Macallan Tasting

A few weeks ago, I got an invitation to a Macallan tasting at the Kimmel Center, apparently along with the rest of Philadelphia whiskey drinkers. I couldn’t quite figure out how they got my email. I’m on the email list for of The Striding Man Society, but that’s owned by Diageo. I thought The Macallan was independently owned, but further research revealed that it was originally owned by individuals, until it became a trust, which gave way to a private company, before stewardship was transferred to Highland Distillers PLC. Today, the Edrington Group owns a majority stake, while Japanese distiller Suntory owns a minority stake.

To sum up, I couldn’t find a link that would suggest how The Macallan got my email.

But that didn’t really warrant much further pondering, because hello? They’re giving me the opportunity to taste 5 of the Macallan varieties for zero dollars? Heck yeah.

Jordan and Dr. Lindsay joined me, but there was a slight hitch with our reservation. Rather than wait to see if we could get in to the Hamilton Garden, we opted instead to go to DelFrisco’s, where the overflow was being directed. We were told we’d get the same experience and would be led through the tasting by a Macallan rep.

However. It was pretty obvious that no one was ready for people to utilize the overflow option so early in the evening. The Macallan rep at the Kimmel Center called the Macallan rep who was supposed to be at DelFriscos to confirm he was there. Thus confirmed, we went over to the restaurant. Our arrival totally threw off the restaurant’s groove, as they were definitely not expecting anyone from the tasting yet. The hostesses scrambled to figure out where to put us and also to figure out if the Macallan rep was there yet.

“Ah, but Sarah,” you’re probably interrupting right now, “the Macallan rep at the Kimmel confirmed the rep was at DelFrisco’s, remember?”

Well, someone lied. He wasn’t there yet.

We sat in the downstairs bar for about 10 minutes before we were allowed to go to the upstairs bar where the rep had finally arrived and was setting up.


We got these pieces of paper and tokens and chatted with the rep about our whiskey likes and dislikes. He explained the Fine Oak and Sherry Oak varieties and what we could expect from the tasting. From the wikipedia page:

“Originally, The Macallan was only matured in oak sherry casks brought to the distillery from Jerez, Spain. Beginning in 2004, The Macallan introduced a new main product, the Fine Oak series, with the whisky mellowed in bourbon oak casks as well as sherry ones.”

(Short aside: did you know that under US law, bourbon has to be aged in a new barrel? So foreign distillers sweep in and pick up the used barrels to age their whiskeys. Thank you, Kate Hopkin’s 99 Drams.)

We exchanged our first token for the Fine Oak 10, which ended up being a half ounce pour. I wish I had taken more notes on the tastings, as I really only remember three specifics. First, the Fine Oak 15 was smokier than I like, but still tasty. Second, when we tried the Sherry Oak 12, we all realized that the Sherry Oak 18 would be even better. Third, the Sherry Oak 18 was everyone’s favorite.

Oh, the Sherry Oak 18 was definitely the favorite. I’m definitely buying a bottle soon.

The bartender at the upstairs bar was really fantastic and chatted with us about the whiskeys while he poured. After a while, however, we realized that we were on track to have 2.5 ounces of whiskey…and no food.


So we ordered these onion rings! Massive, right? They hit the spot.

Early evening confusion aside, the tasting was really great and we all agreed that going to DelFrisco’s was a better choice. We got to sit at the bar and chat and order the drinks when we were ready. I’m not sure how it was set up at the Kimmel Center, but this was obviously more intimate.

Contrast all of the above with my run-in with Johnnie Walker the day before. I like Johnnie Walker and, as mentioned above, am on the email list for The Striding Man Society. I liked the video they did with Robert Carlyle.

Then I got an e-mail from Johnnie, inviting me to “Kick off the season with complimentary labels.” Upon opening the email, however, I was told to “Ditch the fruitcake. Celebrate like a man.”


First of all, I know. I know the prevailing wisdom is that girls don’t like whiskey. I’m sure I’m supposed to be drinking cosmos or something. But I don’t. I like whiskey.

But let’s put that aside for now and talk instead about Johnnie’s terribly targeted marketing efforts. If you’re going to send out an email inviting the audience to “do something like a man” you had better know that said audience is men. And if you don’t know if the audience is all men, don’t send out such a poorly targeted email. Come on now. You’re part of Diageo. I’m sure you have the budget.

I replied to the email with a bit of snarky text and didn’t expect to hear anything back. But to Johnnie Walker’s credit, I got a canned response back apologizing for my Johnnie Walker experience failing to meet my expectations and asking me to call a number to fully lodge my complaint. Which I haven’t had time to do yet, nor am I ready to vent to some person who logs calls to the Johnnie Walker complaint line.


December 18, 2009. Uncategorized.

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