Continuing its proud and somewhat decadent tradition of releasing unique limited-edition Scotch whiskies in unusual ways, the Macallan unveiled the latest entry in its Masters Of Photography series last week at the Montage Hotel’s high-end watering hole 10 Pound. The project pairs four unique Scotch creations, ranging in vintage from sixteen to twenty-three years, with four Annie Liebovitz portraits of actor Kevin McKidd in various settings reflecting the different characters of the spirits. You can pick up a set of all four, each including a signed print from Liebovitz herself, for a sum in the low five-figure range.
While this kind of outlay for a bloody DRINK is not the kind of thing we would normally champion here at the LA Beat, we actually appreciate this one. Kind of like Kiss’ $4000 Monster Book, it’s just eccentric enough, and the company beloved enough among persons flush with coin, to warrant such an extravagant outlay, as well as a media shindig where we get to swirl drams of rare tastes and munch on crispy bacon strips with cover model and former Macallan distillery employee McKidd.
The opportunity to taste a product that sells for over $1000 per bottle is somewhat intimidating. Am I smart enough to be worthy of tasting this? Will I have my mind sufficiently blown? I can’t even begin to quantify how good a bottle of liquor would have to be to be “worth” that amount to a guy like me who agonizes over whether to buy store brand or white label green beans.
The thing is – there IS a qualitative difference. It’s a status thing for decadent rich people to indulge in, sure. But if I had the money, I’d drink like that all the time. It’s greeeeat.
There’s just something that happens when you leave that stuff in the cask and don’t touch it for decades. It’s the ultimate slow food, a recipe that the maker might not even live to sample. But there is simply no other way to taste these things. Every year left in produces a smoother, more complex product. Flavors spring up in twenty-plus year whiskies that wouldn’t have shown up at the twelve year mark. Every incremental step adds both benefit and cost, and it’s up to the buyer to decide just far they’re willing to go in the name of quality. How high? The moon. $64,000 a dram. $460,000 a bottle. What the heck will THOSE people taste? Probably the best whisky they ever had in their life, would be my guess.
The sixteen-year “Skyline” edition from the Liebovitz series was unexpectedly light, citrus flavors rising out of a warm, viscous vanilla cream. We were also offered a rare twenty-two year edition that seemed to have a similar makeup, lighter then the lush caramel of their standard eighteen-year sherry oak, with a rich, soothing mouth feel and the faintest hint of smoke. Both of these spirits will be tough to find even for those inclined to do so, but we’re told 10 Pound is one place to try and seek such things out. There’s also a “Fine And Rare” section on their website offering personalized guidance.
For the rest of us, Macallan’s more accessible twelve, fifteen and eighteen-year choices (“accessible” being a relative term, with the eighteen at a tony $150+ per bottle, but doable for a special occasion) are still among my favorite drinks on the planet. As our host at the pub fondly pointed out about its name, the Macallan stills are actually seen on the back of the Scottish 10-pound note. “If you want to know what the people of Scotland think about Macallan – it’s on the MONEY!” They didn’t get on the money by accident and it’s a pleasure to see them continuing a tradition that takes pride in old-school craftsmanship and relentless pursuit of excellence, even if that pursuit sometimes leads to places where 99% of us can’t normally go.