Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Yamazaki 12

The first international whisky showdown! One of Scotland’s best known brands against a perennial favorite from Japan!  Macallan 12 and Yamazaki 12 go at it this time.  The Macallan is the better known of the two, but my previous review of the Yamazaki 12 was quite good and I’ll be interested to see how my perceptions will change, if at all, with a head to head tasting.  Both of these whiskies have sherry casks involved in the aging, but the Yamazaki uses three types of casks in its process. American oak, toasted, is used in the Yamazaki as are Japanese oak barrels which lend a distinct flavour.  The aging strategy at both distillers should make for different tasting experiences.
The visuals are quite different between the two.  The Macallan with a rich dark copper tone contrasts clearly against Yamazaki’s light gold colour.  The Macallan’s legs are thick next to the Yamazaki, though both appear to run rather quickly.  Both products are bottled at 43% abv.

The nose on the Macallan is fruity, with orange standing out.  There’s some smoke and oak to bind the fruit with the overwhelming sherry influence.  The Yamazaki is sweet, moves away from orange and towards melon, pineapple, honey glaze, vanilla, light spice, but no sign of smoke.

The palate on the Macallan exudes sherry and oak.  There’s a bit of smoke in there too.  The Yamazaki is still fruity.  The pineapple is strong as is the honey.  The vanilla is also quite present.

The finish on the Macallan is dry, slightly smokey, not too long but quite pleasant.  The Yamazaki is fruity even on the finish.  Lingering notes of melon and pineapple continue to play with honey and vanilla, providing a very nice overall experience with enough complexity to keep it interesting.

I’m quite sure I’ll surprise a lot of people by declaring my preference for the Yamazaki 12 over the Macallan 12 overall.  Both are good, but the Yamazaki is better at delivering a complex experience.  At $65 at the SAQ, this is a better value in both relative and absolute terms on the Macallan 12 which is sold for almost $90.  The LCBO sells the Macallan 12 for roughly the same price in Ontario and does not carry the Yamazaki 12.  The Yamazaki 12 is a great drink for everyday, special occasions, and sharing with friends who are both whisky fans or not normally whisky drinkers.  Pick up a bottle, you won’t regret it.



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