GlenDronach 12-Year-Old vs Macallan 12 Sherry Oak

This is going to be another fine pairing. Mostly because followers of The Macallan are also big fans of the GlenDronach. These distilleries are from the same region [although the GlenDronach has been re-classified as a Highland whisky] and produce a fantastic single malt pretty much in the same style. Although The Macallan has seriously gone up in price, the GlendDronach has remained still pretty accessible. So what is really different and what is very much the same about these two distilleries, and more importantly, their product? Because I hope you’ll pay for more than just a name, unless, of course, you are investing in these whiskies (there’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ll happily continue holding on to my bottle of The Macallan 18 (1996 vintage) which is already going for £800 on an auction. So let’s find out, but first, music! Now playing: Deru1979.

I’ve already profiled the GlenDronach 21 Parliament when I paired it with another heavily sherried single malt from GlenAllachie. The 12-year-old is obviously younger, lighter, and fruitier sip, but it is still very much dense and rich on those sweet sherry notes, coming directly from the PX and Oloroso casks in which it has been aged. Unlike many other whiskies, this Scotch has not spent any time in ex-bourbon casks, so the amber colouring [no extra needed or added], the sweetness, and the silky smooth brushing on the tongue comes courtesy of those barrels. It is bottled at 43% ABV and sold for about £45. After nosing the Macallan and returning to the GlenDronach, I pick up a bit more candied fruit, sweet raisin, and a touch of that sugar-spun confectionery. It’s an absolutely fantastic dram, and I wonder how it would stand up against my next sip. Regardless of the outcome in this pairing, a bottle of the 12-year-old, the 18, and yes, even that 21, deserves a space on your bar shelves.

Since The Macallan has also spent [at least] 12 years in sherry oak casks from Jerez, it’s very much the same in flavour. The GlenDronach explicitly calls out the Pedro Ximénez casks they used in maturation, while The Macallan only mentions Oloroso. But since there’s also no added colouring, I feel like there’s got to be a little bit of that PX in the vat, unless the Oloroso is the sweet type. Of course, the “recipe” [of both] is changed throughout the years, and yes, there are much older whiskies in each bottle, with the 12-year-old being the youngest one. So who really knows what’s going on. The bottle only talks of sherry casks. The Macallan is slightly darker in colour, marginally waxier and definitely drier. It’s also bottled at 43% ABV, but the price is [now] considerably higher, and you’ll be shelling out at least £70 for this bottle. [Side note: just realized that my bottle is an American edition and that in the UK it’s bottled at 40% ABV!]. Yes, it’s worth the tag, if you ask me, but keep an eye on all those rising prices. The Macallan 18 is currently sold for somewhere around £300, while The GlenDronach goes for only £100. And then it’s exponentially more expensive from there. So which one should you open up your wallet for and why?

Besides the silly pricing of the bottle, I feel like The Macallan is all about its prestige. As in, you’re paying for the name, the label, and everything that comes with that association. And it’s an exceptional dram, so why not spend the money? But the GlenDronach is right there, smirking at the marketing campaign. I feel like it’s a bit more playful and with a sense of lively humour, just like a middle-aged man who thinks he’s still a little boy (like me!), while the Macallan is like a man approaching middle age and tries to put on an expensive tie and shiny cufflinks, just to be treated with a bit more respect. Macallan wants to be a lot more serious, admired, and distinguished. GlenDronach doesn’t seem to care – you’ll like it anyway! And with these words, I’d like to say that the GlenDronach wins this round.

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