Review: Kirkland Macallan 18 Year Sherry Cask Finish

Kirkland? If that name sounds familiar it’s because it’s the house brand of big box megastore CostCo. And yes, they bottle their own brand of Macallan Scotch whisky.

For newbie whisky drinkers, allow me to explain in brief.

In a nutshell, this is how it works: In Scotland they make a lot of whisky. Sometimes they make too much. This was especially true 10, 20, 30 years ago, when single malt Scotch wasn’t popular as everyone was drinking blended Scotch. So rather than sit on barrels taking up lots of space — barrels that they figured they wouldn’t even be able to sell later anyway — the barrels were sold outright to others for “independent bottling.” Often these are merchants, and though CostCo is not exactly a quaint shop in Speyside, it’s a merchant nonetheless.

The independent bottlers take the full casks, mature them in their own warehouses for whatever time they like, then bottle the whisky. Normally this means you see a label with two brands: The bottler and the source of the whisky, though sometimes the actual source is obscured or only hinted at.

And thus we arrive at Kirkland’s Macallan 18. Before we start tasting, you might ask why would anyone even consider a Kirkland Macallan 18 when Macallan makes its own 18 year Scotch? After all, who knows where the Kirkland casks are aged and bottled (somewhere in Scotland, anyway)… and the climate of the aging facility can deeply impact the resultant spirit. The answer is simple: The distillery-bottled Macallan runs about $140. The Kirkland Macallan is $80 (sometimes as cheap as $60). You do the math.

And so on to the tasting. The Kirkland is a lightly smoky/charred Scotch, 80 proof, and heavily malted. Moderate amber in color, it’s like a little world of Scotch in a glass — a bit of oak, a bit of honey, a bit of heather, and a lot of sherry. I was put off a bit by the interplay with the smoke and the sherry so I tried it next to the only other Macallan I had on hand, the standard 12 year. More malty and with far less smoke and char to it, I found the distillery bottling more generally pleasant, and enjoyed the more distinct sherry character. The balance was right on the money. The Macallan 12 is a better pick for everyday drinking, while the Kirkland 18 requires more careful consideration before it’s popped open.

B+ / $80 / costco.com

kirkland-macallan-18-year

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21 Responses to Review: Kirkland Macallan 18 Year Sherry Cask Finish

  1. I always see those big Kirkland liquor/wine bottles staring at me when I go. But then, I always keep on walking. I wanna try them and I bet, with Costco’s very liberal return policy, you could return it if you wanted. Have you tried any of their wines?

    Ry.

  2. I haven’t. In fact, I haven’t seen the Kirkland wine… for some reason that scares me a little more than Kirkland Scotch… at least with this you know what the provenance is to some degree. There’s a lot of mystery wine out there that wouldn’t be fit for watering plants.

  3. Pingback: Drinkhacker.com » Review: Macallan 18 Year Sherry Oak Scotch

  4. Trader Joe’s does the same thing, bottling single malt scotches. It’s perfectly good quality booze, if you can handle the risk of your drinking buddies see the label…

  5. I bought a bottle of Kirkland 15 year scotch aged in sherry. I like single malt scotches. I paid $50.00 for it. I am not a scotch snob, but this is some very good scotch. Smooth with a nice finish. If you buy the original macallan you will pay a lot more. When I serve it at home I always get compliments. Went back a week later, and it was sold out. Customers vote with their pocketbooks. I wish I would have bought more.

  6. I’m confused. Did you like the 12 yr mccallan or the kirland 18 year better?

  7. me too, i cant tell if you’re saying the kirkland 18 is better

  8. Mr. Null,
    You really should wait a bit after your tasting before you attempt to construct a sentence in the English language. Your use of the pronoun “it” makes it impossible to tell which product you are referring to, thereby rendering your review worthless.

  9. Ken – “it” generally refers to the product being reviewed, but I will revise for clarity/reduce worthlessness.

  10. Jason and jj – apologies to all for the sloppy construction there; I did prefer the Macallan 12 to this whisky, but this was written in 2008. Oddly enough I have a review of Costco’s “20 Year Old Speyside” mystery whisky arriving soon.

  11. Pingback: Review: Kirkland Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 20 Years Old Sherry Cask Finish | Drinkhacker.com

  12. I’m no Scotch snob but I do love a good malt, especially Speyside.

    Being of Scottish origin, I also love a good bargain!

    With that said, I’m with Christopher on this. Macallan 12 beats Kirkland/Macallan 15 and 18 on pure taste experience. But with THAT said, Kirkland/Macallan is Good Scotch at a Good Price. Miles past any blend, if I may say so without forfeiting non-snob status.

    Macallan 15 is a treat — and priced accordingly. Macallan 18 is an indulgence — and so forth.

    Cheers!

  13. I can’t vouch for Kirkland scotch, but their Champagne is shockingly good for the price! Certainly not worthy of a special occasion, but good enough for mixing or for drinking on its own. As good a value as Gruet

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