While specialty coffee has taken its fair share of inspiration from the worlds of fine wines and spirits, renowned Scottish whiskey maker The Macallan is throwing its full marketing heft behind a pair of new whiskey releases inspired by coffee.
This is not a PBR Hard Coffee situation, where coffees and alcohol of unknown origins are thrown together in a White Claw-shaped can. In this case, coffee is not even an ingredient in The Macallan line; it is merely an agent of profound inspiration, according to the company.
Named Intense Arabica and Smooth Arabica, the two new single-malt whiskeys represent the second release in The Macallan Harmony Collection, a limited-availability, annual release that debuted last year with whiskies inspired by fine cacao.
According to the company, the coffee-related release involved a masterclass at The Macallan Estate in Scotland hosted by whiskey maker Steven Bremner and featuring Ethiopian coffee producer Kenean Asefa Dukamo, Scottish coffee roaster Lisa Lawson of Dear Green Coffee Roasters, 2020 United States Barista Champion Andrea Allen of Onyx Coffee Lab and coffee historian and author Jonathan Morris.
“Exploring the world of coffee with our masters in the industry, who shared their knowledge, creativity, and love for their art, was both an education and an inspiration,” Bremmer said in an announcement of the launch today. “There are many parallels between the approach to creating incomparable whisky and coffee. Each requires unique skills and craftsmanship to achieve depth and complexity of taste and both worlds aim to deliver an extraordinary consumption experience.”
Both whiskeys were crafted in a combination of sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks, and both are packaged in boxes made with paper that incorporates repurposed coffee husks. The red coloring on the “Intense Arabica” offering recalls the fruity redness of a ripe coffee cherry, while the green on the “Smooth Arabica” recalls unroasted green coffee.
Flavor notes for each whiskey are presented in a swirling graphic pattern that appears to reference the Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel.
Each of the whiskies is being promoted as an ideal partner to specific Ethiopian regional coffees, with the Intense Arabica suggested for pairings with beans from Harrar and Guji, and the Smooth Arabica suggested for pairings with beans from Yirgacheffe and Limu.
“Today, people have a greater understanding of coffee, they know the vocabulary, they know what they like, and with whisky it’s the same,” Lisa Lawson said in the Macallan announcement. “Whisky goes well with coffee — it comes at the end of a meal and it’s natural for whisky and coffee flavors to sit together.”
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Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.