I have had some requests recently for reviews of single-malt Scotches that weigh in a good value. Of course, one of the reasons I drink mostly bourbon is because it is a domestic product, which makes it a better value buy than Scotch (which is made exclusively in Scotland). However, if you are willing to spend a few more dollars, there are definitely some very good single-malt Scotches on the market today. Scotch whisky is usually delineated by the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from. Today, I am reviewing a pair of Speyside whiskies, The Glenlivet 12 year and The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak, both bottled at 80 proof. While most whiskies in the Speyside region have similar flavor profiles, there are some significant differences from whisky to whisky and distillery to distillery.
The Glenlivet is one of the most famous distilleries in all of Scotland, and it is also one of the most popular single-malt Scotches. I must give credit to The Glenlivet because it was one of the first whiskies that I ever had that I truly loved. Over the years, it has slipped a bit on my list, but it is still one of my favorite Speyside Scotches. The Glenlivet bottles many different expressions of whisky, but The Glenlivet 12 year is their most recognizable, available in almost every liquor store and bar in the United States.
On the nose, The Glenlivet 12 year is light, but rich. Fresh fruits and fresh flowers dominate the air, with slight whispers of vanilla and citrus. I once described smelling The Glenlivet to sitting next to a lilac bush while eating an orange. On the palate, the sweet, citrus flavors of the fruits give way to a sweetness of honey and almond. The citrus zest only wafts in the background. The finish comes back to the nose, with citrus and floral notes. It is light, yet moderately long. My grade: B. Price: $40-45/750ml. This is a nice, light Speyside, perfect for a daily pour. This is a great whisky to have around the house if you don’t mind the price tag.
The MaCallan is another very popular Speyside distillery, also providing many different expressions of their whisky. Most of their standard offerings are aged in either Fine (a mix of Spanish and American) Oak, or Sherry Oak, which gives each expression a distinct flavor profile. Although The MaCallan is not as well-known as The Glenlivet, it is still a very popular product.
On the nose, The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak is dark and rich. There are notes of hazelnuts and almonds, mixed with dried fruits (plantains and raisins). The palate is dense with dark chocolate and dark, dried fruits. As the whisky moves towards the finish, the oak begins to emerge. The finish is rich with oak, both sweet and smoky, followed by a hint of vanilla as the finish lingers for a long time. My grade: B. Price: $50-60/750ml. This is a very nice pour, but there are usually whiskies I reach for over this one if I am looking to spend more than $50.
Overall, both these whiskies are very good; they are almost two different sides of the same coin. If you were to see the two side by side, you would instantly notice a difference in color. The Glenlivet is a soft gold, whereas The MaCallan is a rich, dark amber. The Glenlivet presents the softer, more delicate side of Speyside whisky, and The MaCallan represents the darker, oakier side of Speyside Scotch. They are both very good whiskies, and good introductions into the wonderful world of Scotch whisky.