Macallan 12 Double Cask vs Sherry Oak

Macallan 12 Double Cask vs Sherry Oak | A Journey of Rich Hues and Sensory Contrasts

A famed offering at the pinnacle of single malt Scotch whisky is The Macallan. Based in Speyside, they’ve been producing some of the finest whiskies since 1824. Today, I’ll compare two of their most renowned offerings – the Macallan 12 Double Cask vs Sherry Oak.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Macallan’s (rather extensive) portfolio, they have three core ranges including their signature sherry range, a double cask and triple cask series.

Both renowned for their distinct qualities, the Double Cask exemplifies the harmonious marriage of American and European oak casks while the Sherry Oak highlights the rich influence of Macallan’s flagship sherry cask ageing, making for a beguiling exploration of flavour profiles and maturation techniques.

The Macallan 12 Double Cask is a personal go-to, one I first encountered during a memorable holiday gathering in the comfort of a dear friend’s lounge. There’s a reason Macallan is such a highly reputed Speyside distillery, known for crafting acclaimed single malts. When I was presented with the intriguing opportunity to delve into their range, I discovered something quite captivating—a young malt that defied expectations. 

Uniquely, The Macallan’s unique copper stills are smaller than other Speyside distilleries, so the spirit tends to have less contact with the copper. The stills’ smaller size and maximised ‘copper contact’ result in a spirit that retains more impurities, requiring a longer ageing process to attain the desired complexity. Despite this perception, I was pleasantly surprised by the 12-year Double Casks’s ability to deliver a remarkable experience even at a relatively young age.

Macallan’s 12-year Sherry Oak emblazons a rich and indulgent character as well. While both expressions showcase the unmistakable Macallan quality, the Sherry Oak emphasises the deep sherry influence that Macallan is so well known for. The Double Cask, on the other hand, offers a significantly more balanced and harmonious flavour profile.

So, concerning the Macallan 12 Double Cask vs Sherry Oak comparison, which reigns supreme?

Let’s dive in.

Macallan 12 Double Cask Vs Sherry Oak Whisky: A Quick Look Comparison 

Macallan 12 Double Cask whisky bottle
NoseDried fruit, butterscotch, vanilla & toffee.
PalateCreamy, honey, marmalade, cinnamon, pastries, oak, raisins & nutmeg.
MouthfeelRich-bodied & oily.
FinishCrisp, fruity, vanilla & sultana.
Age12 years.
CasksAmerican & European Sherry oak casks
Strength40% ABV / 80 Proof
Price£72 / $82.49

Macallan 12 year old, Double Cask
Bottle of Macallan 12 year old Sherry Cask whisky
NoseSultanas, apple, tropical fruit & syrup.
PalatePastries, marmalade, citrus, vanilla & fruit.
MouthfeelMedium bodied, delicate, smooth & rich.
FinishOaky, wood spiced & lengthy.
Age12 years.
CasksJerez sherry-seasoned oak casks.
Strength40% ABV / 80 Proof
Price£75 / $93

Macallan 12 year old, Sherry Cask.
Close view of Macallan Double Cask whisky bottle

Macallan 12 Double Cask Review 

On the nose, the Double Cask greets you with a nose that takes you to nostalgic territory. Aromatic butterscotch lays the foundation for a complex yet well-balanced experience. Its caramelised flavour is complemented by subtle yet unmistakable notes of vanilla and toffee.

Palate: Medium-bodied and quite firm, showcasing notes of hot pastries, marmalade, sultanas, and citrus peels. Developing intense sweetness from barley sugar, plenty of vanilla, and sherried dried fruits. No smoke, but abundant caramel notes. The taste of alcohol dominates, providing a less subtle flavour profile than expected from Macallan.

With a some ‘chewing’ the Double Cask unveils a creamy and honeyed texture. But the oak flavour takes centre stage, delivering a robust presence with notes of raisins and nutmeg. The Macallan 12 Double Cask is surprisingly smooth. Subtle notes of toffee and dried fruits come through from the sherry casks, while a pleasant nutty flavour enlivens proceedings.

The mouthfeel is smooth, rich-bodied, and oily, providing a luxurious glide across the tongue. For me Macallan 12 Double Cask is lighter and gentler than its Sherry Oak counterpart. Its delicate balance between flavour and texture provides an enjoyable drinking experience, particularly in comparison to the depth of flavours in the Sherry Oak expression.

One notable whisky that comes to mind is The Balvenie 12-Year DoubleWood. Like the Macallan 12 Double Cask, The Balvenie 12 DoubleWood undergoes a dual maturation process, resulting in a rich and harmonious palate. But the combination of American and European Sherry oak casks provides a distinct character and depth of flavours that sets the Macallan 12 Double Cask apart from 12-year whiskies with similar flavour profiles.

As their youngest bottle within the Double Cask range, the 12 surprises with a remarkable level of complexity. The whisky’s smooth mouthfeel adds to its overall appeal. However, some may find the oak flavour too dominant, potentially overshadowing other nuances. 

The Macallan 12-Year Double Cask sits within the mid-range price point for single malt whiskies, priced at $93 USD (£75). While it may not be classified as a low-end entry-level product, it also doesn’t fall into the high-end that is typically viewed as a coveted investment for collectors. However, it still makes for a great staple in anyone’s personal cabinet of spirits.

Close view of Macallan 12 year old Sherry Cask whisky bottle

Macallan 12 Sherry Oak Review 

The 12 Year Sherry Oak has all the elements you’d typically look for in Macallan whisky, but with an interesting twist. Its bright, fruity undertones give the spirit a vibrant and invigorating character that keeps you coming back for more. It sits in high contrast to the Double Cask. Despite both being 12 year Macallan whiskies, they’re almost nothing alike.

If you are a fan of the dark fruitiness of the GlenDronach 12, the Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak will seem like a familiar friend. Although it lacks the decadent chocolate notes that the GlenDronach 12 possesses, it makes up for it with luscious vanilla and caramel.

On the nose, The Macallan 12 Sherry Oak showcases a crisp and sweet nose, capturing the essence of sultanas, fresh apple blossom, and a distinct floral character. The aroma jumps at you the moment you open the bottle, and its sweetness remains highly characteristic with each sip. 

On the palate, I was immediately struck by the richness of the Macallan 12 Sherry Oak whisky. The flavour is smooth and velvety, with hints of dried fruit and sherry that dances on my tongue. It has a subtle sweetness of hot pastries and marmalade but there’re also notes of oak and spice that linger. I can pick up hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, as well as a faint hint of honey.

Hints of Sherry and Calvados emerge, accompanied by a tropical fruit note and golden syrup. Bright, sugary citrus peels take the lead while barley sugar intensifies the sweetness, accompanied by the classic spice of Macallan’s signature casks.

The mouthfeel remains delicate and smooth, enhancing the overall experience. The finish leaves a woody aftertaste that not everyone will find pleasant, but it does come with intrigue that  adventurous whisky lovers will appreciate. 

The finish is surprisingly smooth and light, with just enough warmth that it stays on my tongue long after I’ve taken a sip. I can tell why this is such a sought-after whisky; it’s truly an amazing drink.

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak costs around £75 ($102). While that places it in the premium price point, some may find that its overpowering sweetness means it is not quite worth the investment. However, its rich and complex flavour profile may have you believing otherwise. While individual preferences may vary, it is generally well-crafted.

Macallan 12 Double Cask whisky bottle beside Macallan 12 Sherry Cask whisky bottle

Comparing Macallan 12 Double Cask Vs Sherry Oak Whisky

Both the Macallan 12 Year Double Cask and Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak whiskies offer distinct flavour profiles that can cater to different preferences and pairings.

While the Double Cask showcases a harmonious blend of creamy sweetness and rich oak influence, the Sherry Oak delivers a bold and intense experience with its deep fruitiness and robust sherry character. With these whiskies, their both relitively different, each offering its own unique character for whisky enthusiasts to explore.

The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask presents a rich and sweet flavour profile with notes of dried fruits, butterscotch, vanilla, and toffee. This makes it an excellent choice for those who enjoy a smooth and creamy whisky with just a slight touch of sweetness. You can enjoy it neat or on the rocks, allowing the flavours to shine without overpowering other ingredients in cocktails.

This whisky pairs well with desserts such as caramel-based sweets, chocolate, or even fruity tarts. Its versatility also makes it suitable for classic whisky cocktails like the Old Fashioned, adding a layer of complexity to the drink.

The Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak offers a more pronounced sherry influence with notes of sultanas, dried fruits, and a touch of spice. Its medium-bodied and firm palate, along with its sweeter and sherried character, make it a profound choice for those who appreciate a robust and flavour-packed whisky.

This expression pairs well with rich, savoury dishes like roasted meats, game, and beloved charcuterie boards. The sherry influence in this whisky can complement strong and salty flavours, making it an ideal choice to pair with aged cheeses, especially those with a hint of sweetness or nuttiness.

If you’re inclined, The Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak lends itself well to mixed drinks. It can shine in cocktails that benefit from its rich fruitiness and complexity. The mixers may also help dull down some of its more overpowering flavours. It can elevate drinks like the Blood and Sand or provide a unique twist to a Whisky Collins.

Bottle of Macallan Double Cask whisky in front of white wall

Final Thoughts 

If you’re seeking a whisky with a lighter and smoother profile, the Macallan 12 Year Double Cask is an excellent choice. It delivers a creamy and honeyed experience with its dried fruit, butterscotch, vanilla, and toffee notes. This whisky appeals to those who appreciate a milder taste with a delicate touch of sweetness. It is versatile for sipping neat, on the rocks, or as an ingredient in cocktails like the Manhattan.

On the other hand, the Macallan 12-Year Sherry Oak caters to those who prefer a bolder, sherried character. Its flavour profile offers a more robust and flavour-packed experience, making it a great choice for those who enjoy pronounced sherry influences and intense sweetness. It pairs well with savoury dishes, roasted meats, and aged cheeses, amplifying the overall tasting experience.

For whiskies of relatively young age, the level of complexity found in both the Macallan 12 Year Double Cask and Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak is remarkable. Typically, whiskies require a longer maturation period to develop intricate flavours and aromas. However, these expressions from Macallan defy expectations by showcasing a depth of complexity that belies their years. 

The careful selection of casks, the interplay of flavours, and the meticulous craftsmanship result in whiskies that offer a multi-layered and captivating experience. Whether it’s the harmonious combination of dried fruits, spices, and oak in the Sherry Oak or the intriguing balance between sweetness, earthiness, and subtle dessert-like notes in the Double Cask, these whiskies exemplify the artistry and expertise of Macallan in creating exceptional expressions that captivate the senses.

It’s worth mentioning that neither of these whiskies are peated, which can be a drawback if you are looking for a smoky whisky experience akin to those from Islay. But if you’re seeking a departure from the traditional profile in search of something unique, both the Macallan 12 Year Double Cask and Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak offer intriguing options.

In general, the Double Cask may be the best way for you to bridge the gap between the familiar and the strange. But if you’re ready to take the plunge into something entirely different, you may find the unusual flavour profile of the Sherry Oak to be quite enjoyable.

The pepperiness of the Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak adds a fascinating contrast to the predominant sugary citrus flavours found in this expression. The interplay between the peppery spice and the high sweetness creates a dynamic and captivating taste experience.

However, its flavour profile is incredibly intense and may not be for everyone. It demands attention and is undoubtedly an acquired taste. While it may not possess the peatiness commonly associated with other whiskies, the Sherry Oak compensates with its overall intensity, including a highly alcoholic flavour that further contributes to its bold character. This whisky truly stands out for those seeking a powerful spirit.

Macallan 12 Double cask leaning against white wall
 Macallan 12 Double CaskMacallan 12 Sherry Oak

Author’s pick

The Macallan 12 Double Cask emerges as the clear winner with a total score of 35, surpassing the Macallan 12 Sherry Oak’s score of 27. One of the standout attributes of the Double Cask is its captivating colour. The rich amber hue of the whisky exudes a warm and inviting glow that entices the senses, even before opening the bottle. It sets the stage for the inviting flavours that await, creating an anticipation that adds to the overall encounter.

In terms of mouthfeel, the Double Cask truly shines. Its satisfying and soothing oiliness adds a layer of smoothness that enhances the drinking experience. As the whisky glides effortlessly across the tongue, the flavours have the opportunity to evolve and unfold, offering a journey of taste sensations. In contrast, the Sherry Oak exhibits a sharper and more intense texture, akin to a loud and boisterous orchestra playing all at once. While it may appeal to those seeking a bold and robust experience, it can be overwhelming for those looking for a more nuanced and subtle profile.

The Double Cask’s combination of enticing colour, satisfying mouthfeel, and the gradual development of flavours make it a standout choice. Its richness and depth are evident from the first sip, enticing the palate with layers of complexity. The Sherry Oak, with its darker hue and intense profile, may cater to individuals who crave a more pronounced and immediate flavour impact.

Ultimately, the Macallan 12 Double Cask’s balance and ability to draw you in with its colour and texture make it the preferred choice for those seeking a whisky that engages the senses and offers a rewarding drinking experience.

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