Consider this the next time you enjoy a wee dram: That single-malt Macallan in your glass is made by the Edrington Group, which is in turn owned by The Robertson Trust, a foundation started by three Glasgow sisters in 1961, which today disburses some US$25 million to charity each year.
Read within this good-doing context, those legally necessary words, “Please Savour Responsibly”, on the back label of a Macallan takes on new meaning. Not only does it infer that alcohol should be consumed in moderation (and so forth), but the pleasure-seeker ought to have accountability to self as well as to others. So, why not do good?
The above was what I chose to takeaway from a recent visit to Girona, Spain, home to three-Michelin-star El Celler de Can Roca, a Catalan family restaurant that is collaborating with the scotch whisky brand on a series of six dinners in June and July in the name of charity. Roughly 150 tickets are available at $10,000 a head, with net proceeds to be channelled to as yet unnamed causes that both the Speyside distillery and the Roca family support.
Speaking to journalists at the formal announcement — which preceded lunch at the beautiful, vine-covered 20th-century El Cellar de Can Roca villa — Ken Grier, director of malts, described the partnership as one based on the shared ethos of craft, mastery, skill and innovation. “Whisky and cuisine have a long-standing connection but never have any two partners come together to really explore what this could and should mean. Our collaboration is set to break down classic perceptions of food-pairing and enter into a whole new, awe-inspiring world of taste and flavour experiences,” he added.
Underpinning the partnership is the significance Spain holds to the two partners. For Macallan, it is Spanish oak sherry casks, built and seasoned in the southern city of Jerez — the single biggest influence on the flavours and characteristics of its scotch — while the Rocas have engaged in Spain’s culinary scene for multiple generations.
For the dinners, brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca have put together a 10-course menu, with each dish inspired by tasting notes and aromas discovered at The Macallan distillery, where they sampled 300 casks over three days late last year. Courses are to be paired with a range of mostly never before released whiskies, served at cask strength. Among the 14 expressions will be The Macallan M, an old-school-style Macallan released without an age statement, but which is said to be composed of at least one cask distilled in the 1960s.
Diners will also have the opportunity to meet with the Rocas and will be given unprecedented access to “the workings of the restaurant”, including, one might hope, Josep’s extraordinary 60,000-bottle cellar panelled with repurposed wine crates. The ticket price also covers transfers to and from the restaurant to Barcelona (which is 98km south). In addition to dinner proceeds, The Macallan is pledging a still-undisclosed sum to charity.
Commenting on the philanthropic angle of the collaboration, Head Chef Joan told Prestige: “All of us chefs and The Macallan have a social responsibility to be useful. By contributing our creativity — and them contributing their whiskies — together we can do something special to make it all worthwhile.” Joan and his brothers have a reputation for taking on a young international cast of chefs at the restaurant, giving them a step up in the competitive and demanding craft cuisine scene.
Also keen to do his part for charity was whisky-maker Bob Dalgarno, who shared: “It’s the very nature of our business. We work for a charitable trust and [philanthropy is] hugely important to us. We’ve done this for years; giving money to the less fortunate. It’s just what we do and what we believe in.”
Previous philanthropic activities at The Macallan include the 2010 sale of the 64-year-old Lalique Cire Perdue — the oldest and rarest whisky ever bottled by the distillery — which netted $460,000 at Sotheby’s New York. Proceeds of the sale, together with a further $140,000 raised from a 12-city fundraising tour, were donated to Charity: Water, a non-profit organisation that provides clean drinking water to people in developing nations. More recently, this year’s sale of a 6-L The Macallan M at Sotheby’s Hong Kong saw 100 percent of proceeds divvied between local Hong Kong charities. With a hammer price of $628,000, the sale also bested the brand’s previous record set earlier by the Lalique Cire Perdue to become the most expensive whisky sold at auction.
Aside from being able to enjoy expressions that have never been tasted by anyone other than The Macallan employees (and journalists), there is one other compelling reason to book a seat at one of the six charity dinners. Come August, El Celler de Can Roca — ranked first on the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list — will close for five weeks to embark on the Roca & Roll World Tour 2014, which is slated to visit Mexico City, Lima, Medellin and New York. So if you are looking at a summer table in Spain, there is only one thing to do: Reserve your charity ticket now.
When you’re there, just remember: Please savour responsibly.;