The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 H ow do you follow up a scenario where a single bottle of your malt whisky sells at auction for just over $1 million—and moments later another is knocked down for a cool $1.1 million? These weren't any old whiskies, of course, but two of the rarest and most sought-after releases from the iconic Macallan distillery. Distilled in 1926, they were bottled at 60 years old with labels designed by British pop artist Sir Peter Blake and Italy's Valerio Adami. Only 12 of each were produced, and they've turned out to be the most extraordinary investment imaginable: Buyers at Bonhams Hong Kong dug deep in their pockets to secure these rarities. So now the distillery has announced a limited release of an even older single malt: The Macallan 72 Years Old in Lalique – The Genesis Decanter (42% ABV). Just 600 bottlings will be available worldwide at a suggested retail price of $60,000 each. Beyond the meticulous packaging, the whisky, according to the distillery, is "reminis- cent of a time gone by [and] carries an exquisite balance of strong, sweet oak with the peaty spirit shaping its refined character." Hard though it is to imagine, I presume at least some of the hand-blown decanters will be opened; most, however, will be bought as investments or trophies with the hope of a stellar future return. The occasion for the release of this venerable spirit is the opening of the remarkable new Macallan distillery in Speyside. It's certainly the most expensive and visually dramatic Scotch whisky distillery ever built: Designed by internationally renowned architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the new building incorporates a visitor centre and fits spectacularly—if subtly—into the surrounding landscape of rolling hills. Visitor numbers are projected to double. The project, which reputedly over- shot its budget considerably with a completed cost somewhere in excess of $185 million, is either a remark- able statement of confidence in the long-term future of Scotch whisky in general and the brand in particular, or something of an act of corporate vanity. It allows Macallan to take a leadership position in luxury brand marketing and, if required, increase production by up to one-third to meet anticipated demand for the next decade. Critics will be looking for the brand to falter, but the evidence of the past two decades shows the Macallan team has a remarkable knack for calling future markets and anticipating consumer trends. It will be fascinating to watch the industry reaction both in private and in public, as well as the performance at auction when the first Genesis Decanter appears for resale. Meanwhile, Elixir Distillers, soon to build its own new Islay distillery, has announced an extension of its core range of Islay single malt Scotch whisky brand, Port Askaig. Two new whiskies will be available through ImpEx Beverages in the United States, with the Port Askaig 8 Year Old aged in refill American oak casks (45.8% ABV; $65) and a limited-edition 14 Year Old aged in bourbon barrels (just 420 bottles; 45.8% ABV; $100). Finally, also arriving soon from Islay are new Port Charlotte expressions and packaging from Bruichladdich. I hope to taste and report back next issue. Built into the surrounding landscape, the new Macallan distillery in Speyside is a design marvel that cost in excess of $185 million. Scotch Makes Bold Moves for Summer by Ian Buxton

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