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Mcallan or Oban?

Wanting to get my boyfriend a semi expensive bottle of scotch for his b-day. I know nothign about scotch. I would consider him more in the know, but still a beginner, as he has no staple. I have asked around, and being unable to fin Suntory Yamazaki anywhere (sigh), I think it's down to these 2.

Which one would be best for a beginner?

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  1. my pick is for mcallan

    1. Both of those two are very good and good for beginners. Myself, I prefer Oban.

      Suntory Yamazaki is also excellent. Depending on what state you live in, you may be able to order it on-line.

      1. The Macallan and Oban are both pricey single-malt Scotches. I would not choose either of these for a beginning Scotch drinker. I'd instead opt for a blended Scotch whisky, which tends to be smoother and less full of the peaty, very smoky flavors that make single-malts more challenging and harder for beginners to acquire a taste for.

        While I don't drink a lot of Scotch these days, having mostly forsaken it for American ryes and bourbons, I have fond memories from older days of these blends: Chivas Regal (an old fancy standby, very smooth and lightweight), The Famous Grouse, White Horse (a bit rough), Ballantine's, Johnny Walker Red (Black is smoother and pricier, Gold even more so), Grant's 8 Year Old (my budget brand, not so smooth), Dewar's, and Cutty Sark (a fine beginner's Scotch). If you wanted to make it seem more special, you could get one of their longer-aged (17 or 30 year old vs. the typical 12 years of aging) premium brands, which taste smoother, and have more impressive packaging.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Back in the day, I didn't like scotch because all I knew were the Chivases of the world. I wouldn't go with that at all. A good, moderately pricey single-malt is a much better idea, IMO (and Oban and Macallan are both great choices). If you want particularly smooth, you might go with Tomintoul 16 year, which is not that expensive either. I also disagree with the assertion that the blended, cheaper scotches listed above will be "smoother." Quite to the contrary.

          1. re: tdg

            Smooth is in the palate of the beholder, I guess, but I always understood smoothness to one of the major reasons to blend Scotch.

            My recs are based on my experiences of trying to educate budding whisky drinkers, many of whom couldn't get past the pointed peat-smoke flavor of most single-malt scotches. If this guy is already on the single-malt Scotch path, an Oban or a Macallan may work for him. But I still say blends are a gentler starting point for neophytes.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Neither Oban nor Macallan really has much in the way of peat. These are very smooth whiskies. For a special gift, I wouldn't choose a bottle of one of the basic blends, just because they wouldn't seem special, though I like Famous Grouse (which includes a lot of Macallan and the even peatier Highland Park).

              Of course, a beginning Scotch drinker may love a heavaily peated Scotch. I'm not convinced that a smoother Scotch somehow prepares you for peat. Some people like peat, some don't and a beginner may have as much chance of liking it as a more experienced drinker (some of whom don't like peat as well).

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I don't think that most single malts have a "pointed peat-smoke flavor," unless you're sampling Islays. Another smooth option with no peat (aside from Tomintoul and Macallan - some people find that Oban has a bit of peat) is Dalwhinnie 15.

                In the interest of full disclosure, strong peat was what attracted me to scotch at first (Lagavulin, to be exact). Only more recently have I come to enjoy whiskies with little or no peat. So I definitely agree with sku's second point.

            2. re: MC Slim JB

              I just started drinking Scotch. We bought a "gift set" of Macallan (had two lovely glasses) over the holidays and I was hooked. Next we bought Oban (no glasses, alas) and I loved that too. So I think either of these would be a great gift for a beginner. Laphroiag was beautiful too!

            3. I would second going with the Macallan. It is certainly one of the best single-malts whiskies for a novice/beginner to use as an entry point. It is smoother (from aging in sherry casks) and without the peatiness of the single-malts from the west coast & western isles of Scotland. While a good beginner's single-malt, it is also so good that even an experienced drinker can enjoy drinking it for many years.

              1. If you're talking the younger Macallan (the 18 year old is a lot pricier!), I'd go with the Oban.

                1. Is he much of a golfer? If so, you might look into getting him a bottle of Pebble Beach.

                  1. This is a birthday present, and he has been experimenting with different brands. I'd go with an Isley. Lagavulin or Laphroaig. and let him taste some real scotch smoke and seaweed.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: davebough

                      If he likes a good kick in the teeth with is scotch, Laphroaig is a good choice, as is Macallan Cask Strength. Personally, my old stand-by is Glenlivet, if only because I can find it at Costco and I have some sentiments attached to the brand. Something else to look into is Dalmore Cigar Blend, which I bought as a gift for someone and was pleasantly surprised that it was quite good (always accompanied by a cigar, of course).

                      I don't think you could go wrong with either Oban or Macallan, but if he's been drinking scotch for a little while, he might want to try something new.


                      1. This is a lot of good information. He recently tried the 18 yr old Macallan and LOVED it. Obviously I can't afford to get him that. I'm going to the liquor store tomorrow, would it be ok to get him a 12 yr Macallan since he liked the 18? Or should I try to expand him by getting the Oban?

                        Such choices in life.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: greenidentity

                          The 18 year MacCallan is fantastic -- albeit quite pricey. I got a bottle for a steal in barbados duty free -- $40!

                          If it comes down to the 12 year mccallan or the oban, i'd definintely opt for Oban though.

                          If he is daring, I say try an Islay also -- a more advanced scotch -- I like Bowmore, althouhg Laphroig is very good as well.

                          1. re: greenidentity

                            We all have different tastes, different preferences. I enjoy both Oban and The Macallan, but absolutely hate -- OK, "strongly dislike" -- Laphroig and Lagavulin, and I'm not that crazy about Bowmore.

                            (Malts from Islay . . . . yuck! But that's ME; others can and will swear by them!)

                            In a "head's up" between The Macallan 12 year Old and Oban 14, I prefer The Macallan, but you won't go wrong with either one.

                          2. Also, he is a hunter, loves hunting grouse. I've seen the Grouse brand and wondered if it may be too gimmicky, or the real deal??

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: greenidentity

                              Famous Grouse is the most popular Scotch in...Scotland. That should tell you something. It includes a healthy dose of Macallan as well as Highland Park. It's one of the best blends out there and is quite affordable.

                              Frankly, Macallan 12, Oban (14 year old is the standard) and Grouse are all good choices. Grouse is much cheaper (I can get it for $25 or so).

                              1. re: greenidentity

                                Famous Grouse is a very old, well-established brand of Blended Scotch Whisky, and -- as sku has already said -- VERY popular, not only in Scotland, but in England as well. It has been available in retail stores in California since at least the 1960s.

                              2. I was surprised to find that I prefer Glenlivet to Macallan. Not that there's anything wrong with Macallan.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: HPLsauce

                                  Which Macallan? Which Glenlivet?

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    Oban is fine. Macallan as well. Highland Park is in the same price neighborhood and a very special single malt.

                                    1. re: marilyn9

                                      I agree, Marilyn, but I was responding to HPLsauce . . . .

                                    2. re: zin1953

                                      Each was the readily available 12 year variety. I've also had older, pricier varieties of each, but never done a direct comparison.

                                      1. re: HPLsauce

                                        Thanks for the response. That surprises me, in that my own personal experience is just the opposite -- I vastly prefer the 12 year Macallan to the 12 year Glenlivet, but I've been impressed by some of the older bottlings of The Glenlivet . . . proof positive that we all have our own preferences.

                                  2. For the most approachable single, I'd second the recc for Dalwhinnie. It is floral and honey in the nose and a nice spice on the palate. As an alternate, I'd recommend Glengoyne or Glenmorangie, both highlands.

                                    1. In my neck of the woods, Macallan-12 is readily available in restaurants, falling in with the usual Glenlivet & Glenfiddich - the Oban is less known, and therefore perhaps a bit more special in terms of a gift.

                                      A less expensive s.m. that I've taken to is the Dalmore Cigar Malt - runs about $40 here, and surprisingly nice finish, but it's a bit darker than the Oban, so may not be as well liked by novices. Also not always found in the liquor stores here, not often seen in the restaurants.

                                      I keep a Dalmore Cigar Malt, a Talisker and usually a Balvenie Double Wood around for my "every day" bottles and the Macallan-18 for special occasions and a Glenrothes for relaxing.

                                      1. Tell us: what did you end up getting? And how did he like it? I'm certain that either way it was a gift greatly appreciated.

                                        1. If you are asking about both 12 year old whiskys, I would go with the Oban. I don't really like the MacAllan 12, but love it at 18 (and a few more $$). I think another six years helps the Mac mature, but Oban seems to have matured fine in 12 years.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Captain

                                            I believe the standard Oban bottling is 14 years, not 12.

                                            However, I agree...I prefer Oban 14 to MacAllan 12. But MacAllan 18 trumps them both.

                                            1. re: elecsheep9

                                              Went to a wine tasting last night and a table had Glenlivet, I thought I hated Scotch, tried the 18 year, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe I hate cheap Scotch.

                                          2. I was just sitting here and enjoying a dram of Mac 18 yo and discovered that it is much smokier and peatier than I remembered(it's been a while since I poured this one). It is a quitessential scots whisky and has all of the characteristice that either camp of scotch drinkers(light Highland vs. peaty Western and Northern) will find delightful. I have to amend my previous answer, to Mac, if you can/will spring for the 18 y/o.

                                            1. Oban is by far my favorite single-malt in that price range, and I think that it's also a better pick as a gift since it feels a little more unusual/unique.

                                              1. My former boss and I were out tying one on one night. A confirmed Macallan drinker, we put down a LOT of Oban that night and now that's what he drinks. 'nuff said.