For your entertainment and gustatory pleasure, tonight's main event is a death match between two fierce sherried competitors: The Macallan 12 years Highland Single Malt Scotch and Glenfarclas 12 years Highland Single Malt Scotch
These adversaries inhabit the Speyside region of Scotland and are sworn enemies on liquor store shelves everywhere. They compete for territory in the 12 year old single malt sherried scotch marketplace jungle.
The Macallan 12 years Highland Single Malt
Introducing first: making his way from the north side of the river Spey in Speyside, weighing in at 40% abv, fighting out of the sherried oak casks of Jerez, Spain corner, a legend of sherried single malt, third best selling single malt after Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, the one and only: The Suave & Sophisticated! The Macallan 12 years!
Glenfarclas 12 years Highland Single Malt
Introducing the challenger to the sherried single malt 12 year old title belt: Hailing from just south of the river Spey, weighing in at a robust 43% abv, this is no herbivore of a dinosaur, but a carnivore, looking to draw first blood from his no-caramel-added opponent! The dangerous and unpredictable! The Barbarian! Glenfarclas 12 years!
Announcer: Ok boys! I wanna clean fight. No caramel added and see what you can do to avoid being chill-filtered.
. . .
Announcer (con't): The Macallan makes his move first stealthily with incredible finesse suggestive of the highest training in Aikido. Lift your Glencairn glass of Macallan 12 to your nose and enjoy: Cherry blossoms, crushed strawberries ready for making jam, vanilla and roses, which are caught up in a lungful of North Sea air. Languid, sublime nose, simply fantastic!
With this terrific effort of aromas, it comes as no surprise the Macallan 12 lands a perfectly executed roundhouse kick to the snout of the Glenfarclas.
The Barbarian Glenfarclas stumbles from this unexpected assault upon his olfactory abilities. He's bleeding heavily from the snout, as he attempts to retort: Lifting the Glencairn glass of Glenfarclas 12 you will sniff concentrated sherry, port (even though port plays no part in production), big Cabernet Sauvignon notes too! A little whiff of something untamed though, not raw alcohol, but something out of place, maybe like damp wood smoke, but eventually you get some hot cherry pie. Not the best nose of a 12 year old malt, not terrible, just ok. The Barbarian Glenfarclas' punch fails to land on the Suave and Sophisticated Macallan.
The Macallan easily ducks his unrefined adversary's out-of-control lunge at his nose, and now aims for a deft combination punch to the jaw: a nanosecond of ripe watermelon and then quickly moving into black grapes, before the flavor profile goes deeper into blackberries and plum. French Pinot Noir notes, wine of the earth, red earth. Subtle sherried dram with the elegance of an Audi meandering along the coastal highway of west coast wine country. Should we stop in Carmel? I dunno Becky? Is it a little kinda been done to death?
The Barbarian laughs off this girlie man subtle attack upon his palate, and with his long reach slams the delicate jaw line of Macallan with a webbed and scaly fist of: far more concentrated and robust sherry flavors; and then follows that up with a lightning uppercut to the palate with semi-sweet chocolate with delightful bitter moments. The Macallan is stumbling . . . but the Barbarian is not done, as he unleashes a fury of combination punches delivering passion fruits, pomegranate, raspberries, dragonfruit, loganberry and then towering sherry in all its multifaceted ruby splendour. . . but the Barbarian goes too far. The bell has rung ending the round, but he continues to strike his opponent. He has gone too far leaving a slightly raw or bitter taste in the mouths of the judges.
The Macallan 12 is wobbly as the end of the round nears. He's unsteady as he vainly tries to launch a final assault of: rich, luxuriant Merlot like wine finish, with very faint smoke accompanied by orange chocolate. Repeated sips delivers more smoke on the finish.
The Barbarian Glenfarclas attempts move in for the kill: "Macallan you fool!" (pronounced with Mr. T's voice) unleashing a finish of: dusted sherry, old port and the powder dry tannins of Pio Cesare Ornato Barolo, the red wine of kings and the king of wines, but what is happening now? Camphor and French Roast coffee bean? It's out of place, that last minute head fake was a mistake because the Macallan has landed one last blow! Glenfarclas' raw and unruly taste mid-palate is there a little in the finish causing a tactical error in this match to the death. The refinement of the Macallan in the palate and through to the finish results in an uppercut that takes the Barbarian to the mat and to his most certain death.
While the Suave and Sophisticated Macallan 12 would have preferred to settle the claims to his title with the upstart Glenfarclas by way of a more dignified duel, he nevertheless prevailed because he kept his balance and guard.
Announcer: Well there you have it! The raw and unruly midpalate attack of the Barbarian Glenfarclas was its downfall. Had he been more balanced and poised as The Macallan 12, he would have been victorious. Instead, he is under the heel of the Macallan.
P.S.: These are excellent 12 year old single malts. Glenfarclas 12 is more robust and also more wild in its sherried flavor profile. There is ginger or something akin to near alcohol that makes it a little out of balance, and for that reason I prefer the Macallan 12. Macallan gets a lot of bad press for being too predictable, but I think such a view is a mistake. The Macallan 12 is a surprisingly subtle whisky. The sherry profile is complex, but subtle. Some critics I think have equated subtlety with being predictable or not interesting. That's the key to Macallan 12, the appreciation is in it's refinement and restraint. Similarly, the failure of the Glenfarclas is it's a little too robust.
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.
Ha! Without the pictures, that would've just been lame, but with the pictures it was SO lame that it was actually amusing ;-)ReplyDelete
Oh, I am just trying to play around with the whisky review genre and inject some humor at the same time!Delete
Well written blog; clever and creative. Don't listen to the jackass above you.Delete
Great review! One minor nitpick; it's Aikido, not akido.ReplyDelete
I enjoy the Glenfarclas 12 quite a bit and would give it the edge over the Macallan 12 because of some of that untamed nature. I like big and bold. I think the price is outrageous, but the Macallan 18 should be near the top of any sherried list. Now that the Macallan has triumphed perhaps it is time for him to take on the new Aberlour 12 that is non-chillfiltered?ReplyDelete
Allen, I do agree that the Macallan 18 yrs is one of the top sherried drams of all. No doubt about it.Delete
Many reviewers have been saying in recent years that The Macallan 12 yrs has declined from its former glory and really has been recently resting on past achievements. Moreover, whisky critics have hailed Glenfarclas as actually the preferred dram when compared to Macallan 12. I thought I would conclude the same, but repeated tastings had me enjoying the Macallan 12 more, much to my surprise. As I mention, in an opaque manner in the review, Glenfarclas is a little raw/bitter or off a teensy weensy bit, while the Macallan is flawless.
What I dont mention in the review is that the Macallan 12 released presently is better than what they were bottling as little as two years ago. In past years it had become very flat and boring. The bottle I have has the complexity that made it great in the past.
Aberlour 12 vs. Macallan 12? Now that's a battle!
This blog post is right up my allow, as I am currently contemplating what my next "everyday whisky" should be. I've been throughReplyDelete
* Glenfiddich 15: Seemed to have many similarities to cognac. I should get this again, as I bought it when learning about whisky - I think there's more to be had for me now.
* Cragganmore 12: comes off a bit rough the first time but really grows on you. I guess that's what is described as complexity, which is a difficult concept to put into words.
* Dahlwinnie 15: A really comforting dram; it's like a warm hug on a cold day. Sadly, it got a little too boring after half a bottle (don't worry, it wasn't in one sitting).
* Glendronach 12: Good, and just keeps getting better; it's a bit heavy on the sherry, but also very refined in the oak taste.
* Glenmorangie 10: My experience is the same as with your Macallan review. The first dram didn't "wouw" me; smooth and pleasant. But unlike the Dahlwinnie, it really developed, and I've grown very fond of it. Now, I just dug below 1/10th of the bottle and need a new bottle for when I just want to relax on a usual day - nothing too demanding that I can't drink while watching my favourite tv-series, reading a book or playing computer.
Maybe someone has deduced a good suggestion in accordance with the above mentioned experiences. I was thinking about getting the Glenfarclas 12, Benriarch 12 (I had the 10 year old Curiositas(peated), which is incredible) or Benromach 10. I might also be in need of a whisky club of some sort, since the only thing I have to go on are internet reviews. Anywaym this post probably got a bit long.
I think the death match was a good read. Regardless of the writing style, it's good to have different brands compared in one article. You should, however, also mention the price of each, although I guess it's about the same.
For a daily dram, maybe try a blended scotch like Johnnie Walker Black or Teacher's, plus you will save a lot of money. I never seem to tire of these two.Delete
But if it must be a single malt, what about Highland Park 12? You got the complexity of flavors, sherry notes and the ever elusive 'heather' taste, that only Highland Park can do.
By no means does it have to be a single malt. But I gave blends a try with Johnnie Walker Green Label, and didn't really get what all the fuzz is about. It seemed to me that the blending of whiskies somehow erased the interesting part of the single malts and just made the result and overall smooth whisky that lacked the complexity of the single malts involved. On the other hand, my taste in whisky is still developing. It started with me getting hooked on Islay a few years ago. But lately I've been enjoying Highland and Speyside more and more whereas the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (and excellent Islay whisky) just doesn't do it for me anymore...Delete
I think I'll get the Highland Park 12 (which was actually on my to-do-list) or I might give Black Label a go, since it is a bit cheaper and that's a plus.
Try the HP 12 and the Black Label, they will not disappoint!Delete
Thanks for the review. I've not enjoyed recent bottlings of the Macallan 12, finding the smoothed-over nature of the dram excessive. It's same the knock I have for Silver Oak cabernets. I much prefer the intensity and depth of the Aberlour 12, and more yet, the drama in the Glenfarclas 12.ReplyDelete
I agree that in the past few years Macallan 12 years was quite boring. In the wine world, it reminded me of Robert Mondavi Napa Merlot: refined, smooth and well boring.Delete
Guess what? Based on the bottling I have, I think the Macallan 12 may be making a comeback or a return to what made it great: complexity, subtle refinement, and great delivery of sherry notes.
The Macallan is a subtle scotch. It's not over the top and sometimes we assume that if a whisky is restrained it cant be good. The nose is excellent, probably among the best in class (12yr single malt sherry drams) and the palate is very refined with no faults, at least in the bottling I have.
I guess what I am saying is: maybe it is time to give The Macallan 12 another go. Just as GlenDronach a few years ago was written off as a weak dram, and has since reinvented itself, so to has the Macallan.
I am not a huge fan of Silver Oak either. Try Cakebread Cab, and then when you die and go to heaven, you can say: hey this place is familiar!
I like Macallan 12 a lot, but $90 in Ontario? Crazy! My bottle was $47 at a New Jersey grocery store and worth every penny. I've done a lot of shopping around for whisky and, in terms of money saved, Macallan 12 is the best thing an Ontarian can buy in the U.S.ReplyDelete
Macallan 12 is $68 in New Brunswick while the Glenfarclas was $56!Delete
I would never pay $90 for Macallan 12. As usual, the LCBO are just gouging the consumer with higher profit margins. However, $47 in New Jersey? Wow! That is a steal!
Holy cork maltman, at those prices I'd be finding something else to imbibe methinks. Here in SoCal, the Macallan 12y runs $38, Glenfarclas 12y $50, and the Aberlour 12y only $33. Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac often wins my money at this point/style point ($40).ReplyDelete
Ok, I am moving to California!Delete
Nice idea Jason! Without innovative stuff the world would be a dull place. Keep it up!ReplyDelete
With the encouragement of your review, I repurchased the current Macallan 12 for our SoCal tasting group. I immediately poured off half of the new bottle and let rest for a week at half bottle full. We compared it again with similarly-treated Glenfarclas 12, Aberlour 12 (48%) and this time, the Bunnhabain 12. Among our five palates, I think preference and enjoyment levels for each malt emerged pretty much unaltered, unchanged - from these bottles anyway. Not much changed anywhere, except perhaps for the somewhat improved Bunny. Those who really liked the Macallan 12 before, still do, and others, well - we remain less than compelled. Oh, the terrible burdens of mailt and the pursuit of understanding ! Cheers !ReplyDelete
I think I am the exception in the sense that I prefer the Macallan over the Glenfarclas. The critics overwhelmingly prefer the latter.Delete
That being said, it is always good to challenge the opinion of others as you have astutely chosen to do!
Jason, I didn't mean to challenge your opinion, merely to offer a counterpoint. My apologies. We benefit this week from a visit from a former tasting group member, now 82 years old himself. He's brought along some treasures, of interest here being his last bottle of an older release Macallan 12Y (1992 purchase). Stunning stuff, a real treat. Next to it, the current release showed quite one note, fairly diminished in terms of initial depth, oiliness, length of finish. The current one displayed much more plain sugar sweetness, and none of the old style sustained sweet-sour finish. That style of finish used to be the Macallan signature, but alas is something I cannot find in the modern 12Y. I suspect the cause relates to less aging today in fresh sherry casks, as well as the lack of inclusion of much older whiskies. The price of success, perhaps. JKReplyDelete
Challenge all you want buddy! If this website is anything, I hope it is an adventure of whisky ideas and musings for the reader to judge. thanks again!Delete
Jason, I'm hearing from several reliable sources that the Macallan 12Y is being discontinued soon. Indications are it is to be replaced with a non-age-statement version. I can't say I'm surprised, what with the consumption of Spanish sherry being so far reduced from decades past; huge impact on availability of suitable barrels for whiskey aging. Get 'em while you can if it's a favorite. JKReplyDelete
I like Macallan 12, and will start picking them up. I am going to inquire with some acquaintances who are more plugged into industry to see how much substance there is to the rumour.Delete
Thanks for the heads-up!
JK, I made some inquiries and a Macallan representative had this to say:Delete
"We are not discontinuing Macallan 12 years old. The new 1824 Series will replace 10, 12 and 15 years old over time in those markets taking this new range. Only certain markets will move to the new range. The majority of brand sales and the range in our largest markets will remain in Sherry and Fine Oak for the foreseeable future.
The 1824 Series, which is 100% matured in sherry casks, does not carry an age statement. This approach enables the Whisky Maker to draw on his broadest range of skills in cask selection, unshackled by the need to draw on casks selected first and foremost for their age."
So, the fact that Macallan 12 is being no longer distributed in one market does not mean it is being discontinued all together. However, I find it hard to believe that Macallan 12 would be pulled from the southern California marketplace. Cheers!
Jason, Serge Valentin (Malt Maniacs) published his tasting notes (Whiskey Fun) today for the new, non-age statement standard release: Macallan Gold. Methinks he's a reliable taster and his id of the stylistic direction taken by the distillery is encouraging: "the rather perfect access-category malt". From his pen, it means a malt good enough for experienced tasters and still unassuming enough for blend drinkers. BTW, the 12yo release continues to hit the shelves in SoCal.Delete
Hey Jason, wasn't quite clear at the top of the review (which was clever, btw), are either of these non-chill filtered? I think Mac is filtered, not sure about the Glenfarclas. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Very impressive and creative post about Macallan 12 Glenfarclas 12. I was originally leafing through Google searches for a Macallan 12 & GlenDronach 12 contemplation, but I ate your script right up! :)ReplyDelete
Glad you got a kick out of it!Delete