I received an invitation to meet over a dram or two of The Macallan, the heralded Highland single malt scotch whiskey, with Graeme Russell, the company's Brand Ambassador. I immediately accepted, and then Googled single malt scotch to make sure I wasn't being gypped out of double and triple malts. You might say I'm not exactly a scotch expert.
We met at the Delano and took seats at the communal white marble table.
It was mid-afternoon so we were the only ones in the room other than
the waiter, who seemed to have a difficult time grasping the notion
that the bottle of water and ice cubes on the side that we requested
for our tasting was not the same as asking for two glasses of bottled
water on the rocks. Eventually the server got it down.
born in Glasgow, looks and sounds like a person well-versed in single
malts, although not so much like an ambassador. For instance, he didn't
have epaulets on his jacket, which I really think ambassadors should
have. We sipped our way through the variously aged scotches like
sifting through photo album progressions of a child: The Macallan 10,
with a creamy, caramel/toffee sweetness; The Macallan 12, with rich,
spicy chocolate/orange notes; and The Macallan 18, with a similar
profile as the others, but smoother due to the extra six years in
Spanish oak casks. The increasing maturity of the single malts was
clearly gleaned, and I was wondering if we would turn the page and see
the girl all grown: The Macallan 30 year old! Unfortunately, this
tasting only went up through* the teen years. Perhaps sensing my
disappointment, Russell allowed that while he has tasted all sorts of
vintage Macallans from the 1940s and such, the 18-year-old is his
We sat at the marble slab for about an hour, Mr. Russell graciously giving me a quick schooling in all things single malt. Like how 150-year old oak trees are turned into barrels, stamped with The Macallan, and loaned to Spanish Jerez producers for up to five years in order for the wood to fully inherit the sherry flavors. Or how to properly drink single malts, which is to start it neat, savor the flavor, and then if you determine you'd like to change it a bit adding either a short splash of water (which softens the flavors), or an ice cube (which contracts the alcohol and intensifies the flavors). If using ice, incidentally, a big cube is preferable to a regular size. I'd occasionally interrupt his talk with pertinent questions. For instance, when he noted that The Macallan goes especially well with BLT Steak's carrot cake, I asked whether that meant one could dip the cake into the scotch like cookies and milk. Come to think of it, that was my last pertinent question, as after a brief, blank stare the Ambassador glanced at his watch, remembered an appointment he had, and graciously excused himself.
Here are some of Graeme's food-pairing recommendations for The Macallan. Three of the four suggestions are for desserts, which match "phenomenally well" because of the sweet, spicy, chocolate notes of the spirit.
The Macallan 12 and steak at Prime 112:
"The caramelization that occurs when a steak is properly grilled/cooked pairs well with the flavors, and particularly the texture of The Macallan 12 if a good splash of water is added."
The Macallan 15 and carrot cake with ginger ice cream at BLT Steak:
"The vanilla characteristics of the Macallan Fine Oak 15 and its lighter style pair well with this excellent carrot cake. The ginger ice cream complements the underlying spicy notes of the whisky, particularly the cinnamon and ginger notes."
The Macallan 18 and bittersweet molten chocolate cake at Blue Door at The Delano:
"A rich chocolate dessert such as this brings out the hints of dried fruits, spice, and dark chocolate in The Macallan 18."
The Macallan Fine Oak 30 is "best paired with créme brulée", and The Sherry Oak 30 "with absolutely nothing."