The Macallan’s Director David Cox Talks About His Latest US$933,000 Collectible

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When the auctioneer unveiled The Macallan’s Legacy Collection at the Hong Kong’s Sotheby’s Spring Sale 2017 on April 2, hands shot up for starting bids at HK$850,000. At the final strike of the hammer, everyone present at the bidding must have been impressed at the final amount of HK$6.3million – seven-times its initial bid.

Though overwhelming, the price tag wasn’t a complete surprise for an audience of about a hundred. It was the final collaboration in The Macallan’s 12-year partnership with Lalique and one that depicted the most fundamental traits of the whisky label’s genetic make up: the Six Pillars.

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The auction lot includes six elaborate Lalique decanters symbolic of the brand’s six bedrocks – The Spiritual Home, The Curiously Small Stills, The Finest Cut, The Exceptional Oak Casks, The Natural Colour and The Peerless Spirit. Each holds whiskies as old as 65 years, some of which are no longer in circulation. Also in the cabinet are the corresponding numbers of serial-coded The Macallan Lalique glasses as well as miniatures with whiskies dating from 1937 to 1939, reminiscent of René Lalique’s heydays. The piano-like cabinet designed by Pietro Mingarelli at La Maison Lalique, also has a tale. The dark and light timber stripes are a nod to The Macallan’s use of the more full-toned Spanish oak casks and the straw-coloured American oak casks. Autographs of the masters behind the collection appear on a plaque inside.  

It matched the HK$6.3million bid to make a total of US$933,000, all of which will go to Hong Kong and Asia-based charities including the Society for the Community Organization, Food Link Foundation, Crossroads Foundation, Watsi and One Sky Foundation.

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Though the idea of a collector’s box has been brewing in The Macallan’s pipeine since the debut of the initial decanter 12 years ago (with subsequent decanters released every other year), the brand’s Director of Rare and Fine Whiskies David Cox remembers their first business handshake like it was yesterday. This not only coincidentally sprouted from the two brands’ then shared PR agency – Halpern PR – but also came in time for Cox’s retirement after a tenure of almost 10-years.

Despite having heard of the Lalique’s reputation through his remarkable perfume bottles and jewellery in the Art-Deco style, it wasn’t until when Cox touched the vases at Lalique’s shop on Bond Street that he fully grasped the mindblowing calibre of his partner for the next 12 years.

“The Six Pillars are what makes The Macallan, The Macallan; it’s a combination of the six properties rather than just one. People do come along and say they take a finer cut or also have natural colour as well, but it’s the synergy and the collaboration of the whole that makes us special,” said Cox.

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“I was intrigued by the Lalique style; as a brand, there’s something independent, individual and very distinctive about them. And it’s especially fitting that they haven’t done anything with or for the whisky industry before they met us,” he said, adding that he was fortunate enough to have worked with the same designer at Lalique, Marc Larimaux, throughout the decade-plus partnership.

Such close ties and the magnitude of Lalique’s exhaustive knowledge of The Macallan’s roots are perhaps best manifested by a tiny detail in the recently auctioned The Legacy Collection. The exclusive crystal glasses, upon detailed inspection, reveal a slightly flared out mouth compared to traditionally vertically-rimmed tulip-shaped glasses. It’s a detail Cox said Larimaux had simply “sketched out based on the descriptions of our head whisky maker Bob Dalgarno”.

The new design isn’t just for show; rather, it overturns the conventional glasses for nosing and tasting whisky. According to Cox, the pinched tulip is ideal for concentrating aromas but sacrifices the taste as the liquid is directed down the middle of the mouth rather than to the sides where flavours are best captured. The wide opening of the more popular tumbler, on the other hand, dismisses the aromas too quickly.

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“The new Macallan Lalique glasses still deliver the fragrance; but thanks to the shape of the rim, alcohol is sent to the sides of the mouth so every drop of it can be savoured,” said Cox, adding that the satinated stem is as decorative as it is ergonomical.  

Though The Macallan’s collaboration with Lalique has drawn to a close in the Six Pillars project, Cox said the next partnership has already been launched last March.

Dubbed the Golden Age of Travel, the duty free exclusive collection comprises whiskies distilled in the 1930s; again paying tribute to Lalique’s most influential days. The decanters embossed with steam ships and aeroplanes are limited to 50 each. Every bottle is topped with a compass-like stopper and housed in a blue leather luggage complete with stitch marks on either side for a touch of authenticity.

“The Legacy Collection is symbolic of a legacy of a time of The Macallan long past; it’s the end of one journey with Lalique,” Cox concluded. “But we’re always thinking about what we can do with them. We didn’t and don’t want it to end.”

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