The controversial move of replacing The Macallan core range of predominantly under 18 year old whiskies with the no age statement (NAS) 1824 Series in 2012 saw the introduction of expressions named after colours – Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby (listed here from least to most expensive).
The expressions are additive- and caramel-free; the source of the different colours comes from differences in maturation and the type of casks used (predominantly first fill sherry oak).
Speculation in the market suspected a shortage of sufficient aged whisky to meet worldwide demand. However, according to Stuart MacPherson, The Macallan Master of Wood: "Whisky obviously has an age, we just don't publicise it here. This is something the whisky industry created in the early 20th century, where we put an age on it to make the whisky easier for the customer to identify. We're taking things a step forward and saying this isn't about the age, it's about what the consumer wants and the skills of the whisky maker."
Along with the introduction of these NAS expressions, The Macallan also seems to be changing the target audience for its whisky, seeking a younger, more glamorous and prestigious crowd. Clearly aspirational, targeted Facebook advertising, adverts in affluent magazines (eg Esquire) and the experiential side of ATL present cosmopolitan, smiley twenty-somethings at a party where they are served The Macallan by a butler wearing white gloves.
The Macallan Residence
The Macallan Residence event, taking place in the grand, historic neo-Gothic mansion at Two Temple Place for two nights only, was advertised in a similar manner. It promised to ‘unlock your senses’ as you stepped ‘inside a world of luxury’. An enigmatic and intriguing description on the official website read: “Showcasing the latest artistry, excellence and experiences, including bespoke styling and grooming, curated with a number of handpicked partners, this is undoubtedly an experience not to be missed”.
Having purchased tickets at the reasonable price of £20 and put on smarter shoes, off we went on this immersive sensorial journey!
Greeted outside by a very Scottish – and very handsome – gentleman wearing a kilt, our tickets were exchanged for a pass with a group number and two golden keys that we would use to ‘unlock’ rooms within this spectacular venue.
We gathered in the first room and were offered rounds of refreshing cocktails and (trays and trays of) Scotch eggs.
The venue looked very elegant: it featured the various expressions in a subtle manner with good attention to detail. The pillars of The Macallan brand were reflected – but not overtly pushed – by a bespoke bar, projections on the walls and aisles with photos which all contributed to give just enough brand presence.
An Esquire-branded photo booth allowed guests to take a picture and post it immediately on Facebook. This was fun, but we were confused by the props provided: the white curly wig, cowboy hat and enormous sunglasses looked extremely out of place.
After a few minutes, the handsome Scotsman greeted all the guests, introducing the venue and going through the running order of the evening’s show. He also revealed that one of the Seven Pillars of The Macallan shown in the aisles of photos was untrue – and that a competition was running to guess which one it was.
Following a few words from The Macallan representative, who introduced the brand and gave a little history of Two Temple Place, we were shown a demonstration by a mixologist who made a Scotch-based Old Fashioned with chocolate bitters. We were then led upstairs to the Esquire room where we were greeted with the exact same Old Fashioneds and were invited to mingle for a few minutes.
The journey through the corridors of this outstanding venue was a treat in itself, with bottles of The Macallan featured under spotlights at strategic points.
The Esquire room was also gorgeous, although the actual event décor was a little disappointing. In the first part of the room, a knowledgeable representative spoke to us about age statements now being out of date in the world of single malts, while more Old Fashioneds flowed from the corner bar and The Macallan brand film was screened on the wall. A DJ in the corner provided some pleasant but unremarkable tunes that had all the gents in suits tapping their feet.
The second part of the room was taken up by two small branded stands displaying mostly tweed suits and expensive watches. In the corner, a shoepolisher was struggling to provide services to a queue of a dozen men wearing expensive leather shoes.
The whole room was a little confusing, and looking around, it seemed we were not the only ones who didn’t really know what we were supposed to be doing or taking away from where we were. The messages were not clear – although at a guess, we would say craftsmanship was the common theme – and the event flow felt disjointed. We found ourselves searching for the senses we were expecting to unlock…
Our first key finally gave us access to another room to experience the individual expressions of The Macallan paired with extraordinary chocolates from Artisan du Chocolat, the famous luxury artisan chocolate producer from Kent which majors on experimenting with production from ground cocoa beans. Salted caramel, Tasmanian honey and tobacco leaf chocolates, paired exquisitely with The Macallan expressions, were a true indulgence and a unique sensorial experience. Personable representatives of both The Macallan and Artisan du Chocolat talked through the entire experience confidently and competently – and in a very entertaining way.
After the experience we returned to the Esquire room where we were invited to mingle again, with an opportunity to exchange our second key for another – let’s be frank – extremely delicious Old Fashioned.
We truly enjoyed our evening in such wonderful surroundings, and loved the chocolate pairing and the subtle branding. However, the event left us a little unsatisfied and hungry for more. We’re not entirely sure whether it was due to the large amount of moving, mingling and waiting or down to the actual immersive, sensorial experience itself being quite short. Perhaps it was the feeling that the collaboration of brands at the event seemed disjointed.
Sadly we didn’t leave feeling enlightened by the discovery of The Macallan 1824 Series which we would assume was the objective, nor did we unlock any senses. However, it was a great venue and the chocolate was nice, if a little messy!