It’s safe to say that The Macallan (Sherry Oak) 12 is one of the best bets when purchasing an unpeated single malt. The cost per value stands higher than just about any other Scotch on the market. Why then, would The Macallan release an additional, permanent portfolio 12-year-old expression and throw an epic party in an oak forest to celebrate it? The reason behind it all: The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old offers an entirely different flavor profile, but it’s just as approachable as its sibling.
We sat for a private tasting with The Macallan’s Master of Wood Stuart McPherson, and he let us know there’s a lot going on in the brand’s first new age statement release in three years. In a side-by-side comparison, the Sherry Oak 12 tastes of rich, dried fruits with hints of sweetness, but a complex spice truly defines it. Its new sister spirit, the Double Cask 12 offers some of the same spice with a robust start, but it is honey and caramel that last the longest—growing creamier with each sip. “It’s quite light on the nose, but later on there’s a gentler spiciness when compared to the Sherry Oak. There’s more of a banana sweetness,” MacPherson explains. This is because the wood used for Double Cask is predominantly American oak that’s been sherry-seasoned. The Sherry Oak 12 is inverse, with European oak being the largest force and lending the bulk of the impact.
“We launched the Fine Oak range in 2005, which uses European Sherry, American Sherry and American ex-bourbon barrels,” he continues. “The product range (whose 12-year iteration does not exist in the American market) contains lighter, fresher, more vanilla expressions,” says MacPherson. The Double Cask “falls in-between that and Sherry Oak 12, where we’ve used 100% ex-Sherry casks, but it’s defined by the caramel flavors of American oak sherry casks.” The resulting product certainly appeals to Sherry Oak 12 fans, but opens the door to new whisky consumers—without stepping deep into the bourbonization of whisky (as Fine Oak tends to do).
Double Cask is also The Macallan’s attempt at answering some (unwarranted) criticism. “When we launched the 1824 range, we removed the number from the bottle,” MacPherson explains. “We were questioned about the age profile and what was behind it. So, while we wanted to be innovative in our thinking, it did bring challenges for us. We’d been telling people for years that a number on a bottle means something.” An age statement really only helps consumers ascertain a purported value, nothing more. It’s really about the liquid and one’s desired flavor profile. The Macallan and other brands tried to break the mold with that, but Double Cask sees them returning.
Moreover, with the distinct all-natural “harvest sun” coloration, The Macallan and MacPherson are trying to disprove the belief that the darker the spirit, the better. “It’s not about the older, the darker, the better. It’s about changing the stigmatization around that and the right way and wrong way to drink whisky.” The Macallan dedicates much energy and money to maintaining an acorn-to-cask wood system to impart “that natural color and the consistencies of the liquid.” Many brands add caramel coloring to lend a darker edge. The Double Cask 12 embraces its golden glow. But why would a consumer want to have two Macallan 12s on their bar? It’s certainly possible to love and appreciate two very different members of the same family and the Double Cask balances intelligence with accessibility just as well as the Sherry Oak that we already know and love.
Images courtesy of The Macallan