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Nice Try, Not Citizen Kane



It's the Orson Wells conundrum: create a work of genius and it's hell trying to live up to it in your subsequent work.

When I drink Scotch it's the Macallan 12 year. Many people consider it the finest single malt ever poured into a crystal tumbler. I can't speak to whether it's the best Scotch in the world -- I haven't tried all the others. But it's my Scotch.

Recently I've noted a new member of the Macallan family, an upstart 10 year old labeled "Fine Oak." After some initial resistance I decided to give it a try in a head-to-head taste-off with it's older brother.

The first thing you notice is the color. The 12 is the color of unbleached almonds. The 10 could be two fingers of Chardonnay.

On the nose the 12 is richer, a defining butterscotch note, echoes of the sherry casks in which it's aged. The 10 carries faint vanilla, and definite toffee, but you don't feel the world opening up for you the way you do when first encountering the 12.

Neat the 10 displays hints of dried apple, and an astringency that frankly bothered me. With an eye dropper of water it opened into buttery notes and more of the apple. The official write-up talks about citrus, but I don't get that. The finish is one-note, and doesn't lie well on the tongue.

The 12 of course needs no water to reveal its complexity, although a drop or two from the spring calls up a suggestion of Triple Sec within the usual luscious caramel.

It's not that the 10 is a bad Scotch. It's a good Scotch, but it's not its older brother. The 12 is all about dark oak paneling, worn leather, the sound of billiard balls tapped gently, cigar smoke and the rustle of gabardine wool. The 10 is brighter, an open space devoid of subtrefuge or intrigue.

I'll stick with the 12. I'll pour the 10 for guests.

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“Nice Try, Not Citizen Kane”

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