Bottom Line: Raise The Macallan began with a glass of scotch , some interactive exhibits and hors d’œuvres. The main tasting event, however, upstairs in the Altman Building ticked all the boxes. Brilliantly informative, our host Macallan National Brand Ambassador Craig Bridger gave us a master class of the secrets of Macallan.
Review: They say you should never hurry a good dram, and eying the three Macallan scotch whiskey’s seated in front of me, I had to fight the agonizing urge to start tasting. “Before you can really understand a good scotch, there are a few rules that everyone should know,” said our host, the charismatic Craig Bridger, wearing a smart, tailored suit.
- The older or pricier the scotch has nothing to do with the quality of taste.
- Finally, enjoy how you like – (but)!
Although much about enjoying a whiskey boils down to personal taste, some like it neat, others on the rocks. For me, a few drops of water and maybe the odd ice cube do the trick. Mr. Bridger’s personal choice was ice spheres, from Japan, which cool the whiskey without diluting it. There are, however, certain methods to maximize on flavor. Unlike wine, whisky doesn’t need to mix with oxygen, so don’t swish it about. Finally, chew while you sip it. I didn’t believe it at first, but it really released the aroma of the scotch. Another method is to rub a few drops on your palms and capture the wafting scents, but no one was going to waste a single drop this evening in the name of skincare!
Macallan’s ambassador cut straight to his sale pitch; the secret behind Macallan’s unique aroma and carmel color was in its barrels, which is actually a complicated ritual. Casks from European oak, which is dryer than the American variety, are air dried for up to three years, before being filled with Spanish sherry and stored for a year. Then, after emptying the sherry, the casks are shipped intact to Scotland where they are used by the master distiller. For this evening’s event, Macallan showcased four scotches choreographed to a PowerPoint: the 12-year Sherry Oak, its new Double Cask 12-year, the Fine Oak 15 year fine oak and finally the Macallan Rare Cask.
We began with the 12 year-old Sherry Oak, which was pleasant with notes of light honey, vanilla with a slight caramel flavor but not much else to really knock one’s socks off. Then, the double cask 12 year, my personal favorite of the evening, had a much deeper flavor with an aroma of slight woody, smokiness with vanilla, caramel notes. Interestingly, the double cask uses both European and American sherry-infused oak barrels, but at roughly $70 a bottle, I wondered whether the standard 12 year Sherry Oak was a better buy.
Next, the Fine Oak 15-year had great dried fruit and cinnamon flavors, but a bottle can retail around nearly $110. I still prefered the Double Cask and Sherry Oak in terms of flavor and bouquet, but whom am I to complain about a free high end dram?
Finally, Mr. Bridger waved the waitresses in with a surprise tasting of the Macallan Rare Cask. Unlike most scotches, this one is designed purely on flavor rather than age. Except for the knowledge the Master Whisky Maker, the actual age of the scotch is a total secret. According to Mr. Bridger, without the constraint of age, the distillers can freely select the best barrels to create a unique flavor, but it is a rare bird indeed comprising about 1% of the casks at the Macallan Distillery. The selection process is entirely up to the Master Maker who selects from 16 kinds of casks of both American and European sherry oak that will never be used again for whisky. Retailing at about $300, you had better claim it on a corporate expense account. In terms of taste, I liked the intense vanilla, dried fruit and raisiny quality, but some of the clove and other flavors didn’t come through as well as I had hoped. Then, our waitresses returned with Lindt chocolate truffles for every guest, which went extraordinarily well with the all whiskies.
Raise the Macallan, a truly wonderful experience to learn and sample some of the best scotches from this Speyside favorite, but my only question is whether the PowerPoint was necessary. Mr. Bridger carried the audience well enough, I thought, with such passion and knowledge. The reception downstairs was also very nice, but most of the exhibits seemed more to create impact than to inform.
For upcoming tasting events, visit Raise the Macallan.