I don’t need an excuse to enjoy rare scotch whiskies, but news that The Macallan and Baptiste & Bottle, a bar located in the Conrad Chicago, had joined forces to create a virtual reality cocktail experience provided some intriguing editorial cover. So, I rang up David Sweet, long-time operator of the Whisky Live (whiskylive.com) tasting events around the country, and our go-to whisky resource, to join me to be among the first to experience the recently-developed The Macallan Rare Journey — a technology-infused cocktail that takes guests on a multi-sensory journey via a virtual reality headset.
The $95 cocktail features The Macallan Rare Cask, aged in the top 1% of all casks maturing at The Macallan distillery. The finished cocktail is a marriage of Bodegas Tradicion 30-year Oloroso Sherry and The Macallan Rare Cask.
Raquel Raies, The Macallan’s first female National Ambassador conceived of this unique cocktail experience. Raquel personally walked Dave and I through each step of the immersive cocktail featuring a moss-laden box, a curious acorn, dry ice and three empty glasses.
As Raquel talked us through the “acorn to bottle” distillation process and The Macallan story, we learn that the distiller owns nine out of 10 sherry casks in the world. The casks used to make Rare Cask come from sherry houses that no longer exist, which is one of the reasons why Rare Cask retails for nearly $300 a bottle; and that this is such a rare experience.
Rare Cask’s rich ruby-red whisky celebrates three of The Macallan’s greatest prides: Exceptional sherry-seasoned oak casks, rich flavor and beautiful natural color. The interaction of spirit and wood alone delivers the beautiful range of vibrant natural colors and flavor complexities that distinguish The Macallan whiskies; these signature characteristics reinforce the brand’s position as one of the world’s truly great single malt whiskies.
Ultimately, we put on the virtual reality goggles and fly through vineyards to sherry bodegas and end at the Macallan distillery and Easter Elchies house, the spiritual home that appears on every bottle of The Macallan.
By the time the virtual trip is done, the cocktail is waiting for the guest to enjoy, along with side cars of Sherry and Rare Cask to sip on individually. This allows the guest to see how each spirit tastes on its own as well as together.
As for the VR cocktail experience? Dave declared it “a unique and intriguing tasting experience that utilizes all of the senses to explain the history and craftsmanship that goes into producing special select bottlings of Macallan,” adding that it enhanced his appreciation for the intricate detail behind the brand.
As for the Rare Cask, it’s very dark red for a scotch. The scent is rich with dark cherry, raisins, cocoa and a whiff of citrus. The sherry, chocolate and apricot nectar flavors are immediately apparent. The finish is elegant.
The entire Rare Journey cocktail experience is certainly unique and engaging. But in the end, it is all about the Macallan Rare Cask, which is exquisite all on its own. The $95 cocktail was fun, and we find a two-lot purchase of Rare Cask by the bottle to be the more prudent trade.
Photos top to bottom: Raquel Raies, National Brand Ambassador for the Macallan; Drink menu at Chicago Conrad’s Baptiste & Bottle; The Macallan Rare Journey VR Cocktail