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Founded in 1824, The Macallan was one of the first distilleries in Scotland to be legally licensed. Since then, The Macallan has built a reputation as one of the world’s truly great single malt whiskies.
From its founding by Alexander Reid, through the subsequent owners of The Macallan distillery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and into the present, The Macallan has been recognised for the quality of its product above all else. This is the foundation for the worldwide fame of The Macallan, and its why The Macallan is so revered.
The Macallan’s fame and character are based on 6 pillars. They encompass the strong sense of place at the heart of the distillery and the estate, together with our long experience of distilling and maturing a single malt whisky with a reputation for product excellence and distinctive character. These, in combination, contribute to the essential character of The Macallan.
THE MACALLAN SIX PILLARS
The Macallan has grown from a small local enterprise to global recognition, based on a constant and determined attention to quality. The Master Whisky Maker and her team nose thousands of samples every year to create The Macallan expressions recognised around the world. This exacting task, together with the ‘marrying’ of different casks for many of the expressions, is the last step in creating this, one of the world’s truly great whiskies.
The Macallan recently appointed Kirsteen Campbell, renowned throughout the industry for her expertise and knowledge, as Master Whisky Maker for its Single Malt Whisky.
She leads a newly strengthened Whisky Mastery Team, enhanced to continue delivering the outstanding quality, natural colour and distinctive aromas and flavours of The Macallan.
The team now also incorporates the role of Master of Wood to reflect the complete whisky making process and the vital influence of wood on the character of The Macallan whisky. It seamlessly combines innovation with craftsmanship and heritage to continue The Macallan’s commitment to exceptional quality since 1824.
The six-strong Whisky Mastery Team includes: Kirsteen Campbell, Master Whisky Maker; Stuart MacPherson, Master of Wood; Sarah Burgess, Lead Whisky Maker; Polly Logan, Whisky Maker; Steven Bremner, Whisky Maker; and Russell Greig, Sample Room Assistant.
The Macallan’s oak maturation casks are the single greatest contributors to the outstanding quality, natural colours and distinctive aromas and flavours of The Macallan. Because of this, The Macallan spends more per cask than any other distillery in sourcing, crafting, seasoning and caring for its casks. It’s this investment and emphasis on the casks that make The Macallan so unique.
Around 100 years ago, the call was made to use sherry oak casks. At the time, it wasn’t a big decision because these types of casks were widely used, and sherry was being shipped to Scotland. Over time that changed and continuing to use sherry oak casks became more expensive, as they cost ten times what the standard whisky cask would cost.
The Macallan spend more per cask than any other distillery in sourcing, crafting, seasoning and caring for their casks. For The Macallan, investing the time and effort in the meticulous process of cask preparation, ready to house the new make spirit and let it slumber for 10, 20, 30 plus years, is key – up to 80% of the spirit’s character and flavour is determined by the cask quality.
The Macallan have continued to make the call over the years, and it was clearly the right one to make.
With an unflinching commitment to put sherry casks at the heart of The Macallan single malt, their reputation for the extraordinary is a testament to the exceptional oak casks in which they mature their spirit. Sourced, crafted, toasted and seasoned under the watchful eye of The Macallan Master of Wood, these hand-picked casks are delivered to the demanding specifications of The Macallan Master Distiller and his team. Once filled, the maturing spirit remains undisturbed in the same casks for the necessary number of years it needs to be worthy of its destined Macallan expression. It is these oak casks that make the greatest contribution to the quality, natural colour and distinctive aromas and flavours which lie at the heart of The Macallan single malt whisky.
The Macallan’s American oak is harvested in Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky when they are approximately 70 years old. As American oak is denser than its European relative, it is perfectly suited for creating both bourbon and sherry casks.
In contrast, the European sherry seasoned oak is more porous and contains more tannins than American oak, which although they take longer to mature, play a pivotal role in the colour and flavour of spirits. In fact, the European wood has up to five times more tannins, which provide the distinct astringency often associated with wines and spirits. Heavy rainfall provides the perfect climate conditions for the European oak trees to slowly grow, and these are harvested in the Spanish regions of Cantabria, Galicia and across the Pyrenees into France when they’re around 100 years old.
Drying the wood is an integral part of the cask making. The Macallan dry the wood to ensure the heavy oils (which are very astringent) from within the wood, don’t spoil the precious spirit they wish to mature. Wood can be dried in two ways: kiln dried, which is faster but can have a negative impact on the qualities we need for maturation, or air dried which takes longer, but preserves the distinct characters of the wood needed for maturing whisky. At The Macallan, they appreciate and value the exceptional. It is a conscious choice to air dry the wood. It is worth the cost and a wisdom of wood worth having. For both wood types The Macallan air dry the entire logs for a year at the place of harvest. This reduces the moisture content of the oak, cutting down on weight for transport and moisture for sawing.
Once the moisture content of the wood has been reduced, the wood is cut into individual ‘staves’. Any wooden vessel that is intended to contain liquid will be ‘quarter sawn’ to ensure the nature of the wood is used to create a quality cask. The American oak staves are then transported to Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. Before being crafted into casks, these staves are left to dry for another year in the Spanish sun. Once the wood reaches between 12-16 percent moisture content, it can be passed to the coopers for ‘the rising’ of the cask. It takes approximately six years to create a Macallan Sherry-Seasoned cask, from harvesting the tree to filling with our Macallan spirit.
Overseeing this process is their Master of Wood, Stuart MacPherson. This is an integral role as the influence of the wood on the final character of The Macallan is critical. They choose this significant investment in the journey, from the acorn to the cask, due to the leading role wood plays in delivering the distinctive character, aromas and flavours of The Macallan.
Typical flavours associated with American oak are vanilla, lemon citrus and coconut.
The new distillery and visitor experience are located on the stunning Easter Elchies estate, which has been home to the leading luxury single malt since 1824. From humble beginnings, the brand has risen to become the leading international single malt by value and enjoys leading positions in some of the world’s most significant Scotch whisky markets including The USA, Taiwan, and Japan.
It is the first distillery in Speyside to be designed by an internationally acclaimed architect, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, who was selected to lead the project after an international competition. Edrington is investing £500 million in the brand of which the £140 million distillery is the centrepiece. This programme increases investment in whisky, warehousing, and particularly in The Macallan’s signature sherry-seasoned oak casks.
The new distillery will enable the production of The Macallan to increase by a third if required. The new stills were crafted by Scottish coppersmiths Forsyths, who have been making the brand’s distinctive, ‘curiously small’ stills for The Macallan since the 1950s. The striking piece of contemporary architecture is cut into the slope of the land, taking its cues from ancient Scottish hills and maximising the aesthetic beauty of the building whilst minimising the visual impact on the Speyside landscape, which has been classified as an ‘Area of Great Landscape Value’. The undulating timber roof structure is one of the most complicated timber roof structures in the world, comprising 380,000 individual components.
Ian Curle, Chief Executive, Edrington, said: “This is an exciting occasion for Edrington and The Macallan. The unsurpassed quality of The Macallan is in high demand and we face the future confidently with this new distillery. It’s an authentic, abiding, ambitious investment that will match consumer expectations for generations to come.
The last few years have seen a constant shattering for the record of the most expensive bottle of whisky ever purchased. In 2018 The Macallan broke the record with its 60-year-old whisky and in 2019 it surpassed its own previous record for a bottle of 60-year-old Macallan originally distilled in 1926 by another bottle that came from the same cask. The difference is that the first bottle featured a hand-painted design by Irish artist Michael Dillon, while the latter was part of an official series, The Macallan Fine and Rare.
The Macallan Fine and Rare 60-Year-Old fetched a staggering $1.9 million USD. Why so much? Well, the 1926 vintage malt was drawn from a legendary barrel, prized by collectors for its near-mystical characteristics. Just a year earlier, liquid matured in that same oak sold for $1.2 million at a London auction house. Since 2018, no less than six examples of that 1926 spirit have cleared the million-dollar threshold.
Only 40 Bottles were produced from this esteemed cask, (cask 263) now known as ‘The Holy Grail’ of whisky for high end collectors.
To learn more on The Macallan visit: https://www.themacallan.com/