The Macallan Distillery is one of the Speyside’s three most successful single malt Scotch whisky brands. It forms the trio of bestselling single malt Scotch whiskies worldwide alongside The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. All three distilleries belong to the Speyside region of Scotland, which is also the most densely populated with distilleries than any other Scottish region.
A farmer, Alexander Reid, is credited with establishing the Macallan Distillery in 1824. The name Macallan was a conflation of two words, ‘Magh’ meaning fertile and ‘Ellan’ inspired by the name of Irish monk St. Fillan, who helped spread Christianity in Scottish lands. What was ‘Maghellan’ slowly transformed into the name Macallan over the years. In 1892, the Macallan Distillery was purchased by Roderick Kemp, who sold his interests in the Talisker Distillery to fund this purchase.
The Kemp family retained their ownership of the Macallan Distillery for many years until Highland Distillers took over in the 80s, followed by the Edrington Group in 1999. The distillery has remained with the Edrington Group ever since, who have overseen the construction of a hi-tech new distillery that according to the company remains grounded in traditional distillation methods. The famously short, onion-shaped stills that help Macallan produce their rich spirit are at the heart of the distillery’s traditions.
Before the Speyside region was recognized as an independent whisky distilling region of Scotland, Macallan was classified as a Highland distillery. The brand continues to refer to their product as a Highland single malt Scotch whisky. Over the years, Macallan single malts have developed quite a reputation for being a collectors’ darling, and have sold many vintage and rare expressions for large sums of money.
Before moving production to their newly designed, state-of-the-art distillery in 2019, Macallan also revamped their entire core range in 2018. The company segregated all their single malts into different categories based on the type and number of different barrels used to mature and finish the whisky. Macallan also discontinued the 1824 Collection, one of their most successful range of single malts. Other range of single malts were renamed such as the Macallan Fine Oak series, which was renamed as the Triple Cask Matured series of single malts. After the revamp of their core range, Macallan now categorizes their single malts into the Sherry Oak, Double Cask, Triple Cask Matured, The Quest Collection, Rare Cask and many other vintage and limited edition categories. Not all of Macallan’s bottlings are available throughout the world, and Macallan even sells some rare expressions through auctions.
Here, we take a look at Macallan’s core range of single malt Scotch whiskies that are available for purchase in most parts of the world.
Sherry Oak Series
Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old
The Macallan 12 year single malt is one of the few Scotch whisky brands to pay close attention when sourcing their barrels. The newly created Sherry Oak series from Macallan contains single malts matured exclusively in Sherry barrels brought in from Jerez, Spain. Now most single malts usually get finished in special casks such as Sherry, Port or Cognac for a few months, but Macallan Sherry Oak single malts spend their entire age in these barrels. So what you get is a heavy, heavy Sherry influence, and a fantastic full-bodied drink.
Macallan single malts are bottled at 43% ABV which only makes them better. Sweet and spicy Sherry goodness, some soft burnt caramel and creamy toffee along with dried fruits like figs and raisins all over. The nose is intense, the flavours are rich and the finish lingers as long as you would expect it to. This is some serious good stuff, and a wholly different character than most Speyside single malts. The perfect Christmas Eve dram!
Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Year Old
This is a richer, more intense version of the 12 Year Old Sherry Oak matured Macallan. It was part of the 2018 revamp of the Macallan core range that divided all their expressions based on the casks they were matured in. The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Oak, much like the 12 Year Old, spends the entirety of its age in ex-Sherry barrels brought in from Jerez, Spain. The result is an even stronger, more refined Sherry influence that is frankly, hard to miss although for the price, a lot of people might consider giving it a miss entirely.
A lot of experts and reviewers are very fond of the Macallan Sherry Oak 18, and they aren’t mistaken. This is quality stuff from Macallan, and people who really love Sherry influenced Scotch whiskies will treasure this one. Aromatic, very full and intense, it brings sweet fruit and gentle spicy notes on the nose. The palate is bursting with flavours of ripe oranges, candied ginger, and Christmas spices. Very long finish, and the Sherry influence doesn’t relent until the very end. More than 18 years of Sherry maturation could really turn an average single malt into something extraordinary, so you can imagine what it can do to a Macallan.
Double Cask Series
Macallan Double Cask Gold
The Macallan Double Cask Gold is the updated iteration of the Macallan Gold from the revered 1824 series by Macallan. It was released in 2018 as part of the brand’s core range reshuffle and rebranding. It is a no-age-statement single malt from the Speyside and has been matured and finished in two types of barrels, ex-American and ex-European Sherry Oak barrels. Unlike most decadently rich Macallan expressions, the Double Cask Gold revels in its light, smooth and refreshing profile.
There is oodles of vanilla, citrus peel and floral notes on the nose, and the palate is quite pleasant. You taste creamy vanilla, sweet frosting and more of that citrus with just traces of cinnamon. The finish isn’t quite as long as many Macallan expressions, but it lingers adequately with a sweet aftertaste. Quite unexpectedly drying but delicious no less.
Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old
The Double Cask 12 Year Old is the second expression from the Double Cask series which interestingly has only two options. Unlike the Sherry Oak series which goes beyond the super-premium 25 Year Olds, the Double Cask series is brief. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old is matured in both American and European Sherry barrels, with a slightly higher proportion of American Sherry matured spirit. You may notice a lack of ex-Bourbon matured spirit, and that is intentional by Macallan to create something different.
Different it is, and quite enjoyable to be honest. The Double Cask 12 Year Old allows the American Sherry influence to shine without stealing away all the limelight. One can see how truly different the Double Cask series single malts are from the Sherry Oak series, the latter being light, refreshing and softer than the rich, intense profile of the former. There is toffee, vanilla and juicy apples on the nose, and sweet honey, vanilla pods, caramel custard flavours on the palate. Warming finish, medium and quite drying with a hint of sweetness.
Triple Cask Matured Series
Macallan Triple Matured 12 Year Old
The Triple Cask Matured series was earlier known as the Fine Oak, and the 12 Year Old is the entry level expression from this series. Macallan have opted to create a cascading series of single malt expressions based on the number of cask maturations they undergo. The Sherry Oak series is followed by the Double Cask series, which is then followed by the Triple Cask Matured series. To accompany the American and European Sherry Oak barrels, Macallan have thrown in ex-Bourbon barrels to create the Triple Cask Matured expressions.
With 12 Years of maturation in a combination of casks, getting the right proportions for this single malt was the biggest task at hand for Macallan. They haven’t done too badly in that regard, bringing the Sherry influence and marrying it with the ex-Bourbon character. The nose brings freshly cut breakfast fruits, zesty lemon peel and soft vanilla, and the palate is a crisp and delicious balance of citrus, vanilla cream and toasted oak. The finish lingers, and there is spicy oak and fruit towards the very end.
Macallan Triple Cask Matured 15 Year Old
The second Triple Cask Matured release by Macallan, earlier named the Fine Oak range. The 15 Year Old spends a disproportionate amount of time in three different barrels, ex-American and ex-European Sherry, and ex-Bourbon barrels. Over 15 years of maturation renders any whisky smooth and supple, and the Macallan Triple Cask Matured 15 Year Old is no exception.
Macallan do not use any artificial colouring, and the lighter straw colour of the 15 Year Old says a lot about this single malt, yet hides just enough. The nose is quite full, and there are aromas of sweet roses, warm spice and cocoa beans. Flavours of dark chocolate, marmalade and dried apricots make for a tasty palate, and there are more dried fruits and juicy oranges with a long finish. Good stuff, although the Sherry Oak 15 edges this one out.
Macallan Triple Cask Matured 18 Years Old
Another great example of a single malt created by combining different proportions of spirit matured in a variety of barrels. Macallan are known for their comprehensive and vast resources when it comes to barrels, and they bring out some of their finest for this one. Like the previous two expressions from the Triple Cask Matured series, the 18 Year Old has also been matured in ex-American, and ex-European Sherry barrels, along with ex-Bourbon barrels.
This is one of the premium Macallan expressions, and the kind of bottle you bring as a gift on Christmas, or when meeting the in-laws for the very first time. On most occasions, any good 18 Year Old Scotch would do but this one really takes the cake. The aromas are reminiscent of spring. Very floral, soft hints of coconuts, citrus fruits and roasted hazelnuts, and the palate is sultry and very smooth. The finish is long, slightly smoky and chocolaty. Macallan really know how to make a good single malt, and their expertise really shows with this one.