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"Whiskey never made me hungover, so I found it was the perfect drink that helped you fit in with the boys," says entrepreneur Julie Macklowe, who began her finance career in Hong Kong and Seoul after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1999.
"You were just nonstop crunching the model, then you’d go out and drink, then you’d go back and crunch the model," Macklowe says. "My job was to drink like the men and they drank soju or whiskey, so I found myself drinking whiskey."
Working for JP Morgan Partners in Asia exposed Macklowe to single malt whisky, and soon she began collecting bottles from distilleries like Macallan and Oban.
She went on to run two consumer funds for hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen and continued to built her palate around single malts, which she calls a "power chick drink." Macklowe then launched a skincare company, vbeauté, and inked a deal to sell its products on the Home Shopping Network. QVC bought HSN when Macklowe was pregnant with her second child (who is now three), and what followed, Macklowe says, was "a moment of great pause."
"I thought to myself, I know how to make bottles, I know how to make packaging, but I really like whiskey and golf, so what am I doing with a skincare company," she says. "I started talking to all these distilleries. I’d find a great cask here and I’d buy it, I’d find a great cask there and I’d buy it, but I didn’t find anything great in huge quantity."
She assembled a collection with her husband of 17 years, real estate developer Billy Macklowe. "We just sort of thought, how many Birkin bags can you own?" They filled the bar that Annabelle Selldorf designed for their Fifth Avenue triplex with covetable bottles like a 1969 Springbank, which remains Julie's favorite. But one category was missing: American single malts. Macklowe decided to solve her problem of not being able to find a high-end American single malt by making one herself. The idea for the Macklowe was born.
After soliciting advice from whiskey-loving friends, Macklowe found her way to Ian MacMillan, a master distiller, whom connoisseurs told her was the best blender and "nose" in the world. Most recently, MacMillan worked with the Lowland distillery Bladnoch and appeared in the documentary Scotch: A Golden Dram.
Macklowe and MacMillan set out to find a distillery that met their demanding specifications. They found what they were looking for in Kentucky, at a distillery that Macklowe calls "the Ferrari of the bourbon and rye category." Maintaining the distillery's confidentiality was a term of the deal. The two collaborated to create a spirit made with 100-percent Kentucky-grown barley, which they will release in 2023. While that whiskey is maturing, Macklowe and MacMillan are releasing their first bottling from a single cask that they selected—known as cask 61.
"This has been such an exciting journey for me, working and evaluating the ever-increasing quality of American single malts," MacMillan says. "The overall quality of the maturing whiskies that Julie sourced has been excellent. The final selection process was challenging, however the cask we eventually selected was of such sublime quality, I await with great anticipation the reactions from the very lucky purchasers of this wonderful and special American single malt.
Lucky indeed, because despite their $1,500 price tag, the 237 700-ml bottles are already all allocated to high-end liquor stores like Sherry-Lehmann and restaurants including Eleven Madison Park, Jean-Georges, the Polo Bar, and Le Pavillon.
"I did not realize the angel's share was going to be so heavy on our first cask," says Macklowe, referring to the amount lost to evaporation when the liquid was being aged in oak barrels. "We ended up producing way less liquid than I had predicted, and at the risk of pissing everyone off, I had to cut everyone back. I thought we were going to get about 290 bottles and we got 237."
The bottles are all hand-painted in Asia, with their shape evoking a flask that Macklowe herself carries. "I’ve always felt that you should drink what you like, not what somebody is telling you to like," Macklowe says.
The rich but silky whiskey has enticing flavors of gingerbread, caramel, maple syrup, and citrus, and its slightly spicy finish lingers noticeably.
As far as when to drink it, Macklowe says just about anytime works for her: "Before dinner, with dinner, after dinner. Just not for breakfast—not with the Lucky Charms."
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