The last 10-15 years at Macallan has seen more change than almost any in its existence. Product lines have been released, then disappeared with barely a whisper. A prime example would be their Fine Oak line, which blended European and American oak sherry casks with American oak bourbon casks to give a less aggressively sherried profile. However this was always seen as the 'lesser' Macallan in comparison to their classic Sherry Oak lineup.
Since Fine Oak was taken out of circulation, it has been partially replaced with their (small) Double Cask, which takes a page out of Edrington's other big name distillery Highland Park. While there are no bourbon casks here, they instead use sherry seasoned American oak casks to impart a different profile than the pure European oak sherry casks of their Sherry Oak line.
The final result is bottled at 43% with chill filtration, but probably no coloring.
Macallan 12 Year Double Cask
Nose: classic Macallan malt and sherry, fruit leather, strong vanilla and caramel, grassy/floral overtones. After adding a few drops of water is becomes richer, with deeper bourbon cask notes,
Taste: mildly sweet malt up with sherry overtones, some cardboard in the background throughout, becomes a little more rich with American oak butterscotch and light floral notes beginning in the middle, then a touch of bittersweet oak at the back. After dilution the American oak notes become stronger and the bitterness at the back is amplified, though not unpleasantly.
Finish: weak and thin - vague malt, sherry, oak, vanilla, mild nutty savoriness, and a little heat
While not a world-beater, this is a very competent malt. It feels like an interesting twist on the Fine Oak line it replaced, with the American oak still dominating over the sherry. Hazarding a guess the seasoning period for the American oak casks may have been comparatively short, so the wood speaks louder than the sherry. The American oak casks were still well chosen and give it a sweeter, more dessert-y character without going overboard on the tannins.
It feels comparable to something like Aberlour 12 Year, which makes sense given that their composition is similar. Back when Aberlour 12 Year was bottled at 43% I would say there wasn't much contest between the two, but if their prices are similar, I might have to give the nod to Macallan for still being bottled at the higher strength. I also might take it over something like Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year, which has always felt poorly integrated from the short finish compared to blending bourbon and sherry casks together.
Overall this feels somewhat representative of how the market seems to be coming back around after years of mediocre NAS releases. This has an age date, displays casks that are, if not wildly exciting, very respectable, and it doesn't cost the earth (by today's standards). I'm not sure if I need a lot more, but if 200 mL bottles were available for, say, $20, I would happily grab one for the occasional drink.
17 hours ago