Have you ever had a moment when you were enjoying a fine whisky with friends, and time just stops?
That moment of stopped time is the inspiration behind The Macallan Masters of Photography: Steven Klein Edition. It is the sixth in the Masters of Photography (MOP) series of collaborations between the Scotch single malt brand and some of the world’s greatest photographers.
Best known for his collaborations with the likes of Madonna and Rihanna, Klein is one of the world’s most challenging and provocative artists in photography and film. Macallan creative director Ken Grier had sought Klein out because he wanted to shake things up a little for the sixth edition of the MOP.
“We’ve had Rankin, which was a very fashion-oriented project. We’ve had Albert Watson, a very classic black and white film noir project. Annie Leibovitz, which was about the guy and the guy moment. Elliot Erwitt, which was street photography about Scottish character. And Mario Testino, which was about capturing the ‘as good as it gets’ moment in a party.
“We’d had projects that were very much about still photography. So we thought it’d be interesting to disrupt the rhythm of what we’ve done,” Grier explained during an interview after the launch of the whisky in Hong Kong in June.
According to him, Klein brings a “new, visually disruptive and remarkable piece of art to the Masters of Photography”.
“He’s a fun and interesting guy with a dark perspective on things. He’s quite ambiguous … and it’s interesting, the way he portrays things. I’ve seen the work he’s done with Madonna. I also saw the tremendous video he did for Dior with Rihanna,” he said.
When Grier approached Klein for the project, the artist came up with the idea of “distilling time”.
“When I asked Steven what he wanted to do (for his whisky), he said, ‘for me, when you’re having a fantastic drink moment and you’re with great friends, time stops. You just want that moment to last forever and suspend time’,” Grier recalled. “So we came up with the idea of distilling that beautiful moment when you are enjoying Macallan to a very short space of time.”
Klein’s intention was to “examine a world standing still through a moving camera”. “Typically with consumption of alcohol, there is always an abundance of movement. I thought what if it had all stopped for a moment and I could take a closer look at it. The idea is the perception of time,” the photographer said in a press release.
Grier recalled the process: “We shot in an old machine tool factory in Brookyln, which gave it a real character, and the models had to stay still for about eight hours! Some of them were cramping up and needed massages!”
The shoot eventually yielded a short film and ten individual images that play with the notion of time and incorporates different elements from different eras into one single moment. The models’ vacant, haunting stares, the arresting red, smoking industrial background, and the Thom Brown-designed outfits all meld together to create a visual image of the whisky being enjoyed over different eras, but somehow, still sharing the same moment in time.
The photos are just one half of the project though. Next, The Macallan master whisky maker Bob Dalgarno had to come up with a whisky that could match Klein’s vision.
“Bob became really obsessed with the whole thing,” Grier said. “He spent two weeks looking at that movie over and over again!”
In the end, Dalgarno created a whisky that is truly unique and fits the whole “distilling time” theme perfectly.
He included whiskies that were very, very old, some dating back to the 1940s and 50s. “Back then, because the world was at war, you couldn’t use cork to make the fires to kiln the barley. All of it was used to make steel, planes, tanks and armaments. So we were making Macallan using peat. Some of the whiskies in there are from that batch,” said Grier.
Then, there was a very old Macallan that was matured in a cask that contained Spanish Rioja wine. “We’d never done that before and never done that since. It gave the whisky an interesting tinge of red, and a slightly wine-y character,” Grier said, adding that it is a very unique whisky that will never be seen again, simply because it was the only time Macallan had ever done something like that.
“Finally, Bob picked mainly Spanish sherry oak casks, but some American oak as well. The Spanish sherry brings out the dark, deep rich wood notes, and the American oak gives it light notes. So he’s really proud of it.”
Official tasting notes for the whisky describe it as having a nose with sweet berries with light vanilla, dried fruits, ginger, and wisps of smoke. On the palate, there is lingering sweet spice with subtle smokiness, dark chocolate and orange zest, and ending with a medium to long finish of soft, rich fruit and wood smoke.
Limited to only 1,000 sets worldwide, the Masters of Photography: Steven Klein edition is presented in a beautiful black case containing the limited edition whisky, and one of 10 different Steven Klein exclusive signed prints.
Also included in the set is a striking horse’s head bottle stopper, and a book of cocktail recipes by Spanish culinary trio Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca in Spain that comes together with a range of custom barware tools, including a martini glass, highball pint glass, dripper, infuser, and distiller.
Limited to only 1,000 sets worldwide, it is priced in Malaysia at RM18,000. For more information or to purchase, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.