The Macallan transforms the Slate @ The Row, Kuala Lumpur, to launch The Harmony Collection Rich Cacao, a new limited-edition annual release series. As guests enter the space, they are welcomed into The Cacao Gallery, which has a chocolate monolith by which to pose for photos; and a display of the different stages of cacao — from the fresh pod to dried and roasted cacao beans, cacao husk and nibs.
As a glimpse of what is to come, two cocktails are served. The Cacao Sour is a concoction of The Macallan 12 years, Creme de Cacao, orange bitters, lime and lemon shrub, which tasted quite sweet for a sour cocktail. The Harmony in Gold, however, was lightly smoky and easy to drink, as it was a mix of The Macallan 12 years, Creme de Cacao, Solera sherry, chocolate bitters, Arabica coffee and a fragrant orange twist.
Made happy with a few cocktails and good company, guests are then ushered into the main dining space, which features two long tables adorned with a garden-like centrepiece and tall tulip glass, alongside three chocolate bon bons under individual cloches. The evening kicks off with a short video that takes us through the creation of the latest single malt.
The Harmony Collection is a new series inspired by The Macallan’s connection to nature; as such, its name is chosen to emphasise being in harmony with the natural world. It is the brand’s first limited-edition release to champion sustainable packaging. As the premier instalment in this series, the Rich Cacao whisky is quite special, as the worlds of whisky and chocolate have been brought together for its making. The Macallan’s whisky maker Polly Logan collaborated with Jordi Roca, the youngest of the acclaimed brothers behind El Celler de Can Roca, for this unique malt. Logan visited his chocolate wonderland Casa Cacao in Catalonia, Spain, and was inspired by the creativity and passion Roca had for his craft.
“As I immersed myself in this world, I uncovered a great synergy between the whisky-making process and that of chocolate. Both need time and exceptional attention to detail, with even the slightest changes to the process encouraging different aromas and flavours to emerge,” she explains. “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. This exquisite single malt offers a delightful whisky and chocolate pairing experience and the chance to elevate The Macallan experience to a new dimension.”
Renowned pastry chef Roca says, “Our collaboration with The Macallan allows us to challenge our own creativity and, in this project, we have been allowed to play with cacao, which is one of my passions. Being able to inspire a whisky and create a unique tasting experience has been wonderful.”
As a nod to its chocolatey inspiration and in line with the series’ sustainability direction, The Harmony Collection Rich Cacao comes in a recyclable and biodegradable box made using a by-product of the chocolate-making process: husks from the cacao pods. This not only minimises paper waste, but also gives the otherwise discarded husks a new purpose. The presentation box for the collection is in an elegant white shade, with orange text and art that is simple yet impactful.
After the video, we finally have the chance to sample the new single malt under the guidance of brand ambassador Jeremy Lee. The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao has an oaky and zesty nose, with hints of chocolate fondant. One sip reveals a deep dark chocolate flavour with the sweetness of honey, vanilla and cinnamon. The overall chocolate taste lingers on the palate, ending with a rich finish.
Chef Nathalie Arbefeuille joins Lee on stage to introduce her vision for the curated menu we are about to enjoy. “I like projects that push me to create. There is nothing more exciting than working around the association of flavours and tastes. How can I not feel honoured to have been chosen to create a menu that can be associated with The Macallan Harmony Collection? It is so exclusive and delicate. Also, the strong affinity that drew me to The Macallan stems from our common values on sustainability, fair trade and, above all, our commitment to sourcing the best ingredients to use in our creations,” she says.
We start the meal on a sweet note, with the staged bon bons. Each piece brings out the deeper cacao flavours in the whisky. The orange truffle, made with dark chocolate, orange ganache and jivara stripe, is quite understated, whereas the gingerbread and cinnamon bon bon are rich and caramelly. Finally, the honey truffle, which was crafted with jivara chocolate, vanilla and honey ganache, tastes like a nutty milk chocolate.
Arbefeuille introduces our meal by sharing her thought process behind creating the pairing meal. “The Macallan Harmony Collection is very well balanced with a rich cacao flavour and, of course, it pairs exceptionally well with the right chocolate and the right characteristics. So, I aim for complementary flavours to seek the right pairing that will highlight the key notes: cinnamon, vanilla, dates, honey and chocolate,” she says.
The first starter is a honey-glazed foie gras and date pearls with honey, cocoa tuiles and a spicy duck consomme. Served with a cloche of cinnamon smoke, this beautiful dish was certainly a multi-sensory experience. It also hit all the right notes: An earthy broth balances the sweetness of the date and rich foie gras. It brings out the dark chocolate hints of the whisky. The second starter is a light grilled slipper lobster tail in a vanilla marination on a polenta nest, topped with armorican, chocolate sauce and a red pepper confit tapenade. This was another plate of rich flavours, from the creamy polenta and tapenade to the vanilla-marinated lobster.
For the main, we opt for the wild Malabar fish seared with fresh Asian citrus, glazed vegetables, fruits and a citrus butter sauce. Flaky fish and tart citrus are truly a wonderful combination, and these fresh flavours bring out the smoky quality of the whisky, which was more subtle on the first sip.
Dessert is definitely a highlight, as it is a degustation of the different notes in The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao — cinnamon, vanilla, dates, honey and dark chocolate — all presented on the Fibonacci spiral found on its presentation box. The dessert itself mimics this shape, and as it is nature-inspired, the plate resembles a forest floor.
As each sweet bite represents flavours in the whisky, they emphasise these flavours quite elegantly. We are told to begin our taste journey from the outside of the swirl: First was the roasted apples and cinnamon dessert shaped like a mushroom; followed by the creamy and sweet honey ice cream, honey sponge and tuile; the chewy date stuffed with date cream and pistachio; the light and delicate vanilla crème brûlée with a Florentine disc; and, finally, the dark chocolate cocoa bean with crunchy chocolate pearls and chocolate crémeux. The last bite is definitely the best pairing with the whisky.
While The Macallan has a 200-year-old, deeply rooted connection with nature, this further step towards a more sustainable future is certainly positive. The Harmony Collection Rich Cacao is the first in an annual series that promises complex whiskies crafted with nature in mind.
This article first appeared on June 27, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.