Exploring the world of single malts
SINGLE MALT SCOTCH has long been considered the most prestigious of spirits but even connoisseurs would admit that learning to appreciate a fine Scotch could be more of a journey than something instantaneous. That’s where Cameron Millar, the Brand Ambassador for The Macallan, comes in. Millar’s job is to travel the country to educate people about The Macallan, sharing knowledge and fine whisky along the way. A dream job, no doubt. “The Macallan is one of the few whiskies in the world that has the ability to change your perception with just a single dram.” Millar says. “It’s never a tough sell.” He’s not wrong.
I met Cameron at the Grand Opening Event of Porsche Centre North Toronto and as a long time Scotch enthusiast, we got talking about what makes it all so special. I had asked the right person! And at the right time, as we approach the holiday season when we most likely will think more about celebrations, gifts and good times with friends, families and loved ones. Therefore, I felt this would be a really nice time of year, now that our cars are parked for the season, to nurse our driving itch by turning to other activities that are equally educational and enjoyable.
I always say that there’s no wrong way to enjoy a whisky. It is up to the individual and their personal taste. There are some whiskies that open up quite nicely with a little bit of water added. Others stand up beautifully in a classic cocktail.
Millar prides himself on being a Scotch whisky educator. Although loyal to his employer – he discussed everything from how to best enjoy a whisky, to how it’s made, to the things that make, of course, The Macallan, one of the most adored whiskies in the world. Many people think there’s only one correct way to enjoy a fine Scotch whisky like The Macallan: neat. Millar said. “I always say that there’s no wrong way to enjoy a whisky. It is up to the individual and their personal taste. There are some whiskies that open up quite nicely with a little bit of water added. Others stand up beautifully in a classic cocktail.”
Millar also countered some of the key myths about Scotch whisky and how to consume it. Such as the desire to ‘swirl’ your glass of whisky like one would a fine glass of wine before nosing it – caution – the higher alcohol by volume leads to an unpleasant noseful of alcohol, which can turn someone off of the liquid entirely! Another myth: older whisky is always better – The Macallan offers a broad range of both age statement and non-age statement whiskies. Over the past several years they have been pioneers in educating consumers on how to evaluate a whisky beyond just the number on the label and instead looking for other cues like the colour of the liquid. Unlike many other whisky producers, the Macallan adds no caramel colouring to the whisky, so the colour offers clues to both the taste profile as well as the production process.
Millar could speak endlessly on The Macallan’s rich history and unique production processes. It is after all, these key components that set The Macallan apart from other single malt distilleries. Their rich history begins in Speyside, often considered the heart of Scotch whisky country. Founded in 1824, The Macallan was one of the first legally licensed distilleries in this region of Scotland. Fast forward nearly 200 years and today you’ll find over 260,000 oak casks filled with distilled spirit resting in the Macallan’s warehouses and slowly developing complex flavours and aromas. The casks are the characteristic that The Macallan team is most proud of. “The casks themselves account for up to 80% of the flavour and aromas for any particular whisky and this is exactly why The Macallan invests over $50 million each year in new casks.” Millar explains, “This is by far the most of anyone in the Scotch whisky industry”. The Macallan uses a mix of casks comprised of American or European oak that are predominantly produced and sherry seasoned in Jerez, Spain.
The variety of casks at The Macallan allow for the production of some truly unique whiskies that are named after the casks that so heavily impact their character. The Macallan Rare Cask, which is available across Canada and retails for approximately $400, is derived from less than 1% of all casks aging at The Macallan. The Macallan Master Distiller, Bob Dalgarno, has the enviable job of assessing the whisky in each of these casks and sets aside the cream of the crop (less than 1,000 in total) to create The Macallan Rare Cask. It’s a beautiful and rich dram, with notes of raisin and cinnamon on the nose and spices and vanilla on the palate. In contrast, there is The Macallan Double Cask which contains a mix of whisky aged in American oak casks and European oak casks, each sherry seasoned. The result is a perfectly balanced whisky, with butterscotch, toffee, citrus and wood spices coming to the forefront. Available across Canada, for approximately $100 a bottle.
When asked what Millar loves most about his experiences as a brand ambassador, he doesn’t hesitate to answer. “It’s the people”. Isn’t that a familiar theme? There is something about sharing a good whisky in good company that brings people together, just as we gather at track and social events to share the pleasures of driving P-cars. Knowing that many of you have parked your cars and will go on to enjoy reading the December issue of Provinz, with possibly a dram at hand, is as rewarding to this volunteer editor as Cameron said it was for him to know that those who try The Macallan with their own friends and family and share a similar experience, is what makes what he does so rewarding”. And so do I, in bringing you Provinz every month for your reading enjoyment and as a reference source for club activities.
Cheers (or Slàinte as the Scots would say) to that. </>
Photos by Eshel Zweig and The Macallan Distillery