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Balvenie 21 vs Macallan 18: Which Wins?

Discover the differences between Balvenie 21 vs Macallan 18 in this in-depth comparison and decide which Single Malt is better for You!

Balvenie Portwood 21

NoseFig, plum, peach, black tea
PalateHoney, dried, fruit, almond, pecan
FinishBurnt caramel, ginger, chocolate
Alcohol content95 proof (47.6% ABV)
How to drinkAdd water
Similar toJohnnie Walker Blue Label

The Balvenie 21 is initially aged in bourbon barrels before finishing in 30 year old Port pipes.

A pipe is an oak container that holds up to 600 liters while a bourbon barrel just 120 liters.

The nose hits with fruity sweetness displaying hints of fig, plum and peach followed by the scent of black tea.

On the palate, the Balvenie 21 provides a good mouthfeel as it feels oily. The first sip brings a pleasant warming note that does not overwhelm.

Flavor is smooth with a sweet honeyed taste, with hints of dried fruit, almond and pecan.

The finish lingers with virtually no burn on the way down with hints of burnt caramel, ginger and bitter chocolate.

Adding a dash of water releases a floral note along a bit of oak which is surprisingly absent in a 21 YO whisky.

Is it good? Yes, in fact, this is one of the finest malts I have tasted in my 30 year career in the industry.

The only thing that bothers me is that it has artificial caramel-coloring. This practice is common in the Scotch Whisky industry and legal but I and many aficionados frown-upon it.

But it provides a solid experience from nose to finish with no let-downs and one well worth trying.

Balvenie 21 facts:

  • Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2009 and 2012.
  • Earned 94 points from the Beverage Testing Institute in 2009 and 2010.
  • Balvenie is the only Scottish distillery that continues to grow and malt its own barley.
  • Balvenie is a Speyside Whisky owned by William Grant & Sons along Glenfiddich.

Macallan 18 Sherry Oak Cask

NoseDates, raisins, oak, cinnamon, clove
PalateOak, baking spice, dark chocolate, raisin
FinishLong, tobacco, chocolate, dried fruit
Alcohol content86 proof (43% ABV)
How to drinkAdd water
Similar toMacallan 18 Double Cask

Macallan is the third largest Single Malt producer behind Glenfiddich and Glenlivet but often regarded as the best.

And among the Macallan lineup the 18 YO release is considered the benchmark against which all other whiskies are compared.

The nose hits with hints of dates and raisins at first, followed by oak, cinnamon and a bit of clove.

On the palate, the Macallan 18 feels creamy and fully textured. Flavor is smooth with oak coming first, followed by cinnamon and nutmeg, along notes of dark chocolate and raisin.

The finish is long, with a subtle warming note on the way down with notes of tobacco, dark chocolate and dark fruit.

No water needed as it drinks beautifully as is.

Macallan 18 Sherry Oak Cask is an impressive malt, rich in flavor, complexity and depth despite the relatively low proof (ABV) at which it is bottled.

The only let down is the price as it does not come cheap but it doesn’t disappoints as you get what you pay for.

Macallan 18 Sherry Oak facts:

  • Aged for 18 years in hand-picked sherry-seasoned oak casks from Jerez, Spain.
  • Macallan is free of artificial caramel-coloring.
  • The Macallan distillery is located in Craigellachie, Moray, Scotland.
  • Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group along Glenrothes and Highland Park.

Balvenie 21 vs Macallan 18: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Balvenie Portwood 21$270
Macallan 18 Sherry Oak$400

Balvenie 21 vs Macallan 18: Which is better?

Equally smooth and tasty

WhiskeyBalvenie 21Macallan 18
  • Both are incredibly good, smooth yet complex and deep making some of the widely available Single Malts you can buy.
  • No harsh or complicated notes such as smoke and peat making two super easy drinkers.
  • The Macallan hits harder with oak while in the Balvenie is barely present which is surprising for a dram aged at such length.
  • The Balvenie 21 has artificial coloring while the Macallan not, but the wide price gap makes me prefer the Balvenie 21.
  • The price gap allows me to buy an additional quality pour and stock my cabinet for the upcoming long winter.