Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old: The Ultimate Bottle Guide

Macallan is a big name in the world of scotch, and Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old is an excellent bottle to be aware of if you want to dive into this tasty realm of whisky. It's a single-malt scotch that boasts all the typical characteristics you'd expect of a bottle in this category, but that's made different by the fact that it's aged in both Oloroso sherry seasoned oak casks from Europe and America.

Like all single malt scotches, Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old is made from 100% malted barley, and this bottle rings in at 43% ABV. Most scotch drinkers enjoy their dram neat or on the rocks, and this one will certainly fit the bill if you're looking to drink something sans mixers.

There's a lot of history steeped in the story of the Macallan distillery, and there's a lot of flavor in this variety of scotch. From the origins of the brand to the nuances of the bottle, I'm combining research, my experience as a bartender, and my own opinions of the bottle to bring you a complete bottle guide.

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

History of Macallan scotch

Macallan has been making scotch for a long time — since 1824 to be exact. In fact, it was one of the first distilleries in Scotland that was legally allowed to make the stuff. Despite the brand's physical location in northeast Scotland (above the River Spey), it takes influence and inspiration from Spain and North America. This is especially true in this bottle, but more on that later.

Barrels are important in any aged spirit, and Macallan takes its casks seriously. So seriously that at Macallan there is a designated "Master of Wood" who oversees the entire toasting and seasoning process of the hand-picked barrels. This particular bottle was released in 2016, and made in collaboration with Steve McCurray, an awarded photographer from Philadelphia. He followed the entire production process of Macallan 12 Double Cask from the initial origins of the barrels to the aging of the whisky in Scotland.

What does Macallan 12 Year Double Cask taste like?

Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old is admittedly very mild for a single malt scotch — but that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're looking for a bottle that will help ease your palate into enjoying the strong flavors of scotch. Don't get us wrong, you'll definitely know what you're drinking, but it lacks the in-your-face woody, peaty, earthy flavor that often makes people shy away from this type of spirit. The brand touts this bottle as being heavy on ginger, honey, and citrus, and although you won't be able to miss those flavors, they are still relatively subdued when compared to the flavor notes in other bottles. 

As far as mouthfeel goes, Macallan 12 Double Cask is on the thinner side, but once again, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you usually find scotch to be too heavy. Overall, it's a mild, subtle bottle that's great for people who are new to drinking scotch. We think it's an ideal bottle of scotch for beginners. If you're a scotch lover, on the other hand, you might want to opt for something with a little more "oomph." 

How is Macallan 12 Year Double Cask made?

First, let's go over how Macallan makes its single malt scotch in general. As we said, they pay a lot of attention to the barrels. All whisky (no matter where it's made) gets color and flavor from the barrels. However, Macallan takes it a step further since it controls the wood from the source. It's so meticulous about the barrels that it identifies the trees in Spain from which they'll be made, which helps control the process from start to finish. 

For Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old, two types of barrels are used to age the scotch: sherry-seasoned American oak and sherry-seasoned European oak. Once the barrels are filled with the Macallan "New Make," they're matured at the distillery and then blended. The result is a scotch that marries the traditional flavors of Macallan with a sweeter and warmer flavor profile that's more reminiscent of American bourbon.

How to drink Macallan whisky

Generally speaking, scotch is meant for sipping and savoring. It is not meant for shooting, slurping, or masking with a plethora of other ingredients. These guidelines absolutely apply to this bottle, and we recommend enjoying Macallan 12 Double Cask in a straightforward way that allows the flavors of the whisky to shine.

You can drink it neat, on the rocks, or with one big ice cube. You can also add a small splash of water if you want to soften up the flavors a bit. Contrary to popular belief, adding water to whisky isn't a bad thing. The idea that you shouldn't water it down is a myth and doing so can help open up the flavors and allow you to pick up on some of the nuances the "hotness" might have otherwise hidden.

Although we think you should definitely try this scotch on its own, you can also use it in a simple, booze-forward cocktail if you want to switch things up. Some of the absolute best scotch whisky cocktails are simple, so don't be afraid to try this in one. While purists out there would balk at the idea of using a single malt in a cocktail (or even with ice), we think you should drink what you like, even if it's unconventional.  

How much does the bottle cost?

When it comes to price, there's a lot of variation among different bottles of single malt. However, unlike with a spirit like vodka that you can find at dirt cheap prices, the baseline price for a single malt is higher. There's really no such thing as a "well" single malt scotch. It's important to keep this context in mind when you're comparing prices if you want to avoid sticker shock.

A bottle of Macallan 12 Double Cask costs about $82 at the time of publication, which is by no means cheap, but it's not unreasonable for the overall quality of the product. If you compare it to other similar bottles, the price seems a lot more reasonable. For example, Glenlivet 12 costs about $85.

When you compare the price of this bottle to others in the Macallan collection, you'll also find that it's one of the cheaper options. A bottle of Macallan 12 Sherry Oak will run you almost $100, and a bottle of Macallan 15 Double Cask comes in at about $175. Macallan makes a bottle of 72-year-old whisky, which certainly isn't cheap, so this isn't too bad in comparison.

Macallan 12 Sherry Oak vs. Macallan 12 Double Cask

Macallan offers another 12-year-old bottle called Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old. Though both spend the same amount of time aging in barrels, the sherry oak variety is a lot more traditional in terms of flavor. Unlike the double cask variety, the sherry oak whisky is only aged in sherry-seasoned casks from Spain. The resulting flavor is rich and complex with heavy notes of wood and dried fruit. As we said previously, the sherry cask is also a little more expensive, but the difference in flavor is discernible.

Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old features a few more unusual notes like honey, citrus, and ginger. It's a bit milder than the sherry oak (some serious scotch drinkers might even describe it as bland). We think it's a great choice for people who want to get into scotch without breaking the bank and without overwhelming the palate. It has sweeter, richer notes that are almost reminiscent of bourbon, so it's a good option for people who want to make the transition.

The color purple represents the bottle's production

If you peruse the Macallan website, you'll notice the color purple making an appearance on the Macallan Double Cask page. This isn't just a matter of color — there's an intentional meaning behind the choice to include it. You'll find a photo of the bottle on purple chiffon fabric, which according to the brand, represents the marriage of European and American Oak barrels.

This branding makes a lot of sense when you think about it since the main defining factor of this bottle is the combination of two geographically separate components coming together to make a harmonious bottle of scotch. Blue represents Europe, while red represents the U.S. The blend of the two results in a beautiful color, and the blend of the whisky from the barrels results in a tasty scotch. The still life also features lemons and pieces of fudge, which alludes to the bottle's prominent flavors.

Macallan was started by a teacher

If you want a lesson on the history of Macallan, an important fact to know is that it was founded by a teacher named Alexander Reid in 1824. He was also a barley farmer, and his legacy is still going strong today. Farmers in the region (known as Speyside) had been using excess barley to make whisky for centuries, but Macallan was the first to start doing so with a legal permit.

The original name of the area was "Maghellen," which comes from a combination of a Gaelic word and the name of a monk who was associated with the area. Reid's original production area now spans 485 acres, with the Easter Elchies House at the center. The modern-day distillery was built in 2018 and you can visit it if you ever find yourself in Scotland. Today, the brand makes sustainability (along with making delicious scotch) a part of its mission.

Macallan's final flavor and quality comes from the barrels

Don't get us wrong, the raw ingredients and production methods used to make scotch are extremely important. That being said, according to Macallan, up to 80% of the flavor and quality of its scotch is determined by the barrels in which it is aged, which is notable. Macallan's scotches don't just spend a little time in the barrels, either. Since we're talking about aging whisky for over a decade, it's easy to see the need for high-quality casks. Also, 100% of the color comes from the barrels, so you won't find any artificial dyes or colorants in this one.

If you take a look at the brand's website, you'll notice that almost everything it mentions is related to the wood used to make the barrels. Macallan offers single, double, and triple cask variations. The brand also offers scotch that's been aged for much longer than the 12 years it takes to make this bottle. Although plenty of Macallan's scotches are made in sherry-seasoned casks, it also uses ex-bourbon in some of its offerings, too.


We created this bottle guide using a combination of methods. We sampled the bottle that was sent to us ourselves, researched the brand's website, and compared bottles and prices at various retailers. We also used our whisky knowledge we've obtained from working as a bartender at bars with extensive collections.