Whisky Review: The Macallan 18-Year-Old

, | August 26, 2016

The Macallan 18-Year-Old Some labels seem to virtually write their own marketing. The roots of The Macallan extend back to the year 1700 with the construction of the Easter Elchies House. The Highland manor house sits on a 390-acre estate on the banks of the river Spey, making this perhaps the most literal of representations of the Speyside region. Nearly one-quarter of the estate’s land is dedicated to growing The Macallan’s exclusive Minstrel variety of barley.

The Macallan website refers to the 18 as “the iconic Macallan.” It would be difficult to mount a solid case against this claim. The distillery would know a thing or two about iconography. After all, their own stills have been featured on banknotes issued by the Bank of Scotland. The release is commonly seen as a direct competitor with Blue Label from Johnnie Walker, arguably placing it solidly in the premium whisky category.

As with all Macallans, the 18 features natural color imparted from casks used in the aging process. The single malt is a part of the Sherry Oak series, preceded by the 12-year-old and followed by 25-and 30-year old releases.

Tasting Notes: The Macallan 18-Year-Old

Vital Stats: 43% ABV (86 proof), aged 18 years, 100% malted barley, available around $250-$270 per 750 ml bottle with some vintages fetching more on the secondary market. A very collectible label.

Appearance: A caramel amber color. Strong legs that easily coat the side of a glass and linger.

Nose: Sherry, spiced plums, mixed berry preserves, warm cinnamon toast, butter.

Palate: Sweet, dry sherry, salted butter on a toasted english muffin. Clean and uncomplicated, yet full and satisfying.

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Finish: Continued sherry notes from the nose right on through the finish. Charred oak on the back end with long, lingering tannic notes punctuated by sweet and very slightly salty caramel.


The Macallan 18 places itself in a challenging position in terms of value in the single malt market. Like Blue Label and other premium whiskies, the debate commonly centers around whether or not the whisky is worth the considerable suggested retail price. There is little doubt as to the quality of the dram itself, at least in my most humble of opinions. It is simply exquisite. Not the most complex of whiskies, rather the bottle is a greatest hits album of clean Highland scotch with bonus tracks of sherry. The whisky is significantly more approachable and reliable than the 12-year-old variation.

That being said, it is also around $200 more per bottle. If sales were the lone arbiter in this argument, then it would seem The Macallan 18 is indeed worth the price of admission. The label has enjoyed success for years and does not seem to show any signs of weakening. For fans of clean and uncomplicated single malts, this is in the very least a must-try whisky. I found my curiosity handsomely rewarded.


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Joshua St. John

When not sampling whiskey, Joshua St. John can most likely be found running the trails of the Pacific Northwest surrounding his home in Portland, Oregon. A lifelong world-traveler, Joshua was first introduced to single malts while visiting distilleries in Scotland, and continues to explore the world through the countless interpretations...