Whisky Advocate

The Macallan in Lalique: Cire Perdue

April 9th, 2010

Macallan has announced their newest release in the Lalique decanter line. This time it’s 64 years old, just one bottle, and it will be auctioned off for charity. (Press release below.)

I know that some of you have complained about old, ultra-expensive bottles being released. Auctioning off the bottle for charity is a noble effort.

The Macallan and Lalique launch THE MACALLAN 64 YEAR OLD SINGLE MALT WHISKY IN LALIQUE : CIRE PERDUE

 Following an Eight Month, Global Fundraising Exhibition, Sotheby’s to Auction this One-of-a-Kind Piece in New York with all Proceeds Benefitting charity: water

Paris, April 6, 2010:  Iconic luxury brands The Macallan and Lalique have come together again on the 150th anniversary of Rene Lalique’s birth, building on their highly successful partnership to produce a one-of-a-kind decanter, created by the ancient “cire perdue” or “lost wax” method. This decanter will hold the oldest and rarest Macallan ever bottled by this highly regarded distillery. The Macallan in Lalique Cire Perdue decanter contains a 64 years old Macallan single malt whisky, destined for final auction by Sotheby’s on November 15, 2010 in New York. All of the proceeds of this remarkable piece will be donated to charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.  In an eight month traveling exhibit and fundraising journey, The Macallan in Lalique: Cire Perdue decanter will travel around the world from Paris to New York via Madrid, London, Moscow, Seoul, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Taipei, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo. 

The Cire Perdue decanter has been designed by the legendary French crystal house Lalique, exclusively for The Macallan. Painstakingly hand crafted with the skills for which Lalique has achieved world-wide recognition and renowned since the first fabulous glass pieces were designed and made by Rene Lalique in the first half of the twentieth century, the inspiration for the design has come from the beauty of The Macallan’s 150 hectare estate in north-eastern Scotland.

David Cox, Director of Fine & Rare Whiskies for The Macallan, comments: “We have established a very close working relationship with Lalique over the past six years. We share a heritage based on a commitment to craftsmanship and creativity, underpinned by a genuine passion to strive for the best in all our endeavours. This extraordinary project has raised our partnership to new heights, combining the brilliance of Lalique’s designers and craftsmen and the outstanding quality and character from the masters of spirit and wood at The Macallan to produce a single decanter which will never be replicated, filled with the oldest and rarest Macallan our distillery has ever released. Having decided to donate the proceeds from the auction of this beautiful decanter and its rarest of whiskies to charity, we decided to partner with charity: water. Given the predictions of future water shortages and recent natural catastrophes, we felt we wanted to contribute something really positive to help. We are hoping for some extraordinary generosity at the final auction in New York in November.”

“We are delighted that the proceeds from this historic auction of The Macallan in Lalique: Cire Perdue decanter will benefit charity: water,” said Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water.  “Clean water projects bring communities together and offer improved health, a better quality of life and hope for a better future. I look forward to working closely with The Macallan and Lalique to bring clean water to some of the billion people on the planet without it.”

“Water is fundamental to the craftsmanship behind both The Macallan and Lalique,” continued Cox. “The word “whisky” derives from the Latin, “aqua vitae”, or “water of life”, and is one of the three natural ingredients of The Macallan, together with barley and yeast. Water is also critical for Lalique at the point of detailing, sanding and polishing the crystal pieces.”

The 64 years old Macallan has been vatted together from three casks, all built from sherry seasoned Spanish oak. The first was filled in 1942, the second in 1945 and the third in January 1946, from which the age of this great Macallan has been taken.

This Macallan is so rare for a couple of reasons; firstly The Macallan is widely recognized as one of the few single malts which can mature to a great age without losing its character to the powerful influence of Spanish oak maturation casks, seasoned with sherry, for which The Macallan is particularly well-known. The Macallan’s rich, oily spirit ensures the whisky achieves a balance and depth of aromas and flavours over many years in these casks, a balance often sought, but rarely achieved; secondly, this is the oldest Macallan ever released by the distillery in its 186 year history. Prior to the release of this 64 years old Macallan in the Cire Perdue decanter, the previous oldest Macallan released by the distillery was the 60 years old, distilled in 1926 and bottled in 1986, of which only forty bottles were ever produced.

Character of The Macallan 64 years old:

  • The 64 years old Macallan has a lovely rich oak colour.
  • On the nose, notes of peat smoke, dried orange peel, muscovado sugar and cedar wood, mixed with spicy cinnamon sticks and cloves.
  • On the palate, spicy, blood oranges, rosin, treacle, walnuts, cocoa chocolate and peat smoke.
  • The finish is soft, smooth and spicy, with lingering peats and dark chocolate

The decanter has been designed at Lalique’s Design Studio in Paris, based upon a ship’s decanter of the 1820’s, the decade in which The Macallan was founded, in 1824. Lalique’s designer felt the shape lent itself perfectly to the beautifully crafted panorama of The Macallan estate by the river Spey, in north east Scotland.

Lalique’s designer and craftsmen then worked to highlight the beauty of The Macallan’s estate, with its fields of barley, its woodlands, the river Spey flowing past its borders to the south and Easter Elchies House, The Macallan’s spiritual home built in 1700, lying at the heart of the estate.

The Macallan’s estate is unique among Scotch whisky distilleries. Spreading over 150 hectares on a plateau above the River Spey, this beautiful place has sustained generations of farmers and landowners over the centuries. Today, many of its fields grow the exclusive barley which lies at the heart of The Macallan spirit, while spring water from the estate boreholes combine with the barley and yeast to create the sublime single malt that is The Macallan. Among the estate woods grow mighty oak trees, which echo the oaks of northern Spain and the United States from which The Macallan’s exceptional casks are made, and which contribute so much of the final character of the whisky.

The decanter itself has been created by the lost wax process, an ancient practice originally developed to cast large pieces in bronze. After first modelling a piece in wax, it is covered with plaster and then sent to the oven to bake the clay while the wax melts. Finally, molten crystal is poured in the emptied shape.  Up until 1930, Rene Lalique himself crafted glass pieces using the Cire Perdue technique, but abandoned it as arthritis increasingly affected his fingers.

Today, investing in the artistic and technical training of its artists to master again this extraordinary know-how, a new workshop has been created on the 150th anniversary of Rene Lalique’s birth in 1860, dedicated entirely to the ‘lost wax’ process, to make the first Cire Perdue pieces in eighty years, including The Macallan 64 years old in Lalique. Every piece is unique. Complex, time consuming and costly, the process is reserved for the ultimate pieces. The technique brings to light a fineness of detail never seen before and a unique texture that is likened to a « crystal skin, giving each piece a truly realistic and vivid aspect.

Silvio Denz, President and CEO of Lalique, commented, “We are enormously proud to be collaborating again with The Macallan, and in such a worthwhile cause.  In today’s highly interconnected world, we are all increasingly aware of the needs of those much less fortunate than ourselves. We have been working on a series of decanters with The Macallan since 2004 and, over that time, have come to appreciate our shared values of a passionate commitment to outstanding quality, artistry and integrity. These decanters, each holding Macallan whiskies of 50, 55 and 57 years old respectively, have proved hugely admired and sought after around the world by whisky consumers and connoisseurs, as well as collectors of Lalique crystal and lovers of beautiful objets d’art. This latest decanter, a remarkable, unique work of art, holding such an old and rare Macallan, takes our partnership to a new level. I wish every success to its “tour du monde” and to the final auction by Sotheby’s in New York in November”.

30 Responses to “The Macallan in Lalique: Cire Perdue”

  1. Seth Nadel says:

    We should put together a betting pool to see what it will sells for.

  2. Gary says:

    Or we could all pool our money and bid! :D

  3. Mark says:

    This seems smart in multiple ways, and morally good — an excellent use of exclusivity.

    It is interesting to think of the whisky actually being really good. I remember having some ’46 Macallan, a post-WW11 peated wonder. Also, I’ve had Macallan from every decade from 20’s to now and I really don’t understand how the quality holds in those old casks.

    What do you think would be the differences if we tasted a 70 yr Macallan beside that G&M 70 yr Mortlach (both Spanish oak and sherry)? Would the wood come through in both the same at 70? That Mortlach had (apparently) wonderful color and nose, but an expected wood influence (“resinous oak notes” – JH) on the palate. You think that same wood influence would be there in a 70 yr Macallan? Can’t but speculate about this, but I do wonder.

  4. Rick says:

    Everyone needs to be very aware of the huge risk in storing whisk(e)y in crystal. Unless the crystal is lead-free, the lead content in your dram will be very harmful to your health. I can’t find the link for a very troubling report I saw recently, but the lead migrates very quickly into the liquid. Very quickly. Best to avoid crystal completely.

    I found this on a blog site from or regarding Waterford crystal:

    Storing Of Whiskey:

    It is recommended not to store your Whiskey or any other liquid in your crystal decanter, for longer than 24 hours.

    It has been determined that leaching occurs after a day when liquid is stored in crystal decanters. This causes a reaction inside full lead crystal decanters and can poison you over a period of time. The longer the whiskey/liquid is stored determines the potency of lead poisoning and leaching into the crystal. This is when the extraction of lead oxide is mixed with the liquid for consumption. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible neurological damage as well as renal disease, blood disorders, cardiovascular effects, and reproductive problems.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Christ! That’s chilling, Rick. I’d like to assume Lalique/Macallan knows what they’re doing, but I’d really like to hear from someone informed about their production process.

      • Mark says:

        Indeed, Red! Checking the Macallan site about the decanter, I saw nothing about lead content. I did see, though, that along the tour they are auctioning off small crystal containers of the 64 yr whisky.

        I would have thought they would say “lead-free” somewhere, even if not in the main press release. Given the info from Waterford, via Rick, it’d be way too late after purchase to decant the liquid into a nice, safe ordinary glass.

  5. Rick says:

    I did a bit more googling to find the study, but only came across this reference. This article concluded that you should go ahead and use your crystal during a meal or socially for guests if you do nothing more than pouring into it and drinking from it, but do not store in crystal. That being said, for me, I will no longer use lead crystal decanters, pitchers or stemware for anything other than collecting dust on the shelf. (they work very well for that!)

    I looked at a web page for the glencairn tasting glass and they say it is lead-free.

    Here’s the excerpt:

    Leaching Lead

    After centuries of enjoying beautiful lead crystal at table, it has recently come under the scrutiny of health authorities, who were testing paint and other products as possible sources of lead poisoning. Preliminary tests have shown that, over time, significant amounts of lead can migrate from lead crystal containers into liquids stored in them.

    One research team measured the amount of lead migration in Port wine that was stored in lead crystal decanters. After two days, lead levels were 89 micrograms; after four months, lead levels were between 2,000 and 5,000 micrograms.

    White wine doubled its lead content within an hour of storage, and tripled it within four hours.
    Brandy stored in lead crystal for five years had lead levels around 20,000 micrograms.
    Any liquid can leach lead from crystal just as effectively as wine and other alcoholic beverages.

    To put these numbers into perspective, the EPA’s lead standard for drinking water is 50 micrograms per liter.

  6. sam k says:

    What do you all think happened to the rest of the whisky in those three casks if this is the only bottle to be made available?

    I also see no mention of lead crystal in the release. I assume crystal can be produced without lead?

    • JD says:

      I’ve heard contradictory stuff on that. A saleslady at an upscale department store told me once that all crystal contains lead and should be used only for serving and drinking, never for storage. And yet I’ve seen brands that claim to have “lead free” crystal (like the Ravenscroft line). I’m not sure who to believe; I guess the “lead free” stuff is probably okay or they couldn’t sell it as such. Ravenscroft certainly promote their line as being safe for long-term storage.

      In any case glass doesn’t have these problems which is why the Glencairn glasses are okay–they’re just glass, no lead at all.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      That is a really good question sam and one that did not occur to me. Perhaps they will hold the substantial leftovers in reserve (moved to glass containers maybe) for other glamor bottlings?

  7. Scribe says:

    Perhaps, in the spirit of full disclosure, the press release should read as follows:

    * On the palate, spicy, blood oranges, rosin, treacle, walnuts, cocoa chocolate, peat smoke and toxic lead.

  8. Mark Davis says:

    when should we expect a formal review?

  9. I_SPEY says:

    Great design, beautiful decanter.
    Just send me one and I’ll let you know if there’s lead in it!

  10. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    how will it taste if served prefect with an ice ball?

    Just imagine the combination… a 64 yo Macallan served prefect on the rounded rock.

    Must be heaven!!!

    So if you can get hold of a sample use it wisely. :o

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Red_Arremer says:

      No Kal, that would be too much for any normal person! A sip off 64 on the ball would be like heroin– you’d never be able to enjoy normal whisky again ;)

      • kallaskander says:

        Hi there,

        right you are.

        That is way too much for me!

        Amused greetings
        kallaskander

  11. [...] and John Hansell brings the press release that Macallan is auctioning a sample bottle of a 64 year old whisky in [...]

  12. Thank you all for your comments and feedback regarding The Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique : Cire Perdue. We want to assure you that the Lalique crystal decanter is safe. In 1994, Lalique developed a patented process that treats the crystal against lead migration. Every year the process is reviewed and approved by the authorities.
    Silke Flores-Martini, Lalique Brand Manager

  13. sam k says:

    Great follow up to these questions, Silke! I couldn’t imagine Lalique putting their reputation on the line for this. Thank you very much!

  14. Hey John and all,

    Does this qualify as Lalique IV, or is it just a one off to generate some buzz and raise some money? I have a couple of collectors with I, II and III, who also intend to purchase IV-VI provided the pricing on each successive release doesn’t continue to grow exponentially. They might be annoyed if they are unable to complete the collection.

    As for how much it will fetch at auction, it is hard to see it selling for less than $50,000, especially considering that there is only one bottle of it. The first three Laliques:
    50Yr – $6000.00
    55Yr – $12,000.00
    57Yr – $17,000.00
    Given those prices I wouldn’t be surprised to see Macallan pricing this Lalique in a retail environment for $25,000.00 to $30,000.00. The question is, at what price will they kill demand?

    I am on a personal level very torn about these whiskies. I thought the 50 year old was brilliant, and accordingly was shockingly disappointed by the 55 year which tasted like a piece of bitter, smoky, old wood! I know these whiskies are destined for collections, and few of them will be immediately consumed, but the whisky should still taste good.

    Slainte!

    Andrew Ferguson

    Andrew

  15. Andrew,

    If you would like more details on the Cire Perdue and, indeed, some answers to your questions above then please feel free to drop me an email at graeme@themacallan.bz

    Kind regards,

    Graeme

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