I am a big fan of gimmicks, even if I try not to give them too much credence, but when I heard about Macallan’s latest it gave me a kick to go and find somewhere that could demonstrate it – The Ice Ball Serve… Basically, serve Macallan 10 yr old over ice, but instead of using cubes use a giant sphere of ice created with much theatre in a machine constructed from two large heavy copper lumps with a ball mould carved into them. I’m generally not a fan of ice in scotch whisky, although it has its place, but I decided to abandon my principles and wandered down to Hawksmoor to give it a try.
The machine is excellent – two large copper blocks, each with a hemisphere carved into the centre of one side, between which you place a large block of ice and then let the combined forces of gravity and ambient temperature take their toll. The heavy copper presses on the ice and being at ambient temperature it melts it a bit. Slowly but surely the weight of the upper copper block squishes the ice into the mould, while strategically placed holes in the blocks let water escape, until it’s a fairly decent sphere. There’s a turny thing on the bottom block to lever the ball out, leaving the barman to pick it up with some tongs and plink it into the specially shaped glass before sploshing on some Macallan 10. It is a perfect piece of point of sale bar theatrics – little can go wrong (other than not having enough pieces of big ice), it’s not messy, and is quite easy to explain. Hawksmoor don’t have much in the way of branded furniture on their bar, but I can see why they said yes to this one.
They are, however, quite scarily expensive (a few kilos of decent copper isn’t cheap) and Macallan have distributed them to about 20 places around the country (a list can be found over on Whisky Intelligence). They are originally from Japan, home of the excellent bar related gadget, and it seems that Macallan have a license to distribute them in the UK. While I won’t be seeking one out for my kitchen, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out to see how far they spread amongst the posh bars of London – it’s nice to have an excuse to go to posh bars…
It’s definitely worth a try, although while I felt the cooled Macallan was quite nice, it was nothing special – certainly not as nice as if drunk at room temperature. The big ball of ice may not melt as fast as a bunch of smaller cubes, but getting it out of the glass when you’ve got to the concentration of whisky/water that you want is difficult, as the glass has been designed to have an opening about the same size as the ball – it does make you drink your whisky a little faster, I suppose, which is something that Macallan won’t mind. So, one for the gadget lovers and those who like ice in their scotch. I fall into one half of that camp and while I may not be having another ice ball of my own I will certainly sit around and watch other people smile as the machine does its work.
Macallan 10 year old
Sherry cask aged single malt scotch whisky
40%. Widely available for about £30 per bottle. I had mine at Hawksmoor. As you may have noticed. They’ve also got the 21 year old and many other tasty whiskies (that may appear in the next Quick Tastings post, if I can decipher my drunken notes) on the shelf. I like Hawksmoor.