Purists look away... this is the shape of malt whisky in 2007

IT IS one of the world's most famous single malt whiskies.

But the Macallan is now being trialled as a liqueur in the United States - complete with ingredients such as maple and pecan - in a bid to appeal to upmarket women drinkers.

The new drink, called Amber, is being test marketed across Washington, Denver and Seattle after small-scale trials in Boston. It is the first time Macallan has built a liqueur around its malt, which has achieved global renown since its launch 183 years ago.

However, the trial has provoked controversy among some purists. One expert last night said it was "madness" to tamper with a flagship like Macallan.

The Scotsman understands the Macallan single malt in the drink is not a ten or 12-year-old vintage. Instead, it is somewhere between three years old - the minimum required to be classified under UK law - and eight years.

The drink is being targeted at "upscale" drinkers, particularly affluent women, who might have traditionally been resistant to whisky. The curved glass of the bottle is suggestive of perfume packaging.

Amber will be distributed in the US by Remy Cointreau and is on sale at trial outlets at around 20 for a 750cl bottle.

Sample tastings appear to have proved favourable.

One US-based website, The Scotch Blog, gave its hearty endorsement. Editor Kevin Erskine told The Scotsman: "Amber smells like the best maple syrup you've ever had. You have to really get your nose in to detect the Macallan.

"It's not for purists, it's an entry-level drug which gets people acquainted with the taste of whisky."

The trial does not necessarily mean Macallan will go on to market the drink. If it fails to register with its target audience, it may be shelved.

One industry insider said the low-key testing was not without its risks for the company. "This is part of the Macallan brand, regarded as the finest malt in the world," he said. "It is like Bentley introducing a two-seater sports car when they've always been in a different market."

Michael Jackson, a whisky writer, said it was a mistake to tamper with Macallan.

"It is madness to do this. It is like putting go-faster stripes down the side of a Rolls-Royce.

"If you are going to do something like this, Macallan is not the whisky to use. It sounds like a bit of an alcopop," he said.

Joe Howell, manager of Boston-based Federal Wines and Spirits, said the drink had "flown out of the store".

Mr Howell said as well as the strong maple taste, the liqueur had a distinct "nuttiness" to it. "A chef could do wonderful things with it," he said. "You could drizzle some in a pan with scallops and bacon."

Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group, which also owns brands including the Famous Grouse and Highland Park.

Ken Grier, director of malts at the Edrington Group, said: "This reinforces our position as the leading innovator in the Scotch whisky market."


DEMAND for upmarket drinks in the United States has been boosted by the rap world in recent years.

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Snoop Dogg have both championed Cognac. Busta Rhymes wrote a song called Pass the Courvoisier. Expensive Cristal champagne has also been elevated to cult status through rap music. Whisky and its Irish counterpart continue to enjoy general luxury status.

Rob Allanson, editor of Whisky magazine, said: "Upmarket liqueurs and premium Scotch have a strong appeal in America.

"There is a lifestyle element to it and the middle and upper classes aspire to these kind of premium products."

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