The Macallan Intense Arabica: the second edition of the Harmony collection is a tribute to coffee

24 marzo 2023


The iconic Scottish distillery is back with new flavor harmonies and an eye to sustainable packaging.

Last October saw the unveiling of the latest bottling to be added to The Macallan's Harmony Collection - a limited series of yearly releases kicked off in 2021 with The Macallan Rich Cacao and driven by the distillery's characteristic curious, creative mindset. 

The Macallan Intense Arabica is a Single Malt Scotch Whisky intended to celebrate the world of coffee and inspired by a specific variety of Ethiopian Arabica. 

A collaboration with 5 coffee masters

The Macallan Whisky Maker Steven Bremner is the main driving force behind this intensely flavored whisky, designed as a perfect pairing for coffee. To achieve this result, Steven first took a dive in the fascinating world of coffee, following the bean's journey from the field to the cup, investigating the production process and learning to recognize the different flavor and olfactory profiles. In parallel, a masterclass was held at The Macallan Estate with world-renowned coffee experts, who were involved in the project as Bremner's co-creators of the bottling. 

The Coffee Masters who shared their knowledge with Steven include well-known names in the industry: Ethiopian coffee grower Kenean Asefa Dukamo, whose family works with the Arabica variety mentioned in the whiskey's name; Scottish roaster Lisa Lawson, founder of Dear Green Coffee, the Glasgow Coffee Festival and the Scottish AeroPress Championships, as well as a pioneer of quality coffee in Scotland famed for her roasting techniques; award-winning American bartender Andrea Allen, celebrated particularly for creating original coffee experiences. This impressive list of prominent personalities also includes British coffee artist Dhan Tamang, one of the most brilliant players in coffee art; while Jonathan Morris, research professor in Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire, globally recognized for his deep knowledge of the transnational history of coffee consumption, was involved as an expert on the global history of coffee and contributed an overview of the origins of this product and how it has become a global phenomenon.

As Steven Bremner himself stated,

“Exploring the world of coffee with the leading masters in the industry has been an educational experience as well as a source of inspiration. There are many parallels between creating high quality whisky and coffee. Both products require unique skills and craftsmanship to achieve depth and complexity of flavor, and both aim to deliver an extraordinary consumer experience. To create the second edition of The Harmony Collection inspired from coffee, I tried to combine the robust notes of The Macallan's traditional ex-Sherry European oak barrels, capable of reproducing the overwhelming aroma of coffee, with the smoother, sweeter vanilla scents of ex-Sherry American oak barrels for an all-around balanced experience.”

Scottish roaster Lisa Lawson added,

“Today people have a greater understanding of coffee, they know the vocabulary and they know what they like. The same is true for whisky. Whisky also goes well with coffee: both are served at the end of a meal, and it's only natural for their flavors to marry well.”

La ricetta di The Macallan Intense Arabica

The idea of pairing whisky and coffee is clearly nothing new, but in this case it’s taken to a completely new level which has nothing to do with the idea of caffè corretto (coffee spiked with a splash of liquor), for example. What makes the difference is chiefly The Macallan's legendary barrels. Their distinctive feature is carrying with them a kind of malt that in itself releases scents similar to coffee, though they clearly never contained any coffee, but sherry - hence their ability to also contribute sweet notes of raisins, custard and vanilla. 

Inspired by the Ethiopian Arabica coffee variety, Steven has selected a harmonious combination of ex-Sherry American and European oak barrels to achieve distinctive notes reminiscent of a sweet but strong espresso, with hints of the creaminess of tiramisu and cappuccino, as well as a spicy profile similar to gingerbread. 

Notably, ageing in ex-Sherry oak barrels also produces rich notes of berries in the glass; and a robust 44% ABV lends itself well to the pairing with coffee, affording a new way to enjoy The Macallan whisky.

Most Ethiopian coffee is grown in Oromia. This is where the coffee beans that inspired Steven's Single Malt come from. The selected Ethiopian coffee beans are Harrar and Guji - a unique wild Arabica variety with an intense, robust flavor.

Eco-sustainable packaging

The collection is also an opportunity to explore future packaging solutions with the use of organic materials that are given new life. This hybrid packaging was created using recycled materials including the skins of coffee beans, which would otherwise become waste. Paper expert Michele Posocco from the Italian paper mill Favini worked with The Macallan to create this innovative packaging, where the red Pantone color is a reference to the red coffee fruit. 

Social and environmental sustainability has been playing an important role in The Macallan's initiatives for a few years now. This effort was particularly clear in the opening of the new distillery in 2018. Designed by internationally renowned architects, the building draws inspiration from and perfectly blends in with the iconic Scottish hills that surround it. The distillery is located in The Macallan's beautiful estate extending over 196 hectares, which for two centuries has been preserving an essential material and spiritual heritage.

Few probably know that in Ethiopia it's customary to serve coffee with popcorn. This is why The Macallan decided to pay homage to the homeland of coffee by coming up with a tasting ritual that clearly takes after this tradition.

the macallan harmony intense arabica

The perfect multisensory tasting experience includes five steps:

1. If possible, get hold of Harrar and Guji coffee beans, otherwise use any two varieties of ground coffee;

2. Prepare the cupping equipment: a serving glass and coffee cups;

3. Prepare the two varieties of coffee separately. Pour into individual cups;

4. Savor your dram while sipping each type of coffee and appreciate the unique tasting notes; 

5. Pair with salted popcorn.