Before I understood what single malt was; how it differed from blended scotch, I owned a bottle of Macallan 12. Top shelf at every liquor store in the City, it was "the fancy scotch" pure and simple. Later on, when my whiskey snob persona was developing I knew it was sherried and a single malt. I called it "toffee walnut ice cream" and tried the 18 but stayed with the 12 as a value proposition. I always had a bottle.
Somehow over the last decade, as I have wandered far afield I left Macallan alone and it's been years since my last dram. To reconnect I came by the prettiest miniature I've ever seen: thick glass, proper shape, and a real cork. Now that I've been drinking a lot of top shelf hooch would the ubiquitous Macallan 12 stand up? If you drink it you already know the answer.
Color: rich honey-brown amber
Nose: Sweet with sherry. Somehow doesn't do it justice...wait - SHERRY! That's more like it. With time there's more: nutmeg, sweetmeats, toffee, baking sweets and baking spices. Under all is a bedrock aroma of rich elegant malt whiskey. This is a first rate nose.
Entry is toffee sweet with an immediate burst of citrus. Creamy sherry blooms in mid-palate in full vinous detail with rancio, wood, spice and grape must. There's rich malt too, and spirit heat. Creaminess ushers in the finish which is all about emerging wood tannins which bring a crisp oak bite that doesn't dislodge the sherry. The sherry hangs on. The finish is of medium length - par for 43% abv. At the fade out there's a lovely hint of smoked fish. With extensive air the rich sweet of the toffee sherry combines with the citrus opening and oak tannin finish to form lovely dark chocolate flavors too.
This is so satisfying on so many levels, but I'm hard pressed to separate my liking for this dram from my deep sense memory connecting this flavor with malt whiskey's DNA at the deepest level. Recommended? A staple; more like an archetype. Conclusion? Same as it ever was - toffee walnut ice cream on steroids with refined wood and malt to boot. Those jaded years didn't make me look down on this classic dram. Quite the contrary, actually. I have a new found respect and admiration for it. It's the real deal.