A whisky with a reputation such as Macallan 12 must be tried against a variety of competitors in order to appreciate how singular the product is. By the same token, one may also discover a wonderful alternative during such a tasting. In today’s showdown, I hope a pleasant surprise is at hand as a wonderful whisky from my collection, the Arran Bourbon Single Cask at cask strength goes up against the Macallan 12. This bottle of Arran is a rare treat, no longer available in these parts. The bottle in my collection is just one of 178 produced in 2011 (bottle number 60 to be precise). It was bottled at 55.5% abv from cask number 115.
Prior to commencing, I poured both through my Vinturi Spirit and added a few drops of water to the Macallan and significantly more to the Arran. I figure I dropped the alcohol content to about 46% abv in so doing.
Their respective colours could not be more different. The bold, rich golden/amber hues of the Macallan contrast significantly from the pale yellow colour of the Arran. No surprise, however, as the bournon casks don’t quite give the same colour as sherry casks.
The sherry nose on the Macallan with its oak and smokey character also contrast neatly from the slightly peated, sugary nose of the Arran. Strangely, both share a pleasant impression of orange on the nose.
The palate of the Macallan exudes sherry, lays down oak, leather, and dark chocoate with orange. The Arran gently introduces peat, smoke, vanilla, banana liqueur, orange peel, and other sweet fruits. Again, a common expression of orange is apparant on both, even though they differ in many other respects.
The finish on the Macallan is longer than the Arran, invoking memories raisin and bitters. The Arran on the other hand is no slouch in the length of the finish and leaves gentle hints of vanilla, juicy figs, orange, and a hint of smoke.
Overall, the Arran is a fine competitor and criminally overlooked by most whisky amateurs. Both these whiskies are fine, complex examples of what their respective distillers wished to accomplish. I highly recommend both and struggle with recommending a winner. If pushed to decide, I will give my nod to the Arran for being the easier on the palate and fuller on the finish and the nose, despite the shorter length of its finish.