By Richard Thomas
In my experience, being a whiskey writer changes your drinking habits, making one more experimental. Writers in general are always looking for their next story, so a whiskey lover turned whiskey writer (such as myself) finds himself enjoying his familiar favorites less often in favor of trying something new, taking notes, and writing the thing up later.
So it was when my wife and I went to Paris for a long weekend trip. After a nice dinner that was exactly I expected — good, but not excellent food in small portions that were therefore somewhat overpriced — we went out for drinks with a friend studying at the Sorbonne. Instead of ordering something I knew well, like Glenmorangie or Grant’s 12 Year Old, I asked for the (to me) unfamiliar Macallan Fine Oak 12 Year Old.
Whiskeys from The Macallan’s Fine Oak Series are triple cask-aged, going through a series of maturations in Spanish oak sherry, American oak sherry, and American oak bourbon barrels. As the bottle statements indicate, all the scotch in the Fine Oak 12 Year Old is at least 12 years old and comes only from The Macallan, and is bottled at 40% abv.
The Fine Oak 12 Year Old has the color of pale straw, pale enough to have a slight, but noticeable translucence around the edges. The nose is mellow and restrained, but complex, showing a balance of floral sweetness, maltiness, and oak, with slight notes of vanilla and toffee. The whiskey’s flavor has no surprises vis-a-vis the smell, with all the same characteristics there and in the same relative balance, coming across with a silky texture. The finish is of middling-length, with a sweet and cool quality.
Overall, I think of this as a pleasant scotch in the restrained mold. Whiskey lovers looking for something bold won’t like it, but those who prefer their sipping whiskey to be from a cast that is mellow, sweet, floral and subtle ought to come away satisfied.
The Macallan Fine Oak 12 Year Old is listed on their website shop for £37.50 (about $60). Technically this scotch is discontinued, but at the time of writing it is still available through regular retail channels.