The Macallan Distillery Notes

The Macallan
Easter Elchies, Craigellachie
AB38 9RX Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1340 872 280
Region: Speyside

For a complete index of Scotchtalk.com’s distillery listings, including tasting notes, follow this link.

History

Macallan is perhaps the most critically-acclaimed distillery ever, both as a longtime favorite of blenders in search of “top notes” and more recently as a standout in the increasingly competitive market for single malts.

The distillery is located near Easter Elchies House, at Craigellachie in the Speyside region. The manor building has been restored from an original structure dating back to the 1700s. The distillery was first licensed in 1824, but distilling on the property likely goes back to smuggling days.

However, despite this long history, The Macallan only became commercially available as a single malt in 1980.

The distinctiveness of The Macallan is attributed in part to the small size of its stills, and also its exclusive use of oak sherry casks. This is a unique attachment in the industry, although it has become harder to maintain as the casks have become more rare. Around 1976, the company began provisioning its own sherry casks, acquiring wood in Spain and seasoning it there with dry Oloroso before shipping the casks unbroken to Scotland and filling them with the whisky. In 2004, it began producing a new style of whisky known as Fine Oak, seasoned first in American bourbon casks and finished in sherry casks.

Like other single malts, Macallan was primarily earmarked for blends throughout most of its history, and is still used in popular blends such as The Famous Grouse.

Its single malt was only available in small quantities locally in Speyside until the company launched The Macallan (stressing the definite article) single malt in 1980, to immense popularity. It now ranks in the top three in global sales.

Macallan’s success was in part cemented by the sudden popularity of single malts, a trend that first began in the 1970s. Unlike most other distilleries, Macallan had long held back significant quantities of its liquor, with some stores laid down as early as 1926, allowing it to quickly market special rare aged releases. In 2007, a 1926 vintage Macallan was sold at auction at Christie’s for $54,000, making it the most expensive whisky ever sold.

In addition to its single malt, the company continued to sell a large quantity of its spirits for use in blends, and to independent bottlers, a practice that continues to this day. For example, a Kirkland Macallan is available at Costco for big discounts, at about $60 a bottle for an 18 year old compared to $150 for a distillery bottling.

The company went public in 1968 to finance expansion, but was subsequently acquired by Highland Distillers, which in turn was purchased by the Edrington Group, where Macallan is now an anchor brand.

See this article for a more in-depth history.

Also below is a marketing video that explains some of the Macallan difference in partisan detail (watch out, among other things they suggest mixing it with ice or lemonade):

Products

Sherry Oak series:

The Macallan 7
The Macallan 10
The Macallan 12
The Macallan 18
The Macallan 25
The Macallan 30
The Macallan Elegancia

Fine Oak series:

The Macallan 8
The Macallan 10
The Macallan 12
The Macallan 15
The Macallan 17
The Macallan 18
The Macallan 21
The Macallan 25
The Macallan 30

The Macallan Estate Oak

Dramfun Tasting Notes: Closer to the Fine Oak label of The Macallan than the Sherry Oak in taste and color. Very light in the mouth with out being very prickly (liked that term from the tasting video) or hot. The nose was a little disappointing but when opened up you could get a hint of sweetness and some vanilla (whisky1 called that out first and others agreed). Overall, a very easy drinking scotch that you could introduce to any new scotch drinker without turning them off. I recommend trying if you get the chance, but definitely not worth the flight to Heathrow to purchase.

Whisky1 Tasting Notes: This is a gimmicky limited edition distillation complete with a promise to plant a new oak tree for each bottle sold. The “green” angle here has been savaged by some bloggers, like malthead at Whisky News, who point out it is available only as a duty free purchase in airports, implying a major carbon footprint in the form of flying. My host of the evening picked it up during a trip at Heathrow, which by all accounts has an awesome liquor store complete with extensive scotch holdings and tasting opportunities. If anyone has pix please share.

I followed the video advice given earlier on Scotchtalk.com, coating the tongue liberally and sniffing heartily, and I was not disappointed except for the lack of a true Glencairn glass. I had to explain my behavior to a couple of ladies in the room, but was rewarded with the characteristically sweet flavor of the highland Macallan, vanilla and toffee, with a nice glowing finish that lasted a good long while. I must have been right about the vanilla because I got confirmation from no less than two other scotch snobs of the same flavor later in the evening.

Special releases:

The Macallan (dated, in order of release):
1961 (40yo)
1946 (52yo)
1948 (51yo)
1951 (49yo)

The Macallan Replica (in order of release):
1861
1874
1841
1876
1851

The Macallan Vintage Travel
20s
30s
40s
50s

The Macallan Exceptional:
The Macallan Cask Strength: US & UK
The Macallan 50 Years Old
The Macallan Adami
The Macallan Blake
The Macallan Gran Reserva 1979
The Macallan Gran Reserva 1980
The Macallan Gran Reserva 1982
The Macallan Gran Reserva 2002
The Macallan Millennium Dec
The Macallan Private Eye
The Macallan Speaker Martin’s
The Macallan Lalique 50yo
The Macallan Lalique 55yo

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~ by whisky1 on August 21, 2008.

5 Responses to “The Macallan Distillery Notes”

  1. […] 18. Of course, it was not The Macallan 18 (this costs about $150). The liquor came from the Macallan distillery, but the bottler was a company called […]

  2. […] 30 online was $220 a bottle from Liquor One. I think this may have displaced in my imagination The Macallan as the benchmark for a great […]

  3. […] The Macallan Distillery Notes […]

  4. […] That last one is the $1500 NZ bottle. It was incredible, first sip or two not much happened, then the complexity began to explode. each sip, each hold in the mouth and another flavour began. i have no idea if it’s worth $1500 as I haven’t had anything else in that price range before, but I would suggest it probably is. The THC overtones were amusing and quite noticeable, which may also be the ‘lager’ notes I picked up on (the two are similar). The reason it can’t be named is some distilleries who sell Adelphi their casks don’t want to be linked, which if the flavour is sooo different to the house blend makes some sense. Daniel mentioned that very old Glenfarclas is known to have THC overtones, and the two dominant theories are a Glenfarclas or the Macallan. […]

  5. […] an update on what sounds like a very cool addition to Whiskyfest in San Francisco next month. Four Macallan whisky masters are each creating a unique bottle — there will be one and only one bottle each […]

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