Macallan is one of the oldest licenced distilleries in Scotland. Known as the “Rolls Royce among malts”, it is one of the best-known single malt whisky brands worldwide.
Macallan single malt is sought-after by collectors, and old bottlings or limited special bottlings regularly achieve top prices at auctions. Not on only collectors, but also connoisseurs enjoy the fruity, aromatic Speyside whisky, which also receives prestigious awards regularly. However, the success of Macallan as a single malt whisky didn't start until the 1960s. Before, it was a popular component in blends.
Macallan is a classic sherry cask whisky, although more and more bourbon casks have been integrated lately. The classic 12-year-old and 18-year-old Sherry Oak whiskies are the most popular among Macallan fans.
With the Fine Oak bottlings, which are vatted from sherry and bourbon casks, Macallan some time ago left its classic distillery style. Rich fruit aromas combined with heather honey and wood notes characterise these malts.
Some years ago Macallan dropped the age statements in its core range in Europe and now defines the different bottlings by the colours that develop through differing cask management.
These ageless whiskies in the “1824 series” are called Macallan Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby. The names reflect the colour character of the individual bottlings, which results from purposefully blending sherry casks from European and American oak and ex-bourbon casks. The 1824 series offers a broad range of flavours: citrus and vanilla aromas, floral notes and oak in Gold; Amber, where the citrus and vanilla aromas are complemented by raisins and cinnamon; Sienna with dates, figs, oranges and vanilla; and Ruby with spicy notes of ginger and nutmeg, and a fine, dry sweetness with oak notes.
Macallan has increased its production significantly over the past years, reaching its absolute maximum in 2015 with 11 million litres of alcohol. 9.9 million bottles sold in the previous year show that there's a demand for these amounts of whisky. But this massive production capacity is still not the end of the line for the Edrington Group, the owners of Macallan: They got the approval for an extension, which is actually a new distillery. In 2015 construction started on the giant premises of the distillery. After its completion in 2017, Macallan will have a production capacity of16 million litres of alcohol per year and will rise to No. 1 producer of malt whisky.
Two mash tuns receive the malt and the water from on-site springs. For parts of the production Macallan uses their own barley variety, called “Minstrel”. It's cultivated on more than 40 farms in Scotland and North England on behalf of Macallan. 90 acres of the 390 acres of Macallan premises are used for this Minstrel barley, too.
Macallan uses a total of 28 wash backs. Only six of them are made of wood, the rest of stainless steel. In July 2014 the last three of these wash backs were added. They have a capacity of 35,000 litres each.
Only few pot stills have become as famous as those of Macallan: The extraordinarily small spirit stills even made it on a Scottish ten-pound note. Macallan operates 14 of these small spirit stills with a capacity of 3,900 litres each. They concentrate the alcohol that has been extracted in the first distillation in the seven wash stills with a volume of 12,000 litres each. The small stills ensure that there's a lot of contact between the spirit and the copper, resulting in very pure, smooth alcohol with a fruity, rich aroma.
The warehouses on the Macallan premises contain approximately 170,000 whisky casks. More than half of them are Spanish sherry casks from European oak. But Macallan also uses ex-bourbon casks and sherry casks from American oak. The wood management is paramount for Macallan. Nothing is left to chance in order to ensure the quality of the casks. Macallan already monitors the selection of the wood used for the initial storing of bourbon or sherry. They're in close contact with the coopers and winemakers in Spain who build the casks and fill them with sherry on behalf of Macallan. With these meticulously prepared casks, Macallan is able to manage their whisky portfolio and the different core whiskies.
A large team of 25 employees deals with the maturing casks in Macallan's warehouses. With the current extension also new warehouses will be built, so the large amounts of newly-produced alcohol can be stored.
1824 marks the beginning of the Macallan success story: Alexander Reid, a farmer and teacher, obtained a licence to distil whisky, thereby founding the Macallan Distillery. Presumably whisky was already produced here before, like in many other places in Scotland, but without a licence. After Alexander Reid's death in 1848, Macallan changed owners several times, until Roderick Kemp bought the distillery in 1892, marking the beginning of the Kemp Family Trust era. They expanded the distillery and led it to success under the new label Macallan-Glenlivet. In 1968 the limited company, founded in 1963, went public to create new capital for investment and expansion. The step was successful, and the former supplier of malts for high-quality blends became a renowned single malt brand in its own right.
Macallan was bought by Highland Distillers in 1996, who in turn were taken over by the Edrington Group in 1999 (with a 30% support from William Grant & Sons). Macallan is now integrated into the Robertson Trust who owns the Edrington Group.
It is recommended to reserve a tour in advance. Each tour is limited to a maximum of ten people, and demand is huge.
Phone: +44 (0) 1340 872 280
The tour lasts about 1 h and 45 minutes and costs 15 pounds.
Children under eight are not allowed to participate.
October through Easter
Monday - Friday 9.30 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Easter through September
Monday - Saturday 9.30 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
The Macallan Visitor Centre
The Macallan Distilleries Ltd
Easter Elchies, Craigellachie
AB38 9RX, Scotland