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Q&A with Glen and Maxine McCallum

Updated: Nov 8, 2023


Owners McCallum & Sons Whisky Co. By Marguerite Cleveland | Photo By In-Gear Media

Starting a small business can be intimidating, but Glen and Maxine McCallum have the major touch. In their first two years of business, they have established a loyal customer base and won Whisky Magazine’s Icon of Whisky Award as the Best Single Outlet Retailer in the world.


Q. Why whisky? What started your passion for spirits?


Glen: My relationship with spirits began in the same way it does for many others: lots of Jack and Coke and Jager Bombs in my youth. Along the way I began trying different whiskies neat and developed a liking for the taste and complexity of the spirit. The first bottle of Scotch whisky I ever purchased was Lagavulin 16 year; not your typical starter bottle for people just getting into the hobby, but I loved it and explored from there. My introduction to truly premium whisky came when I noticed that James Bond prefers The Macallan in the films, so I bought a bottle of the 18 Year Sherry Cask. It blew my mind, and I was hooked after that.


The inception of the boutique bottle shop came to me when I visited a similar whisky specialty shop during a trip to Dublin in 2013. It was an unforgettable experience—I remember the employee taking time to explain the nuances of the spirit and pointing out different styles and distilleries. I left that shop with a very expensive bottle of very limited whisky. Opening and operating a similar shop remained a dream of mine throughout the rest of my time in the military. In 2021, when I left the Army, and with Maxine’s encouragement, support and design, we built what is now McCallum & Sons Whisky Co.


Q. Your shop carries some pretty pricey bottles. The Camus Cognac Jubilee 5.50 lists for $33,000. What makes a Cognac worthy of this price?

Glen: World-class brands that make high-quality spirits often have a range of options from entry-level availability and pricing to ultra-premium expressions that fetch prices into the thousands. As a whisky or a spirit age in a barrel, typically, there is less of it year after year due to evaporation or “Angel’s Share.” When a distillery finally decides to bottle a whisky that has aged for four or five decades, you can expect that bottle to be more expensive not only because of limited quantity but also because of the time, attention and financial cost that went into the care of aging that cask.


Often, when a producer does bottle and sell a spirit of this magnitude, they want it prominently presented in bottles, cases and displays that are considered works of art. Hand-blown crystal decanters, hand-carved wooden cases, solid gold plaques and labels, and luxury leather carrying cases are just a few examples of the attention, detail and cost that goes into these pieces.


In the case of the Camus Jubilee 5.50, there is a long list of reasons for a $33,000 price tag. The most important of which, of course, is the Cognac itself. Five separate Cognacs were artfully blended by the Cellar Master to recreate a Cognac from the family’s private reserve that was distilled in 1971. The Cognac comes displayed in a case unlike anything else in the industry: An aeronautic-grade aluminum tube marked with designs to celebrate Camus’ global reach houses a Heritage Paraison decanter and comes complete with tasting glasses. The entire package, to include its name, is riddled with subtle details and nods to the Camus family line and empire. In total, only 50 bottles of this Cognac were produced, and of that only 45 come complete with this display—for the entire world.

Q. McCallum & Sons recently won Whisky Magazine's Icon of Whisky Award as Best Single Outlet Retailer in the world, bringing international attention to Tacoma. What did it mean to you to win this award?

Maxine: To be recognized as the best of anything is pretty special, but to do it in the first year of business really blew our minds. I always say I never do anything by halves; if I am passionate and commit to something, I will give it my all. So, to see our efforts recognized was pretty incredible. We were newcomers to the industry and sort of jumped in—so to go up against businesses that have been going for over 100 years and win is the best feeling.

Q. Can you share with our readers a cause dear to your heart?


Maxine: In 2018, we lost a son to stillbirth. It has been our mission every year to host a diaper drive in his honor and to bring diapering supplies to families in need. One in three families struggle with diaper need, and no federal programs assist with this necessity.

Year over year we have collected more and more diapers. This past summer, I contacted Greentrike and suggested a partnership wherein the Children’s Museum would operate a diaper bank to encourage families to take their kids to visit the museum. We started the Monarch Diaper Bank in August and are thrilled by its success and the support from the community. We use the store to put the word out and collect diapers and offer incentives of rare and hard-to-find bottles to encourage our customer base to support.

Q. Does your business have special plans for the holiday season?


Maxine: The holidays are always a special time for us because we opened our doors in December 2021. It will always remind us of those wild first days in business. We will be collecting diapers and wipes for the diaper bank for the holidays as well as putting some specially allocated bottles on the shelves. We will be doing sample pours every Saturday in December and have planned some special ticketed events. You can find info on those on our Instagram @mccallumandsonswhisky or on our website, MccallumandSonsWhisky.com.


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