Macallan is one of Scotland's most popular distilleries. Its rare, aged bottlings have become some of the world’s most collected and expensive whiskies.
Based in Craigellachie in the Highlands, the Macallan distillery was founded in 1824 by farmer Alexander Reid and became one of the few licensed distilleries following the Excise Act of 1923. In 1868, James Stuart took over the distillery and rebuilt it. Stuart ran the site until 1892, when Roderick Kemp, a distilling giant who previously owned the Talisker distillery, took over and led the distillery to success.
Kemp’s ancestors managed Macallan for over a century, greatly expanding the distillery – increasing the number of stills from six to 21 between 1965 and 1975. In 1986, Suntory bought out a quarter of the stocks, with Highland Distillers buying out the rest in 1994. The distillery changed hands again in 1999, when Edrington took control and Macallan has been largely responsible for the company’s unprecedented growth.
In 2018 Macallan opened a smart modern distillery (which cost £140 million to build); but production remains as traditional as ever. It produces around 15 million litres each year. Sitting on a plateau above the river Spey, the water comes from springs beneath the estate (a massive 485 acres), while the 10 stills are the smallest in commercial use in Speyside. It takes a mere 16% of the spirit distilled for production, leading to a particularly rich, fruity and full-bodied spirit.
Macallan’s reputation was built on the use of Sherry casks. Indeed, until 2004 it used exclusively Sherry casks, but then introduced the “Fine Oak” series, which is aged in ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks. Extremely conscious of the importance of the quality of barrels, Macallan has a dedicated Master of Wood, Stuart MacPherson, who is in charge of sourcing and making the casks used. There is no colour adjustment here – depending entirely on the colour given to spirit by the barrel.
It produces a very classic expression of the typical Speyside style – soft, full and quite fruity single malts.