The Macallan celebrates Chinese New Year

The whisky brand is partnering with famous Toronto chef Susur Lee as part of its PR push for the holiday.

The Macallan single malt whisky is making its first ethnic marketing push in Canada, with a PR-led campaign centered around Chinese New Year.

The brand has partnered with Toronto restaurant Luckee and its chef Susur Lee to create two signature cocktails to promote its 1824 Series of Scotch whisky, along with pairing spirits from the line with the chef’s Chinese New Year menu, which will be available until March 1.

Susur Lee is known for a contemporary spin on traditional cuisine, making his restaurant the right fit for the Macallan’s PR push, says Ivano Taranto, marketing manager for Edrington, The Macallan’s parent company.

“Our focus is liquid on lips,” he says, meaning that the brand focuses on tastings and sampling to promote its Scotch, but it wanted to elevate that strategy with its Chinese New Year campaign.

The Macallan’s brand ambassador visited Luckee to educate its staff on the 1824 Series’ taste profiles and intricacies, allowing the chef to best pair the right spirits from the line with his specialty menu and create two signature cocktails.

“The Macallan 1824 Series is all about natural colour,” Taranto says of the line, which includes The Macallan Ruby, The Macallan Sienna, The Macallan Gold and The Macallan Amber. Colour is important in the Chinese community, especially around holidays, he notes. Red and gold hues in particular signify good fortune and wealth around Chinese New Year.

“The Macallan is single malt, it’s a luxury spirit, and it speaks to quality, heritage and craftsmanship,” Taranto says.

Heritage and craftsmanship, along with luxury, appeal to Chinese consumers, across all categories, from beverages to handbags, says Roxanne Tsui, managing partner of Sensu Communications, which specializes in marketing to the Chinese community and worked with The Macallan on this promotion, along with Praxis.

Scotch is particularly sought-after in the Chinese community, as it was one of the first kinds of whiskies to gain popularity in the country, she says. It first gained ground in Hong Kong, since western culture permeated there first.

However, the drink has since gained popularity in mainland China, and the luxury draw remains popular among Asian immigrants as well, who recognize brands like Macallan as being high-end, she says. In 2013, for example, a bottle of The Macallan M Imperiale sold at auction in Hong Kong to an Asian private collector for just above $628,000, breaking the record for a single bottle sold at auction.

Many brands segment the Chinese community by Statistics Canada-based demographics (such as first and second-generation), but Sensu does its breakdown based on language, lifestyle and social orientation (who consumers interact with).

Based on its research, including surveying the Chinese community in southern Ontario, Sensu targets those who lean toward being quite traditional or more bicultural. “Those are the ones who actually look forward to and expect brands to connect with them in their culture,” Tsui says.

Along with its Luckee partnership, The Macallan was also a title sponsor at Vancouver’s Feast of Fortune fundraising event on Feb. 7 and will have an activation at Toronto’s Dragon Ball this weekend.

At both events, The Macallan’s focus is on sampling and educating consumers about Scotch, along with featuring Chinese cuisine infused with its whisky.