Our friend, Valeria, became a US citizen last week. Congratulations! Not only is she intelligent, beautiful and easy company, she also adores Scotch, which is of course how I ended up at this promotional tasting for The Macallan the other day in San Francisco. Now I like Scotch too, though don’t really know much about this drink “invented by the Irish but perfected by the Scots” to paraphrase our MC at the event.
This was free but you had to be on a list. Valeria signed us up. She’d apparently been to a Dewars tasting and some sort of multi-Scotch event in the past few years so remains in the know.
We met a bit early but already the line was forming. There were these over-the-top gorgeous young women reviewing everyone’s registration. It was a chilly day but these lovelies only sported ridiculously high black heels and extremely short black cocktail dresses. I wondered how some of them kept their elegant postures and hairstyles in place what with the Pacific wind and steep hill. It must be the magic of youth.
The other guests were a mixed bunch leaning heavily towards men. What is it about Scotch and men? And why haven’t more women discovered this elixir of the pagan gods? Perhaps The Macallan people could refocus their image a bit to attract American women (and other-than-straight guys)? We did keep wondering where the tall, amply muscled male hosts wearing absurd clothes with heads of shining golden or rich black hair were milling about, but alas, neither of us could locate them. Too bad. Most likely they were behind the scenes sampling The Macallan 18 year. Yum!
I also wonder about the capital “The” that always proceeds the name, Macallan. Have any of you ever considered that? It sort of reminds me of the all-caps, “JUSTIN,” from that celebrated Paso Robles winery of the same name. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that it looks a little pretentious.
But then what do I know?
Anyway, eventually we all got led into the hotel where we surrendered out The Macallan cards in exchange for our first sample of The Macallan 10 year. The room rapidly filled up. We couldn’t help sampling the various appetizers that floated around. I liked the little fried crab thingies quite a lot and had several. We had our pics taken behind the official Hollywood red carpet style screen by, you guessed it, one of the stunning hostesses in high heels. In a case to one side were “vintage” bottles of The Macallan on display. The 1967, the least expensive, had a list price of $4.5K. One in a Lalique bottle, which looked amazing, cost $15K. For just a moment there, I envied the rich.
Soon enough they ushered us into an adjoining room where tables were laid out to accommodate the entre thirsty horde. We chatted a bit with our neighbors then the show really began. Our delightful taste leader bounded on the stage to the crash of applause. He was chatty, informative and relatively funny. (I didn’t quite understand or appreciate his apparent joke, “We used to make an eight year old only for the Italians.” People did laugh though I thought it was sort of an insider Euro thing.) He answered his own question, “How do you drink your Scotch?” with the witty, “Neat, with water, ice, in a dark room…” That kind of thing. I didn’t know, for example, that “60 to 70% of the color, flavor and character comes from the wood” barrels in which Scotch gets aged. He went over other Scotch fundamentals: the who, what, where and how stuff. The why we were about to discover on our own.
We’d already enjoyed the 10 year though didn’t really take notes. As to the rest, Valeria and I had definite opinions, but found the taste sensations difficult to describe. I didn’t really identify the “chocolate” flavors for which The Macallan is rightfully so famous. Oh well. At the end, a surprise taste of the expensive 18 year (about $150/bottle in the US) was served. That was nice.
12 year Sherry Oak: This seemed “rugged” with a nose of freshly turned earth, alcohol and an enticing hard-to-pin-down perfume. It starts out minerally, becomes fruity and finishes spicy and hot.
15 year Fine Oak: We were warned that this “changes drastically” if you add a splash of water. Unfortunately, our samples were so tiny that the “splash” drowned the drink. I’ve no doubt that with a larger sample I would easily detect it opening up more fully. Even so, it was very different from the 12. This had a lighter more delicate nose, was smoother with lovely caramel notes and a much longer finish. The added water brought out a bit of vanilla and citrus.
17 year Fine Oak: This is made in an identical fashion as the 15 year. It had a pleasant smell, rich in vanilla and caramel. It was rich and smooth and more full-bodied that the 15.
18 year: This one was really citrusy with incredible cherry, vanilla and oak flavors. It was so rich and good that I immediately complained about my minuscule sample size. Boo-hoo! I want more.
This was super commercial but it didn’t really matter. The event was fun, and I’d probably never try all of these on my own, so it was a wonderful opportunity to learn and enjoy.