When we went looking to celebrate National Scotch Day there was only one destination that came to mind to sample some of the best: Macallans Public House in Downtown Brea. Because, let’s face it, with a name like Macallans they’ve got to be showcasing some stellar Scotch.
Eponymous with the the premium single malt established in the 1800s, this Irish inspired gastropub holds domain towards the Western end of Birch Street. Its regal, black lacquered facade with the color popping Kelly Green doorway looks like it was air-lifted straight from Rodeo Drive. The lux interior with handsome brick and hardwood details, plush velvet settees, and contemporary Edison lighting suggests an exclusive members-only club teeming with satin smoking jackets and billowy plumes from expensive cigars. Luckily, that is not the case. General manager Dan O’Mahony and his engaging staff are so approachable and gracious, you’ll feel completely at home and unruffled.
While Scotch used to be that illustrious spirit tippled by the distinguished Just for Men circuit, the Mad Men set has since popularized the potent and oft polarizing whisky, creating more of an allure for public consumption beyond gender. Taking its cue, Macallans is on a mission to indoctrinate younger generations and deflate the misconception that one has to be long in the tooth to appreciate nips of the good stuff.
“Whisky is as different and expressive as the many people who make it, and enjoy it,” says Ed “The Dirt” Adams, Master of Whisky, our guest speaker for Macallans’ Scotch pairing event.
What we learned:
- Legally, to be called Scotch whisky, it has to be produced in Scotland and matured in oak casks for at least three years.
- Single malt Scotch is made from a single distillery using water, malted barely and yeast.
- A blended Scotch, which makes up about 90% of all Scotch, uses a combination of single malts and is mixed with grain or corn whisky and comes from multiple distilleries.
- Sipping Scotch should be a slow, revelatory experience that starts with your sense of smell. After you’ve awakened your senses, “The Dirt” suggests that novices sip their Scotch neat to enjoy it in its purest form.
- Adding a couple drops of water into the glass helps to unlock the flavors and aromas, ranging from subtle, sweet and fruity to bold, robust and smoky.
- While Scotch on the rocks is refreshing, especially in our warm climate, the ice will numb the flavors slightly.
- Scotch is similar to wine when it comes to pairing with food.
Further illustrating that Scotch drinking does not have to take such solemn posturing, Macallans’ executive chef, Roman Jimenez, showed off his more playful side with the inspired and creative dishes that he presented to complement the nose (official terminology for the scents given off by the whisky) of the featured Scotches.
Dalwhinnie 15 paired with Charred Octopus Salad
(Nose: Aromatic, toffee, fruit salad, lush nectarine, custard, flora, apple blossom, honeysuckle, apple peels, pear, touch of smoke.)
An oyster pail takeout box tipped on its side evoked a diorama-esque beachside scene with char-grilled octopus, beach balls of candy-like baby heirloom tomatoes and a tangle of tangerine vinaigrette dressed frisée, all washed ashore on the sands of sweet corn purée. While the octopus was a tad more firm than I would have liked, by no means did it hedge towards the chewy or rubbery territory and the char on it was absolutely delightful. The sweet corn purée, so silky and smooth, careened towards the lick-my-plate-clean lane.
Oban “Little Bay” paired with Grilled Stone Fruit Flatbread
(Nose: Rich and vibrant malty nose with dried apple, dried plums, caramel, honey, allspice and oak.)
A delicately crisp artist’s palette with sweet and savory daubs of peaches, plums, cherries, ricotta and bleu cheese, liberally varnished with an apricot & bone marrow patina. The bright tartness of the cherries was an ideal foil to the deep, rich undertones of the bone marrow. The stone fruits and cheeses led me to imagine a plein air session in the meadow.
Talisker “Storm” paired with Bird Poutine
(Nose: Initial brine, but not as abrupt as the 10 Year Old, quite creamy by comparison, Banana. Window putty, hint of sting plasters and barbecue, citrus. White pepper develops towards the bottom of the glass.)
Think Thanksgiving homecoming encapsulated in a cast iron loaf pan. Although described as a poutine, it was a bit of a misnomer since there were no cheese curds to be found. Technicality aside, it was one of those ultra comfort food memory sessions. The duck confit was moist and tender, the quail egg luscious and the duck fat frites cooked to a perfect crisp. Addictive as crack, the duck skin crumble did not crumble, but instead crackled at the bite. The blueberry ketchup added a wonderful zing.
Lagavulin 16 paired with Smokey Oysters
(Nose: One of the smokiest noses from Islay, It’s big, very, very concentrated and redolent of iodine, sweet spices, good, mature sherry and creamy vanilla. Stunning.)
The elegant “dessert” course was a briny sundae of an oyster scoop and liquid nitrogenated bleu cheese ice cream with bacon & grilled onion tapanade sprinkles. The oyster was cooked just so to render it out of the raw stage and the bleu cheese ice cream was surprisingly mild and possessed the texture of white chocolate. The smoke on smoke of the oyster and the Lagavulin 16 from the Islay region had the strongest flavors, yet it was my favorite pairing of the evening.
Next time you’re searching for a new place to imbibe and sup, forgo the tequila, rum or vodka and enjoy a stunning selection of Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch and elevated pub grub at Macallans. Leave your hoity toity smoking jacket at home, but definitely bring your excellent cigars to enjoy on their spacious patio.
330 W. Birch St
Brea, CA 92821
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