The Macallan Double Cask (12 year)

I’ve given Macallan a lot of grief over the years. Long-time readers will be familiar with my love-hate relationship with the distillery or, more accurately, with its owners, the Edrington Group. Lately my two biggest beefs have been the accelerating price increases and the decelerating age statements. So, when I saw this Macallan “Double Cask” 12 year-old for $55, I was intrigued. Hmm. A 12 year-old Double Cask. Sound familiar?

These days, $55 for a partially-sherried 12 year-old single malt with a good name is not a bad price. Contrast this with Macallan 18, currently around $240, and Balvenie DoubleWood 12, currently around $47.

This is something new, folks. Macallan takes new American oak (NOT ex-bourbon!) and “seasons” it by filling it with sherry for an undisclosed period of time. These “seasoned” American oak sherry casks are then used to age Macallan for at least 12 years. This whisky is then blended with traditional Macallan aged in European oak sherry casks and bottled at 43% ABV for the American market. (It’s worth noting that the UK 700ml presentation of this is 40% ABV. This review applies only to US 750ml bottlings at 43% ABV.) There have likely been others, but this is the first time I’ve personally heard of a distillery seasoning new American oak with sherry and then aging scotch in it. That right there is worth the $10 premium over Balvenie DoubleWood.

Nose: Macallan-esque rancio sherry, with dried figs, orange peel (although not as much as Dalmore), and walnut meats. Beneath that, a multi-layered malt character with honey and bakery treats.

Palate: Syrupy body. Moderate tongue-burn. Delectable, with fruit jam, orange blossom honey, buttery toasted oak, and vanilla toffee.

Finish: Medium-long. Slightly tart, fading into nut butter and marshmallow, and ending with only a slight bitter oaky char. A little thin, but inoffensive.

With Water: A few drops of water mute the aroma, leaving only a strong vanilla buttercream note. For some reason this continues even after a rest in the glass. I do NOT recommend water with this one!

Overall: An accomplished, satisfying dram from start to finish. At least as much sherry character as former bottlings of the exclusively sherried 12 year-old, and far more sherry character than Balvenie DoubleWood. Unmistakably Macallan, and it doesn’t leave anything on the table for having been aged partially in American oak casks instead of European oak. Indeed, this expression benefits from the extra weight and vanilla nuttiness derived from American oak. Definitely representative of the Macallan name, and definitely worth the $55. Here’s hoping we see more affordable, innovative whisky from Macallan in the future that does NOT involve the loss of age statements or the use of ex-bourbon casks to “thin out” the Macallan exclusive-sherry house style.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

The Macallan is big. Real big. Prized by collectors, consumed all over the world, The Macallan is a marketing powerhouse, with a very wide range of single-malt expressions targeting local tastes in every major market. Distilling almost continuously since 1824 when Scotland first legalized the production of spirits, The Macallan releases “replicas” of its older bottlings and also continuously experiments with new finishes. With global whisky tastes evolving away from the classic “all Sherry, all the time” style, The Macallan is battling its image as a Sherry Monster by releasing a “Fine Oak” range that focuses on the wood influence, and using a lower proportion of Sherry aging. You can always rely on a flagship Macallan to display big sherry notes of dark fruit, raisins, and spice.
The Macallan Double Cask (12 year)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $55 - $70
Acquired: (750ml Bottle): $55 K&L Wines, Redwood City, CA

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  • Hi there,

    “Once cooled, the newly formed casks will be filled with Oloroso sherry – made on-site in those large fermentation tanks – and left to season for five months. The Oloroso can be used up to four times before it is transferred to the company’s vinegar factory.
    As we finish up our visit around J&MM, I am struck by the fact the process almost seems like a production line. While all done by hand at this family-owned business, it is clear there is pressure to keep up the fast rate of cask production to service an industry thousands of miles away. As Miguel explains: “Seasoning casks for the whisky industry doesn’t help in the production of any sherry product. Both Oloroso and PX sherry, as products on their own, need old casks to mature in. So the process of seasoning casks for Scotch whisky is a totally different system of quality than creating a solera system for sherry production. Seasoning casks is only for the benefit of the whisky which will go into those casks.”

    That is not to say that Macallan does use such ‘sherry casks’ but it is sobering to know what is partly going on in the whisky industry today.

  • I’ll pick up a bottle at around this price because you know if it becomes a hot sell, that price point will easily jump 10+ dollars in a year or so.

  • I just wanted to mention that the Macallan Fine Oak line also uses sherry seasoned American oak casks. In fact, my impression is that the Double Cask is sort of a middle ground between the Fine Oak and Sherry Oak lines of Macallan.

    • That was my impression as well. For whatever reason, I don’t have a favorable reaction to oak, so I was not a fan at the start. However as I worked my way through the bottle, it began to grow on me. Not sure I would venture another bottle just yet.

      • Jack;
        I think you said it best. I was not initially impressed I thought it needed 18 years It grew on me as made my way through the bottle. I now enjoy it but still like the sherry solo bottles better.

  • Tried this at a Macallan event and it’s better than the Fine oak series but not as good as the regular sherry cask. You’re right, the whisky is smooth and unmistakably Macallan. I was wondering if you can do a review of the Macallan Edition no 2 bottle?

  • Those in the US Market may yawn at this introduction. (And by the way the Sherry Cask 12 lovers, especially in the southwest where bottles still go ~$48 should probably stock up as those stocks/prices can’t last forever) But here in Canada and most of the rest of the world where the replacement nearest in taste and quality had been the NAS 1824 Sienna, this release is big news. Priced at HALF the Sienna in Alberta, it goes some way to mollify Macallan sherry lovers dismayed by the 1824 series. Of course for me, finding a bottle in Puerto Vallarta for $43 USD was a bonus.

  • This is just Under $100 CAD in Ontario. That’s way too much for a very ordinary whisky. I can get Aberlour A’Bunadh for the same price. There have also been batches of Macallan 12 Double Cask that are badly tainted by sulphur. I know because one of my best friends got stuck with a sulphured bottle (spent matches and rotten eggs). I’ve never bought a Macallan and I probably never will. I find it ordinary, uninteresting and way overpriced.