A rainy autumn evening breaks wide open with the shrill song of bagpipes on my way to Malt Dining, setting the scene perfectly for a luscious evening exploring, arguably, the world’s most luxurious whisky brand The Macallan.
I work my way through the bar and down the rear stairs into the warm wooden private dining room and cellar of Malt. Surrounded by glass walls containing both club members private collections and the venues’ wine collections matched with the hardwood table gives a great presence and weight to the room. As the guests continue to arrive and filter in, we are offered a cocktail based on The Macallan Amber combining this fruity and spicy dram with apple and citrus zest to produce a palate cleansing delight.
Our master of ceremonies and guide for the evening is Dan Woolley and he regales us with the background of the centrepiece of the evening: a very rare bottle of 1946 Select Reserve Macallan. Produced during 1946 in a post war era Scotland meant coal was a very sort after and expensive commodity and as such, the spirit we held in our glasses was the only Macallan to ever use peat in the malt roasting process. Having spent 52 years in sherry oak since then, all but a faint hint of this remains giving this particular dram an amazing depth and clarity with perhaps the silkiest mouthfeel of any whisky I have tried to date. With the combination of an extremely long time in sherry oak and peat came a nice hint of smoke, while still delivering fruity citrus woody notes that grew deeper and more complex as you held it in your mouth. The finish had legs and legs, lingering and dancing on the tongue and lips with each breath.
After discussing the 1946, the history of Macallan and the scotch industry, we work our way to the new 1824 Series no-age-statement range being produced by Macallan. Celebrating the year in which the distillery was founded, this new range comprises of five whisky’s, three of which we were privy to on the evening, Amber, Sienna and Ruby. These three sisters have all spent their time in ex-sherry oak casks specifically designed and built by Macallan. Each dram was paired with a course especially prepared by the head chef to compliment and build on the flavours in each of the whiskies.
The Macallan Amber has spent its entire life in white American oak, and as such has a floral, vanilla and gentle nose that gives way to cinnamon and dried fruits. The palate is fresh and lively with a crisp bite of apple. finished with clove and spice with a small introduction of oak at the end. These were the perfect accompaniments to the Pan Fried Fois Gras with Spice Bread & Fois Gras Mille Feuille, Granny Smith Apple Jelly and Radish Chiffonade,each balancing the other in a deft ballet across the taste buds.
Sienna the middle sister, has had time in both the American oak and red European oak. The new addition introduces a healthy dose of orange to the familiar vanilla and apple fragrance of the Amber, giving way to chewy chocolate and toffee notes with gentle oak again at the end. These orange and apple notes continue onto the palate where they were greeted by Rabbit Two Ways with a Saddle Stuffed with Prunes and a Croquette of Confit Leg Meat with Candied Orange Zest on a Pumpkin Puree with a Carrot and Cabbage Flan.
Ruby took hold of the table as we nosed our glasses, having spent her entire life in red European oak plenty of rich, dried fruits and thick syrup like sweetness teases before oak finishes out. The dried fruits are also present on the tongue behind the same orange notes the Sienna established but with more clove, ginger and a trace of nutmeg and rounding out with a glorious wave of oak. Maple Syrup & Star Anise Poached Pears accompanied by Hazelnut Mascarpone and Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Sauce was a revelation when combined with these rich and decadent flavours while the alcohol from the whisky cut through and removed the sense of any heaviness. Absolutely divine.
Photographer: Sholto McNeilage