There are many famous distilleries throughout Scotland, and the Macallan Distillery is one of the most well-known. This distillery produces some of the finest single malt scotch whiskies in the world. If you’re interested in learning more about this distillery, or if you’re planning on visiting it soon, then read on!
In this article, we will discuss five of the most important things to know about the Macallan Distillery.
It was founded by a teacher
Macallan was founded in 1824 by a schoolteacher named Alexander Reid. He had previously worked at various other distilleries, and he decided to start his own when he saw an opportunity in the market. Reid was also a sometime barley farmer, and he used his knowledge of the crop to produce a very high-quality whisky. Barley is the basis of all whisky, and the quality of the barley used can make a big difference in the final product.
The Scottish government legalized distilling in 1923, and this created a boom in the industry. Reid saw this as an opportunity to expand his business, and he did just that. The Macallan distillery is located in the town of Craigellachie in Moray, Scotland. The region is known for its whisky production, and has been home to many distilleries over the years.
The distillery is currently owned by Edrington Group, which also owns several other Scotch whisky brands including Highland Park and The Famous Grouse. The first few years were tough, as Reid struggled to get the business off the ground. The distillery started out as a woodshed with two simple pot stills. Pot stills are the traditional way of distilling whisky, and they give the spirit its distinctive flavour. But Reid’s perseverance paid off, and the Macallan distillery soon became a success. Today, it is one of the most popular single malt scotch whiskies in the world and Macallan occupies one-third of the world’s single-malt scotch whisky market.
The Macallan uses spring water from the nearby River Spey
The Macallan distillery is located in Scotland’s Speyside region, which is known for its high-quality whisky. The area has an abundance of spring water, which the Macallan distillery uses to make its whisky.
The water used to make Macallan whisky comes from the nearby springs of Robbie Dhu. This water is very pure, which helps to create a clean and crisp flavour in the whisky. But it’s not just the local spring water that gives the spirit its distinctive flavour. The Macallan also uses peat-smoked barley, which gives the whisky its smoky flavour. Peat is a type of organic matter that forms in bogs and marshes. When the Macallan distillery smokes its barley with peat, it imparts a smoky flavour to the grain.
The Macallan was also one of the first distilleries to age its whisky in sherry casks. This imparts a rich, sweet flavour to the whisky and contributes to its amber colour. The name of the distillery itself comes from the land around it. Macallan is taken from two words in the Gaelic language, ‘Magh’ which means ‘ fertile ground’ or ‘ level field’, and ‘Ellan’, which is thought to be a reference to St. Fillan. St. Fillan was an Irish monk who is said to have cured people with his prayers and miracles and is the patron saint of travellers.
It’s intimately connected with Lalique
The French crystal house, Lalique, has been working with Macallan since a chance meeting in 2007. Since then, Lalique has designed several stunning decanters for The Macallan, each one more beautiful than the last.
The most recent is The Macallan M, a massive vessel which holds the equivalent of 40 standard bottles of whisky. It was inspired by ‘the double cask’, an innovation used by Macallan which involves maturing the whisky in both sherry-seasoned American oak and sherry-seasoned European oak casks. This gives the whisky its distinctive flavour and aroma, as well as its deep amber colour.
Perhaps the most famous of the collaborations between Lalique and Macallan is the Six Pillars decanter set, encompassing The Spiritual Home, Curiously Small Stills, The Finest Cut, Exceptional Oak Casks, The Natural Colour and Peerless Spirit. Each of these expressions is presented in a handcrafted decanter, with The Spiritual Home also coming with a specially commissioned book. The set was inspired by the six pillars that underpin Macallan’s philosophy: founder Alexander Reid, the land, the cask, the cut, natural colour and peerless spirit. It is said that only 20 sets were ever made, each one costing around £100,000.
In 2015 Macallan released ‘The Genesis Decanter’, which was created to mark the opening of its new distillery. The decanter itself is made from Lalique crystal and contains whisky aged for 50 years in first-fill sherry casks. Only 100 bottles were produced, each one individually numbered and costing £25,000.
The Golden Age of Travel is a series of six limited-edition Lalique bottles released by Macallan in 2018. The collection is inspired by the golden age of travel and celebrates some of the most iconic modes of transport from that era.
The distillery uses “curiously small” stills
Curiously Small Stills was one of the six pillars that Macallan laid out in 1824 when the distillery was founded. The small stills produce a “more intense, richer and fruity spirit.” The 26 new copper stills installed in 2017 are still made by Forsyths, the same Scottish coppersmiths who’ve been making stills for Macallan since the 1950s.
Each of the stills is still hand-beaten using techniques that haven’t changed in over 100 years. The copper still is one of the most important factors in the whisky-making process. The shape, size and thickness of the stills all play a part in the final product.
Most single malt scotch whisky produces still make use of the pot still, which has been used for centuries. Pot stills are the traditional method of distilling whisky and are made up of two parts: the wash still and the spirit still. The wash still is where the fermentation process takes place. The fermented liquid, or “wash”, is then transferred to the spirit still where it is distilled a second time. The spirit still produces a “more intense, richer and fruity spirit.” Copper is the preferred material for these stills as it helps to remove sulphur-based compounds from the wash.
The distillery has a unique relationship with wood
Macallan is the only distillery to have a Master of Wood as one of its key team members. The role of the Master of Wood is to ensure that only the highest quality casks are used for maturing whisky.
Sherry-seasoned Oak casks from Spain are used for The Macallan as they impart a unique character and flavour to the spirit. A typical cask will be used just once before being resold or retired, however, some “Exceptional Casks” are used multiple times over many decades.
The Macallan is also one of the only whisky producers with its own in-house cooperage, where they make and repair all of their own barrels. The cooperage team is made up of just six people who work tirelessly to keep the operation running smoothly.
Not only does wood play a significant part in the creation of the whisky, but it’s also a foundational part of the distillery itself. The roof of the distillery is one of the most complicated timber structures in the world, made up of 2,500 different roof elements, 1,800 single beams, and a whopping 380,000 individual components, nearly all of which are unique shapes.
The design of the updated distillery was created by architect Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. The distillery’s visitor centre is located in an old converted schoolhouse and was designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid. The use of the old schoolhouse references founder Alexander Reid’s commitment to education, as he was a teacher before starting the distillery.
The design ethos of the distillery was inspired by ancient Scottish hillsides, with the buildings appearing as if they’ve been carved out of the landscape.
In order to have the minimum impact on the environment, the distillery was built using local materials, with a rainwater harvesting system in place to reduce water usage. It also runs on 95% renewable energy.
A Macallan Masterclass
So there you have it, our top five facts about The Macallan. Now that you know a little more about this world-famous single malt scotch whisky, why not try a dram for yourself? If you’re lucky enough to be in Speyside, you can take a tour of the distillery and even enjoy a Macallan masterclass, led by one of the expert whisky makers.
The Macallan is truly a unique and special whisky, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!