Lasting Legacy: Ex-director of The Macallan on the world’s most valuable whisky

Image 3

Sotheby’s recently held an auction in Hong Kong where the Macallan in Lalique Legacy Collection – a set of six crystal decanters containing the rarest of The Macallan’s single malts aged from 50 to 65 years old – sold for US$993,000 (HK$7.7 million).

David Cox, who recently retired as director of fine and rare whiskies for The Macallan, flew into Hong Kong for the ‘Finest & Rarest Wines and The Macallan’ auction.

David, who worked in the scotch whisky industry for 35 years, played a lead role in the development of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars series.

We spoke to David after the auction about the Six Pillars, brand identity and how The Macallan is received in Hong Kong and China.

How did The Macallan establish such a strong brand identity?

Before The Macallan was marketed as a brand in the 1980s, the product had long been admired and sought after by blenders as a ‘top dressing’ single malt. It was also popular among a small number of consumers who enjoyed its distinctive rich, full-flavoured character, much of which owed to The Macallan’s use of sherry casks from Spain for maturation.

Since that time, what was something of a cult-like following by a few has turned into an ever-growing loyalty by many around the globe. This is down to the merits of The Macallan’s product reaching a wider audience through active engagement with trades and consumers. This engagement is grounded in some product truths –  the Six Pillars –  which have been consistently talked about and understood by trades and consumers. Consistency has therefore been critically important, which is based on a great appreciation of outstanding and distinctive product quality.

Have you tweaked the brand at all for the China and Hong Kong markets?

We maintain the prestige and luxury positioning for all markets across the world. It is arguably the most precious whisky in the world, substantiated by the multiple world records of ‘The Most Expensive Whisky Ever Sold In Auction’ by The Macallan 64 Years in Lalique Cire Perdue Decanter and The Macallan Imperiale 6L M-Decanter Constantine.

How’s The Macallan received in China and Hong Kong?

The Macallan is received exceptionally well across Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. The consumers are basically professional, upper income and high net-worth individuals. The brand also has a good following among younger consumer groups, which is a visible trend in Asia among single malts.

The younger consumers are more open in terms of trying new categories of drinks, single malts among the many they are experimenting with. They collect, collate, categorise, compare and conclude which ones they prefer and for what occasions.

What’s the biggest challenge for The Macallan in this region?

Supply has always been an issue.The challenge is to always stay vigilant, always aim to be better and to always put consumers at heart. We always remind ourselves to stay close to our customers, be relevant to consumers and be aware of any changes in the market.

What is The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars collection?

It is a celebration in crystal decanters filled with some of The Macallan’s oldest and rarest whiskies – the oldest was filled to cask in April 1945.

The Macallan’s Six Pillars are six facets of The Macallan which, when taken together, help explain the distinctive, rich character of the whisky.


What exactly did you do in your lead role in the development of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars series?

I was introduced to Lalique back in 2004, and at the time my plan was to develop a series of decanters in crystal to celebrate the six pillars, releasing one every other year, making this a 12-year project.

I was immediately struck by the extraordinary artistic legacy of Lalique and felt they would not only deliver an outstanding series of unique crystal decanters, but that we also shared many values which would ensure a partnership of understanding and longevity. I am delighted to say this proved to be the case.

You were in Hong Kong for the auction at Sotheby’s. How did it go?

The result exceeded our expectations. The combination of The Macallan’s unrivalled reputation in single malt whisky, allied to Lalique’s artistic inspiration, helped to ensure that the Legacy Collection, the only complete collection of Six Pillars decanters ever released by The Macallan, achieved a world record hammer price for a single lot at auction. Most satisfying of all, though, is the proceeds will be divided equally among five charities.

The Hong Kong charities are:

Society for the Community Organization, which supports disadvantaged people in Hong Kong.
Food Link Foundation, which specialises in coordinating food needs for disadvantaged families in Hong Kong.
Crossroads Foundation, which supports disadvantaged people in Hong Kong, specifically helping unemployed people who lack the required skill sets between jobs.

The regional charities are:

Watsi, which provides support to those in need of medical and surgical support and works globally and regionally.
One Sky Foundation, which supports orphans in Asia-Pacific.

Each of the five charities will receive a 20 percent donation of the net proceeds. The first three charities are based in Hong Kong and the last two work in Asia-Pacific, so Hong Kong charities will share 60 percent and Asia-Pacific charities will share 40 percent of the net proceeds.

In 2015, The Macallan was the most valuable whisky brand at auction, why do you think that was?

The Macallan has been the most valuable whisky brand at auction ever since the first whisky auctions were held in Scotland in the late 1980s. I think it derives from a combination of our great reputation, a track record of high prices and ever increasing value and, in the case of some Macallan products at auction, of scarcity.

Text: Andrew Scott

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *