“Whiskey never gave me a hangover, so I found it to be the perfect drink to help you fit in with the boys,” says entrepreneur Julie Macklowe, who started her career in finance in Hong Kong and Seoul after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1999.
“You were just crunching the model non-stop, then you’d go out and drink, then you’d go back and crunch the model,” Macklowe says. “My job was to drink like men and they drank soju or whiskey, so I ended up drinking whiskey.”
Working for JP Morgan Partners in Asia exposed Macklowe to single malt whiskey, and soon she began collecting bottles from distilleries like Macallan and Oban.
She then ran two consumer funds for hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen and went on to build her palate around single malts, which she calls a “power chick drink”. Macklowe then launched a skincare business, vbeauty, and signed a deal to sell her 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 do bottles, I know how to do wraps, but I really like whiskey and golf, so what am I doing with a skincare company,” says- she. “I started talking to all these distilleries. I would find a big cask here and I would buy it, I would find a big cask there and I would buy it, but I couldn’t find anything big in large quantities .”
She put together a collection with her husband of 17 years, property developer Billy Macklowe. “We just thought, how many Birkin bags can you own?” They filled the bar that Annabelle Selldorf designed for their Fifth Avenue triplex with coveted 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 premium American single malt by making one herself. The Macklowe idea was born.
After seeking the advice of whiskey-loving friends, Macklowe found his way to Ian MacMillan, a master distiller, who connoisseurs told him was the best blender and “nose” in the world. More recently MacMillan worked with the Lowland Bladnoch distillery and appeared in the documentary Scotch: a glass of gold.
Macklowe and MacMillan set out to find a distillery that met their exacting specifications. They found what they were looking for in Kentucky, at a distillery Macklowe calls “the Ferrari of the bourbon and rye category.” Maintaining distillery confidentiality was a term of the agreement. The two collaborated to create a spirit made from 100% Kentucky-grown barley, which they will release in 2023. As this whiskey matures, Macklowe and MacMillan release their first bottling from a single cask that ‘they selected, known as cask 61. .
“It’s 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 aging whiskeys Julie has purchased has been excellent. The final selection process was difficult, but the cask we finally selected was of such sublime quality that I look forward to feedback from the very lucky buyers of this wonderful and special American single malt.
Luckily, because despite their $1,500 price tag, the 237 700ml bottles are already all awarded to high-end liquor stores like Sherry-Lehmann and restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, Jean-Georges, the Polo Bar and The Pavilion.
“I didn’t realize the angels’ share was going to be so heavy on our first cask,” Macklowe says, referring to the amount lost to evaporation as the liquid aged in oak barrels. “We ended up producing a lot less liquid than I had anticipated, and at the risk of pissing everyone off, I had to cut everyone down. I thought we were going to have around 290 bottles and we got some got 237.”
The bottles are all hand-painted in Asia, their shape reminiscent of a flask that Macklowe carries herself. “I’ve always thought you should drink what you like, not what someone tells you to like,” Macklowe says.
The rich yet silky whiskey has tantalizing flavors of gingerbread, caramel, maple syrup and citrus, and its slightly spicy finish noticeably lingers.
As for when to drink it, Macklowe says just about any time that suits him: “Before dinner, with dinner, after dinner. But not for breakfast, not with the door- happiness.”
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