The Macallan is one of the most famous distilleries in Scotland and its whiskies are some of the biggest selling single malts. But I wanted to see just how good they are. Here’s what I found:
Macallan whiskies are good especially if you like sherried Scotches. I would recommend The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 for those who prefer more intense and spicier notes, and The Macallan Double Cask 12 for those who prefer a sweeter and less spicy profile. The 18 year old of any of the ranges would make the perfect expensive luxury gift.
There are numerous Macallan whiskies, and I examined 11 of them. I didn’t look at limited releases, travel retail exclusives, past editions or those that are rare or super expensive.
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How I Determined Whether Macallan Whiskies Are Good
I didn’t want to present just my own personal opinion about these whiskies but rather a more general consensus, so I gathered a team of experts (translation: anyone who would help me with this project and who knows a thing or two about whisky) and amalgamated all our tasting notes. I left out those aromas and flavors that were found by only one person and focused on those experienced by more than one member of the group. Descriptors that appear earlier in the coming lists were detected by more people.
Everyone scored each whisky out of 100 and I calculated the average.
The notes after each table are my summary of the general consensus and the combined results present a pretty clear picture of these whiskies.
Here’s what we found:
The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old
- Price: $81.46 approx. for 750ml & $129.99 approx. for 1.75L
The Macallan Sherry Oak range of whiskies are matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European (important for later) oak casks. There are two bottlings of the 12 year old, one at 43%ABV for the US market and one at 40% ABV for the UK market. We sampled the former.
|Nose||Sherry, vanilla, raisins, plums, cherry jam, oak spice, dried fruits, dark fruits, caramel, chocolate, almonds|
|Taste||Sherry, vanilla, oak, spices, raisins, plums, leather, nuts, cinnamon, dark fruit, chocolate|
|Finish||Medium to long: Spices, oak, sherry, dark chocolate|
|Average Score – 81|
The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 is a very tasty sherried whisky. It’s sweet and smooth, elegant and refined with lots of aromas and flavors that are overall very well balanced. It’s not super special and it is a bit light, watery and thin in the mouth but nonetheless a great whisky especially if you like sherry or sweeter Scotches.
At this point I do want to mention the well-known downside to all Macallan whiskies and that is their premium price. The Macallan is one of the most expensive brands of whisky in existence and after a lot of marketing and branding the name is associated with luxury and success. If you want someone to know you spent more on their gift than necessary, then these are the whiskies to buy.
This means that while The Macallan whiskies are great, their prices are marked up and you’ll be paying in part, for the reputation of this famous brand.
If that doesn’t bother you, or you want to see what all the fuss is about, or you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (you’re wrong as you shall soon find out), then you can buy a bottle of The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 here.
The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old
- Price: $349.99 approx. for 750ml & $115.00 approx. for 375ml
This Sherry Oak expression is aged for 18 years in Oloroso sherry seasoned European (still important for later) oak casks and yes those are the approximate prices! Told you so.
|Nose||Caramel, leather, raisins, sherry, honey, custard, wood, spices, baked bun, chocolate|
|Taste||Oak, wood, honey, sherry, fruit, spices, nuts|
|Finish||Medium to Long: Wood, raisins, spices, cinnamon, pepper, oak|
|Average Score – 85|
This is another smooth and delicious sherried whisky that has a soft and thick mouthfeel and well-balanced flavors. Being matured for 6 more years it is as expected, better than the 12.
While some found it to be dry and bitter at times and a little watery, others thought that there were no off notes at all. Either way everyone agreed that it’s an enjoyable quality whisky … that’s very expensive for what it is.
Having said that it’s also clear that a lot of people are still buying Macallan whiskies, so if you do want to buy a bottle of The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 you can find one here.
The Macallan Double Cask Gold
- Price: $64.99 approx. for 750ml
The Macallan Double Cask range of whiskies are matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European (important for now) oak casks and Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks. Presumably this is done to create whiskies that have both the more intense, richer and spicier notes that come from European Oak casks and the sweeter notes that come from American oak casks.
The Double Cask Gold is the first of the four whiskies in this range and is the only one with no age statement.
|Color||Deep Gold, deep copper|
|Nose||Citrus, chocolate, vanilla, fruit, lemon peel, oak, floral, oranges, tobacco, wine|
|Taste||Spices, vanilla, apples, fruit, brown sugar, marmalade, ginger, oranges, kiwi|
|Finish||Medium: Oak, malt, pepper, vanilla, dry|
|Average Score – 79|
This is a light, smooth and easy to drink whisky. It’s sweet and fruity with a light to medium body and creamy palate, and everything comes together nicely from start to finish.
That said, it’s not a complex whisky and it’s not a Scotch that’s earth shatteringly special so it would probably be more suited to those new to malt whisky.
It’s also one of the cheapest Macallan whiskies on the market … although for what it is, it’s still relatively expensive. You can buy a bottle of The Macallan Double Cask Gold here.
The Macallan Double Cask 12
- Price: $74.99 approx. for 750ml & $39.99 approx. for 375ml
This is the second whisky in the Double Cask range, and it’s matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European oak casks and Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks for 12 years.
|Nose||Honey, sherry, caramel, vanilla, citrus, malt, apricot, wood, oranges, wax, butterscotch, fruit, cherries, raisins, spices, sulfur, metallic|
|Taste||Sweet, spices, honey, vanilla, oak, sherry, nuts, wood, malt, citrus, fruit|
|Finish||Short to medium: Dry, spices, oak, vanilla, bitter, cinnamon, sweetness, citrus, pepper, wood, tannic|
|Average Score – 73|
The Macallan Double Cask 12 is a pleasant, enjoyable, smooth and easy whisky that’s not at all complex. It has a medium body, a creamy-oily mouthfeel and a good balance.
The American oak does make this whisky a bit sweeter and less spicy when compared to the Sherry Oak 12 that’s matured in European oak casks only. As mentioned, whiskies matured European Oak Casks tend to be spicier whereas whiskies matured in American Oak Casks tend to be sweeter.
This meant that those who preferred a sweeter and less spicy profile liked this whisky, however, those who preferred more intense, richer and spicier notes found the Double Cask 12 a more subdued version of the Sherry Oak 12 and therefore more boring.
For those who like a sweeter profile, or if you occasionally want something less intense, you can buy a bottle of The Macallan Double Cask 12 here.
The Macallan Double Cask 15
- Price: $144.99 approx. for 750ml
This whisky is matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European oak casks and Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks for 15 years.
|Nose||Sherry, raisins, vanilla, honey, fruit, cinnamon, caramel, dark chocolate, pears, apple pie, clove, toffee, ginger, nutmeg, cherries, spices, oranges|
|Taste||Cinnamon, spices, fruit, nutmeg, ginger, oranges, oak, pepper, dark chocolate, raisins, sherry, vanilla, butter, toffee, sultana cake|
|Finish||Medium to long: Ginger, oak, dry, spices|
|Average Score – 81|
This is an enjoyable and delicious whisky that has a full-body and a medium mouthfeel. It’s good, it’s intense, it’s balanced and it’s relatively complex. I think that overall, everyone felt that the Double Cask 15 was better than the Double Cask 12.
The solid flavors make you want to finish this bottle until you remember the equally solid price. Nevertheless, you can buy a bottle of The Macallan Double Cask 15 here.
The Macallan Double Cask 18
- Price: $346.49 approx. for 750ml
The last of the Double Cask range is matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European oak casks and Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks for 18 years.
|Color||Dark amber, honey|
|Nose||Oranges, sherry, ginger, toffee, honey, raisins, fruit, nutmeg, cloves, dark chocolate, blueberries, vanilla, leather, blackberries, caramel, apples, plums, cherries|
|Taste||Chocolate, oak, raisins, ginger, cherry, caramel, spices, citrus, oranges, cinnamon, vanilla, honey|
|Finish||Medium to Long: Sherry, sweet, ginger, dry|
|Average Score – 84|
The Macallan Double Cask 18 has the same flavor profile as the Double Cask 15 and 12 only it’s better. Which is to be expected. It’s sweet and oily, soft and well balanced and the flavors are more complex and robust. A wonderful, well matured, elegant whisky, although again, some will prefer the Macallan profile when its matured exclusively in European oak casks.
And yes, it’s an expensive luxury whisky and yes, there are much more affordable 18 year olds of similar quality out there, but if you need a gift that says exactly that, you can buy a bottle of The Macallan Double Cask 18 here.
The Macallan Triple Cask Matured 12 Years Old
- Price: $69.99 approx. for 750ml
The Macallan Triple Cask range of whiskies (I’m sure you’ve noticed the same pattern I did) are matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European oak casks, Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks and ex-bourbon American oak casks for even more sweet flavors.
The 12 year old, is bottled at both 40%ABV and 43%ABV and we tasted the former.
|Nose||Sherry, spices, honey, fruit, oranges, cinnamon, raisins, oak, citrus|
|Taste||Oak, fruit, sherry, spices, malt, vanilla, cinnamon, wood, chocolate, oranges|
|Finish||Medium: Sweet, dry, sherry, ginger, spices|
|Average Score – 82|
The Macallan Triple Cask 12 is a tasty, sweet whisky that’s light and easy to drink. It has a good body and mouthfeel and is well balanced. However, it lacks the power and intensity of a higher ABV whisky and it’s more complex on the nose than the palate so that it falls a bit flat when you taste it.
On the other hand, the lower ABV preventing the whisky biting in your mouth and the less complex flavors makes it a more approachable whisky. This is presumably by design – to make a decent yet light whisky that appeals to as many people as possible.
This price is of course expensive, but not that expensive when compared to other Macallan’s. You can buy a bottle of The Macallan Triple Cask 12 here.
The Macallan Triple Cask Matured 15 Years Old
- Price: $135.99 approx. for 750ml
This whisky is matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European oak casks, Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks and ex-bourbon American oak casks for 15 years.
|Nose||Malt, floral, sherry, honey, fruit, almonds, vanilla, oak, ginger, caramel|
|Taste||Malt, honey, oak, spices, raisins, oranges, fruit, ginger, crème brûlée, almond, lemon|
|Finish||Short to Medium: Sweet, malt, fruit|
|Average Score – 80|
The three extra years of maturation makes the Macallan Triple Cask 15 that much better than the Triple Cask 12. It’s sweeter, softer and more refined. It has a medium body with a creamy and smooth mouthfeel, and with a higher ABV than the Triple Cask 12 it has more of a kick to it. It’s not massively complex or super special but it is a well-rounded and easy to drink whisky.
When it comes to price, the Triple Cask 15 is not overly expensive for what it is, although it’s still very much pushing that boundary. Which is a nice way of saying that it’s worth the money but only if you can afford to pay a little more than what you’d want to. You can buy a bottle of The Macallan Triple Cask 15 here.
The Macallan Triple Cask Matured 18 Years Old
- Price: $349.99 approx. for 750ml & $115 approx. for 375ml
The third and last whisky in the Triple Cask range is matured in Oloroso sherry seasoned European oak casks, Oloroso sherry seasoned American oak casks and ex-bourbon American oak casks for 18 years.
|Nose||Fruit, vanilla, figs, leather, oak, sherry, honey, nougat, pecan nuts, raisins, apple, ginger, herbs|
|Taste||Spices, fruit, oak, caramel, oranges, zest|
|Finish||Medium to Long: Fruit, spices, dry, leather, ginger, oak, apples, nuts, raisins|
|Average Score – 86|
With three more years of maturation, the Macallan Triple Cask 18 is an improvement on the Triple Cask 15. It’s a sweet, smooth and tasty whisky with a good mouthfeel that’s silky soft. Everything is very well balanced in this complex, refined and elegant Scotch.
Except the price of course, but if you can afford it and you want a great whisky you can buy a bottle of The Macallan Triple Cask 18 here.
The Macallan Rare Cask
- Price: $329.99 approx. for 750ml
The Rare Cask whiskies are a showcase of the best and rarest casks (less than 1% of the total) used for maturation on The Macallan Estate. Their contents are taken from a combination of sherry seasoned American and European oak casks, many of them first fill. Since some casks are so rare that they’re not used again, these whiskies will differ slightly from bottling to bottling.
|Nose||Sherry, raisins, oak, honey, vanilla, chocolate, citrus, treacle, malt, jam, oranges, toffee, nutmeg, acetone, spices, nuts, fruit|
|Taste||Sherry, vanilla, nutmeg, chocolate, fruit, oak, cinnamon, tannin, raisins, oranges, toffee, spices, figs, ginger|
|Finish||Short to Medium: Spices, oak, vanilla, ginger, oranges, dry, nutmeg, bitter, fruit|
|Average Score – 76|
While this is a nice whisky with a decent taste, everything is on the lighter side. The mouthfeel is a bit weak and it’s not that well balanced. It’s not complex and it’s a bit underwhelming especially considering both the fact that it’s meant to be from the finest of their casks and also of course … the price.
It does seem to be a young whisky (there’s no age statement) which may explain why it’s enjoyable but not that special. Since each bottling is different, some may be better than this one. You can find one of The Macallan Rare Cask bottlings here.
The Macallan Estate
- Price: $276.42 approx. for 750ml
The Macallan Estate is made using a proportion of homegrown barley which is usually reserved for more exclusive editions, and is distilled just once a year over the course of a single week. It’s meant to be a celebration of the brand’s heritage and the Estate from which all Macallan whiskies are derived.
|Color||Light amber, chestnut|
|Nose||Fruit, malt, honey, spices, sherry, oranges, cinnamon, vanilla, banana, caramel, nutmeg, ginger, milk chocolate, oak|
|Taste||Sherry, fruit, nuts, spices, oak, leather, chocolate, malt, vanilla, raisins, ginger, coffee, tangerine, oranges, citrus|
|Finish||Medium to long: Spices, chocolate, sherry, oranges|
|Average Score – 85|
The Macallan Estate is a tasty, smooth and sweet whisky with a medium intensity, a medium body and a medium mouthfeel. It’s has a nice profile that’s well balanced but not that complex and it seems to be another young (with no age statement) whisky.
While it’s not the best Macallan expression, it is easy to drink and a chance for everyday Scotch drinkers to try a whisky made (in part) from the distillery’s precious estate-grown barley for only an expensive price and not a super expensive price. You can buy a bottle of The Macallan Estate here.