor its subtlety and elegance. If aromas made a whisky, I’d be a Macallan believer right now. Then I started sipping. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this reminds me of Glenmorangie’s Lasanta, albeit with a couple expected differences. The Macallan does seem better constructed than other single malts I’ve tried, no doubt thanks to the exclusive use of sherry casks for maturation. Yet this is still a light, mostly gentle whisky with little to back up its alluring aromas.
Discussing whether I’d buy a full bottle of The Macallan for myself after trying this feels somewhat trivial. Going in, I suspected my opinion would err on the side of indifference. Now I begin to find myself wishing I enjoyed it just a bit more. With other brands, this would normally be met with curiosity to explore some higher-end options, but with The Macallan, I feel like most people: Outpriced by its status. As a gift for a special occasion, I can see the appeal. Beyond that? It’s a soft pass.