The colour red has deep and long-standing significance for The Macallan. It begins with Alexander Reid, the farmer and teacher who founded the brand in 1824. His surname means “the red one” in Scots and was originally associated with his red hair. In 1903, then owner Roderick Kemp launched The Macallan Choice Old range. It was reportedly shipped in cases labelled with distinctive red print to distinguish it from The Macallan’s existing whiskies, which featured black labelling.
And almost eight decades later, in 1980, red was to feature strongly in the release of The Macallan’s then oldest vintages, dated 1938, 1940 and 1950. Allan Shiach, chairman of The Macallan at that time, tied a red ribbon around the sought-after bottlings to denote their age and value. The story comes to a head in 2020 with the launch of The Red Collection, an exquisite range of distinguished and rare single malt Scotch whiskies that captures The Macallan’s deep respect for tradition and craftsmanship. Inspired by the significance of the colour throughout the history of the brand, The Red Collection features a carefully curated selection of ongoing aged expressions and high aged guest releases.
Although it was early last year that The St Regis Kuala Lumpur announced its ownership of The Red Collection — the only complete and unrivalled set owned and on public display in Asia — it took several months for members of the press public to see it, owing to Covid-related restrictions. Such a priceless collection warrants an equally special space, so a dedicated area was carved out at the Astor Bar for The Macallan M Room. The collection is housed in a luxurious rose-gold showcase with a bronze mirrored background and LED illumination, surrounded by illustrations from celebrated Spanish painter and illustrator Javi Aznarez, famous for his work on Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch.
The collection, sadly, is for visitors to admire only. Denied the chance of having a sip, one must make the best of one’s imagination. At the heart of The Red Collection are The Macallan 40 Years Old, The Macallan 50 Years Old and The Macallan 60 Years Old. These remarkable single malts are the oldest ongoing expressions ever offered by The Macallan and will be available in limited quantities globally.
The collection at the St Regis Kuala Lumpur, however, includes The Macallan 71 Years Old, The Macallan 74 Years Old and The Macallan 78 Years Old. These incredibly rare single malts are among the world’s oldest Scotch whiskies, with the latter two bottlings being the oldest ever released in the history of the brand. Together they showcase the pursuit of uncompromising excellence for which The Macallan is renowned, and reveal the legacy of craftsmanship, innovation and knowledge that sustains it to this day.
This is not to say our throats remained parched during our visit, though. The afternoon started off with a refreshing whisky cocktail — the perfect aperitif.
“Inspired by the rich history of excellence that dates back to the legendary King Cole Bar at The St Regis New York, The Macallan at Astor Bar’s M Room intertwines the histories of two legacy brands through exquisite experiences and exemplary service that we have curated together. Unveiling The Macallan Red Collection at The Macallan at Astor Bar’s M Room reaffirms our position as the Best Address in the country,” said The St Regis Kuala Lumpur general manager Renato de Oliveira as we nursed our drinks.
For lunch, a delightfully paired menu awaited. While the carnivorous among us enjoyed Scottish lobster to start with a choice of Wagyu Wellington or Cornish dover sole for mains, those who abstained were treated to a delicious smorgasbord of beautifully prepared meat-free dishes to go with precious Macallan whiskies.
A starter of violet artichokes was served with The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old, a perfectly smooth and balanced wee dram with slightly vague sherry undertones in its all-too-quick finish. Barbequed carrots from Cameron Highlands with a potato foam, potato salad and truffle pearls were served with The Macallan Estate. Released in 2019, this intriguing expression contains spirit distilled from barley grown on The Macallan's very own Easter Elchies estate, inspiring its name. It's a pleasingly well-sherried drink, and went well with the sweet and savoury flavours of the dish it came with.
As we swigged some of this wonderful Scotch in our glasses, Reid, Kemp and Shiach suddenly swam into view courtesy of a remarkable animated film created to introduce The Red Collection, featuring Aznarez’s illustrations. The animation was set to music recorded by Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti, one of the world’s most influential classical artists today.
The vegetarian main course was a braised sprouting broccoli with caramelised cauliflower, almonds, lemon and seaweed — a thoughtfully assembled dish that provided the diner an adequate amount of protein to mop up all the alcohol we were consuming. This dish came with The Macallan Rare Cask, which opened up with soft notes of opulent vanilla and raisin, giving way to a sweet ensemble of apple, lemon and orange. On the palate, polished oak was the dominant flavour with chocolate and a light citrus zest leading the finale.
It was at this point of our lunch that we found out just how majestically each expression in The Red Collection is presented to its new owners. It comes encased in an exquisite oak presentation box, created from the same sustainable European oak used to craft The Macallan’s exceptional casks. The boxes are beautifully upholstered with sustainably sourced soft red leather from Scottish supplier Bridge of Weir Leather, which creates upholstery for leading luxury car brands across the globe.
A bespoke, handcrafted case that can house the trio of ongoing or guest releases has also been created by Scottish artisan furniture and objet d’art manufacturer, Method Design Studio. Based in Linlithgow, near Edinburgh, Method uses traditional craftsmanship and skills to create one-off commissions for some of the world’s top luxury brands. Each of the ongoing releases in The Red Collection has been hand-finished and signed by Kirsteen Campbell, who was appointed Master Whisky Maker at The Macallan in 2019.
An Eton Mess with strawberries, vanilla mascarpone and basil sorbet rounded off the meal, served with The Macallan Classic Cut. Carefully crafted by the whisky mastery team to showcase the role of ex-bourbon American oak casks in the distiller’s portfolio, this whisky begins with orange zest, ginger and fruit jellies that lead into flavours of gingerbread and cinnamon — the perfect match for dessert.
As lunch — delicious, but the stars were really the revolving menu of Macallan whiskies that came with the food — came to an end, developer of St Regis Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Chua Ma Yu wandered over and indulged in some casual chit chat, although with those he knows well, the conversation lasted a little longer. He nodded in the direction of The Red Collection, which is his. “Not bad eh,” he grinned, clearly in raptures over owning such a precious collection of whiskies even though he is unlikely to ever drink any of it.
The only answer was a resounding yes. We still wouldn’t mind a sip, though.
This article first appeared on Feb 7, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.