The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao is the first release of The Macallan’s newest annual limited-edition series, the Harmony Collection.
Like a small tour group we were ushered into the dark confines of 1-Atico in ION Orchard. The recently-opened party lounge – unfortunately shut for the duration of the pandemic – had been wholly converted for a product launch. This was ‘The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao Experience‘, a two-day pop-up exhibition to officially launch the new Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao in Singapore.
The Harmony Collection is The Macallan’s newest limited annual release series, following – and in the same vein as – the six-part Edition series. Rich Cacao is the series’ first, a collaboration with renowned pastry chef Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca fame. To create this The Macallan’s Whisky Maker Polly Logan had travelled to Girona in Spain to visit Roca’s famed chocolate factory, Casa Cacao. Some of us might remember that Jordi Roca also had a hand in the making of The Macallan Edition No.2.
Logan also further immersed herself in the world of chocolate under the tutelage of Spanish master chocolatier Damian Allsop.
The pop-up takes a visitor through a very simplified version of the chocolate making process. You’re guided around by immaculately-dressed, well-spoken hosts most of whom look too young to be hanging around whisky. One of the more interesting stops of the tour was a station explaining the evolution of flavours when a cacao bean ferments.
There are many videos of Jordi Roca fooling around with chocolate.
Part of the experience is a tasting session – my favourite part – where The Macallan brand ambassador Randall Tan takes visitors through a sampling of Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao. We’re each offered a modest dram. You’ll taste a lot of chocolate, Randall says. He’s right – I get wafts of freshly roasted cacao nibs on the nose, sweet milk chocolate on the mid palate, and bitter dark chocolate, plus a touch of Columbian Blue Mountain coffee, in the finish.
The whisky is also paired with three different food items – pumpkin soup, a tandoori chicken skewer, and some chocolate mousse – specially curated to bring out and enhance the chocolate notes in your dram. Even with careful sipping my 30ml dram doesn’t quite go far enough. The young female lifestyle influencers in our little group leave their whisky unfinished.
My soul dies a little at that.
They do wolf down their chocolate mousse though. They also giggle a lot, especially as they ogle Randall.
It’s here that local pastry doyen Janice Wong makes a surprise appearance. The Macallan had partnered her to create an exclusive box of chocolate bon bons that visitors can take home with them.
Then it’s on to more videos of Jordi Roca.
I pull Randall aside later to ask about the casks used in the making of Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao, which wasn’t shared during the session. He says “American and European oak casks that have been sherry seasoned”. It’s been quite the trend at The Macallan, particularly employed in their core Macallan Double Cask range.
Apparently Polly Logan had scoured their whisky stocks to identify casks of liquid that most exuded notes of chocolate. “For this expression, I sought out a specific chocolate note in The Macallan’s traditional sherry seasoned European oak casks and combined this with a vanilla note imparted by sherry seasoned American oak casks to sweeten the slightly bitter chocolate note I had found,” Logan had written as part of her tasting notes.
Finally we’re ushered our way out.
“If you enjoyed the Rich Cacao, do pick up a bottle on your way out,” someone chimed. By that they mean purchase a bottle at the price of S$212. The female lifestyle influencers saunter out without getting any, giggling again as they cast a final glance at Randall. I buy a bottle, just so I have some Rich Cacao at home to try with those Janice Wong chocolate bon bons.
‘The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao Experience’ was surreal. But mostly because of the amount of theatrics and flamboyance shown at the unveiling of one whisky. The extravagance that went into this single launch likely outstrips the total annual marketing budget for most small distilleries.
You can see why some industry observers have the opinion that The Macallan is more focused on marketing than the actual whisky itself. If they were there at the two-day pop-up for the launch of the first drop for Macallan’s new Harmony Collection, chances are they’d argue that the company’s transition from whisky maker to a lifestyle maker is now finally – and irrevocably – complete.
In that sense, the cynics may be right. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. The Harmony Collection – and the Edition Series before that – represents an understanding on The Macallan’s part that whisky has entered the mainstream as a premium lifestyle product.
Despite the prodigious growth of whisky over the past few years, The Macallan is one of few that comes anywhere close to being a household name. With its clout, the brand can challenge the status quo of making whisky just by virtue of waiting for it to come of age, and instead experiment with building a flavour profile that will appeal to a specific audience and then finding the casks for it.
Traditionalists might disagree, but getting positive public opinion for the more experimental offerings might just give distilleries more breathing room to operate – at least they’re not limited to a narrow, profile of whiskies deemed acceptable to critics (or at least, its most vocal section).
“You like the flavours of chocolate? Why, we have just the whisky for you!”
And that is what the Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao, and likely the rest of the Harmony Collection, is all about.
The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao has a recommended retail price of S$212 and available at The Macallan Online Boutique and The Macallan at Raffles Hotel Singapore, while stocks last.
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