Raising the Bar

Whisky editor John Bruce takes a trip “doon the water” to The Macallan Bar in Macau

In the halcyon days of Scottish domestic holidays it was a great treat to take a wee trip “doon the water”, and if one was particularly lucky there might be a nice meal and perhaps a dram or two to finish the day off. Perhaps it was the positive role played by Scottish Development International in putting the people from the brand new Galaxy Resort in Macau together with those from The Macallan that inspired my invitation to travel to the enclave and enjoy a meal and a tour of the new The Macallan Bar. Whatever it was I readily agreed and viewed the sojourn as an Oriental homage to the grand age of the Clyde day out. Of course the TurboJet is a pale imitation of the Waverley, the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer, but I am sure that the day trip from Brodick to Campbeltown never featured such sumptuous fare nor quite as many delightful single malts.

I will admit that I was prepared to be underwhelmed as, with the exception of the Canny Man in Wanchai, I often find Hong Kong bars to lack the appropriate ambience to enjoy a good malt. However, it was immediately apparent that great effort and no small amount of knowledge of the subject had been put into getting this newest attraction in Macau right. The room itself is impressively large, well upholstered and dominated by an imposing semi-circular bar. The decoration is reminiscent of the bars one finds in Scottish hotels of stature and the large leather chairs invite one to spend a few hours with a good book and a better malt. There were many of the latter on display.

Indeed, as our hosts explained, The Macallan Bar does have a particularly extensive range of The Macallan’s best expressions but it also features a wide range of fine Scottish single malts, some of which would be difficult to find even in Scotland. Much effort has been put into sourcing this range and I saw some rare bottles that would tempt even the shortest armed, deepest pocketed Scotsman to loosen the purse strings. However, this was a day devoted to The Macallan and we were treated to three expressions of this fine distillery’s product during our visit, with the added bonus of there being more glasses than people for each.

I have previously commented on some of the exceptional expressions produced by this giant amongst Scottish distilleries but with great malts one can never really try them too often – and Ryan Hill on behalf of the hosts was an erudite and enthusiastic ambassador as he led the tasting. It is not possible to say readily that one is better than another but I did particularly enjoy the 18 Year Old Fine Oak that we sampled. This Highland malt, perhaps not surprisingly, has an initial oaky flavour, although this is complemented by significant citrus; I would say apple tones. The body has a hint of oiliness in that it lines the mouth and does not immediately leave as the whisky is swallowed. The finish is spicy if perhaps not as lingering as some. I would confidently offer this expression to even the most discerning of aficionados.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know I have an occasional tendency to meander in the course of the narrative, which is what leads me now to Kevin Costner. I'm not Kevin's biggest fan but in Field of Dreams, as Ray Kinsella, he had a role in which he excelled. "If you build it, he will come" resonates throughout this paean to the great American game of baseball.

The same ambition is evident in the efforts of The Macallan and the Galaxy Resort to build this great bar in what, one has to admit, is still a hard core gambling destination rather than the relaxing locale that would usually feature such an oasis. They deserve to succeed and I would recommend an extended evening in the company of friends where time can be taken to enjoy both the fine selection of malts and the delightful setting. In my previous article on The Macallan, I paid tribute to the late great rugby commentator Bill McLaren. I don’t suppose that he will come, but now that The Macallan have built it, we should go.

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