Six Mas­ters of Pho­tog­ra­phy and a rare sin­gle-malt whisky by The Ma­callan come to­gether in an am­bi­tious new col­lab­o­ra­tion

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IT’S A FIT­TING fi­nale for Ken Grier, The Ma­callan’s creative di­rec­tor and over­seer of the image pro­jected by the Spey­side whisky dis­tillery – whose spe­cial re­leases and artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tive edi­tions are sought-af­ter world­wide – that his re­tire­ment, af­ter more than two decades, co­in­cides with the un­veil­ing of the whisky’s sev­enth and, to date most am­bi­tious, Mas­ters of Pho­tog­ra­phy project. Grier was in Hong Kong at the end of Au­gust to present this sev­enth edi­tion, which cel­e­brates the open­ing of the dis­tillery’s new, state-of-the art fa­cil­ity. The Ma­callan Mas­ters of Pho­tog­ra­phy se­ries was con­ceived to pair a very lim­ited-edi­tion sin­gle malt, com­bin­ing some of the whisky-maker’s rarest casks, with a spe­cially com­mis­sioned suite of pho­to­graphic works. Pre­vi­ous Mas­ters projects have in­volved some of the big­gest names to wield a lens – the likes of An­nie Lei­bovitz, Rankin and Mario Testino – each work­ing alone. This time, how­ever, six were in­volved. “We saw the open­ing of the new dis­tillery as the most im­por­tant thing we’ve ever done,” says Grier, the driv­ing force be­hind the se­ries, “so it seemed only log­i­cal to have the project con­cen­trat­ing on this. I saw a book on a ret­ro­spec­tive of Mag­num Pho­tos [the in­ter­na­tional pho­to­graphic col­lec­tive] years ago, which al­ways stuck in my mind. The idea was that it would be in­ter­est­ing to get mul­ti­ple points of view of the new dis­tillery from the per­spec­tive of dif­fer­ent pho­tog­ra­phers. “Six seemed a good va­ri­ety, and at The Ma­callan we also have our ‘six pil­lars’ [brand prin­ci­ples]. So we sat down and looked through the ros­ter of great Mag­num pho­tog­ra­phers, and af­ter that we whit­tled the num­ber down to six. “We set­tled on Steve McCurry, one of the world’s top 10 pho­tog­ra­phers, par­tic­u­larly known for his shot of the Afghan girl who was on the cover of Na­tional Geo­graphic [mag­a­zine] – he’s worked for them for about 30 years. We thought he’d be able to cap­ture peo­ple in the dis­tillery, in situ. Martin Parr is al­ways cu­ri­ous, and finds quirks, per­son­al­i­ties and un­ex­pected an­gles – also he uses ring flash, which of­fers a very high colour. “We’d seen doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher Mark Power take great ar­chi­tec­tural shots in the book on the Mil­len­nium Dome [Su­per­struc­ture]; he takes highly de­tailed, pre­cise, al­most foren­sic pho­tos. We liked the idea of us­ing Alec Soth be­cause his pho­tos are very anaemic and bleak, he of­ten pho­tographs the fringes of so­ci­ety, which is a con­trast – quite a Twin Peaks vibe.

“Paolo Pel­le­grin is a tremen­dous black-and­white con­flict pho­tog­ra­pher – he shot the Arab Spring and the Iraq War. He brought a sense of con­text, ad­ding drama – mostly in panoramic for­mat. Fi­nally, we chose Gue­orgui Pinkhas­sov, a Rus­sian pho­tog­ra­pher and great In­sta­gram­mer, who spe­cialises in ab­strac­tion, and light and shadow.” Along with the im­ages – the ar­chive-style box col­lec­tion in­cludes a signed 11-by-14-inch print from each of the six pho­tog­ra­phers, plus a spe­cial-edi­tion book of im­ages by all the Mag­num par­tic­i­pants – the edi­tion’s unique whisky comes in a spe­cially en­graved bot­tle. Whisky Maker Sarah Burgess se­lected sin­gle malt from eight rare casks, on the ba­sis that they re­flected char­ac­ter­is­tics from the pho­tog­ra­phers’ styles as well as that of the sig­na­ture nose and palate of the whisky. The re­sult: a 43.7-per­cent proof malt of deep am­ber hue, with hints of peat, mel­low oak, spiced gin­ger, man­darin or­ange and can­died ap­ple on the nose, and a palate of dried fruit, but­ter­scotch and hon­eyed nut. Its lengthy fin­ish ends with earthy sweet­ness. All in all, it’s a col­lec­tors’ pack­age Grier looks jus­ti­fi­ably proud of, as he leaves The Ma­callan. Only 2,000 sets of this se­ries are avail­able world­wide, priced at HK$26,460 each.


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