Raise the Macallan Scotch Tasting, Washington, D.C.

My opinion on Scotch is pretty well known among my friends and family: It’s disgusting.

One of the more famous stories that my family and friends like to tell about me is the time I first tasted Scotch. I was in my early 20s and had only been exposed to beer, wine, and cheap liquor in plastic bottles in college. My dad, on the other hand, would settle in with a glass of Johnnie Walker after work on most nights. One evening, he offered me a sip from his glass. When I took it, I puckered my face and proclaimed that it tasted like “licking the backside of a flaming cow.” Because I know what that tastes like? Thank God I don’t, but either way, enjoy the visual.

As much as I dislike Scotch, I like getting things for free even more. So when a friend told me about a free tasting event offered by The Macallan brand, I was in. Even if I knew I would have to choke it down.

We made our way to the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in downtown D.C. on the night of the Raise The Macallan event. I was surprised to see a long line outside of the building – apparently this wasn’t going to be an intimate tasting like I was used to.

Raise the Macallan Scotch Tasting, Washington, D.C.

Time to go in!

We walked in the front doors and were immediately handed a drink. I swirled and sniffed it and was pleasantly surprised to smell the familiar brown sugar, vanilla and oakiness of whiskies I enjoy drinking. I took a timid sip… and liked it.

Is this the twilight zone?!

A million thoughts raced through my mind. Does this mean I’m a true adult? Someone who can, at last, appreciate fine spirits? Has my whisky-drinking habit slowly slid me closer and closer to actually enjoying this most horrid liquor?

I may never know the reason, but my inner Ron Burgundy was celebrating the fact that I could complete the rest of the tasting without getting sick.

I love Scotch. Scotchy Scotch Scotch. Here it goes down, down to my belly!

The entrance area had a number of brand engagement areas where attendees could learn about Scotch, take photos, answer questions on touch screens, and learn the history of The Macallan while sipping their welcome pour. It was an enjoyable way to pass the time before the doors were opened for the main event, a guided tasting of a handful of single-malt whiskies from The Macallan’s portfolio.

Raise the Macallan Scotch Tasting, Washington, D.C.

Hamming it up at the photo station. Image courtesy of Raise The Macallan.

When the main event was set to begin, we were led to a private table with three pre-poured tasters, some assorted nuts, and jars of fragrances to compare with the whiskies. There were maybe 100 other people in the auditorium with us, but we had our own private table so it didn’t feel as crowded.

A Macallan brand ambassador led the audience through the history of the brand and what goes into making single-malt Scotch whisky. After the broad introduction, we got to the good stuff: tasting each of the varieties.

Raise the Macallan Scotch Tasting, Washington, D.C.

Swirl, sniff, taste, repeat.

We got to try three different kinds of Scotch during the main tasting: the Sherry Oak, the Double Cask, and the Fine Oak. The Sherry Oak was by far my favorite – it was lighter and smoother than the rest. We paired the Fine Oak with chocolate truffles, and it tasted positively decadent.

Raise the Macallan Scotch Tasting, Washington, D.C.

Sláinte!

When we were finished with the first three tastings, Jeremy (the brand ambassador) surprised everyone with a fourth tasting of one of The Macallan’s limited releases. It was quite good, though not being a Scotch aficionado, I couldn’t tell if it was truly better than the others or not. I still preferred the Sherry Oak.

And just like that, the event was over. It was a brisk 90 minutes from when we first stepped through the front doors to when we tasted our last sip. The event staff quickly raised the lights to usher people out of the building and let in the next group lined up outside of the auditorium.

Conclusions

As someone who works in the marketing and promotional arena, I was genuinely impressed with the quality of The Macallan’s production. From the well-heeled staff to the drink placed in my hand upon arrival to the interactive experiences dispersed throughout the waiting area before the tasting event began, there were ample opportunities to try the product and understand The Macallan brand better. The presentation during the tasting was also quite engaging. Even though I understood that I was being sold to, my BS detector wasn’t blaring because they fed us so much great whisky for free. There’s no doubt that The Macallan puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to winning over new customers.

If you live in the U.S. or will be visiting soon, Raise The Macallan events happen on a rolling basis in a number of U.S. cities. There currently appear to be tasting opportunities in the Bay Area (California); Denver, Colorado, Houston, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. I believe similar events are also held in Europe.

If you enjoy Scotch (or will tolerate it like I did) and have the opportunity to attend an event, go! I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much. Hell, I might even find myself buying myself a bottle of The Macallan sometime soon.


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Raise the Macallan Scotch Tasting, Washington, D.C.

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