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No: 24
Producer: Macallan
Region: Highlands
District: Speyside  -   Multimap view
OS Sheet 28 ; Map reference NJ 275 445 ; Latitude 57 29° N, Longitude 3 12° W
Founded 1700s ; Operating Status (1999): operating

"The Rolls-Royce of single malts" is a label often bestowed upon this persistent winner of competitions. From its unusually small stills to its insistance upon sherry ageing (always in dry oloroso casks, shipped unbroken from Spain, Macallan is a purposefully traditionalist distillery. There has probably been whisky made on the Macallan site, on a small hill overlooking the Spey near Craigellachie , since the late 1700s. A manor house from this period has been restored as a place at which to entertain private visitors. An illustration of the house is used on the box that accompanies each bottle of The Macallan. It is intended to convey the sense of a whisky "Chateau" and perhaps to offset the harder lines of what is a functional-looking distillery.

The first licenced distillation at Macallan is said to have taken place in the earliest days of legalised production, in 1824. In 1892 the business came into the hands of the family who still manage Macallan and have a major share in the company.

Macallan went public in 1966-8 and was thus able to finance the laying down of large stocks of whisky for maturation and a decade of expansion. Each extension involved the building of a new still-house so that the company could increase production without altering the size of its stills.

The company was already renowned among blenders who use its malt whisky as a "top dressing" but in the 1960s Macallan as a bottled single malt was available only on Speyside. Although the larger share of the malt continues to be reserved for blending, a new generation of family management decided to market seriously a bottled single malt. The Macallan, stressing the definite article, was launched nationally in Britain in 1980. Like other pioneers of singles, Macallan has tried to limit independant bottlings. There nonetheless used to be one well-known example, quaintly labelled "As We Get It" and marketed by J.G. Thomson, the spirits and wine subsidiary of Bass in Scotland. This name is now used to describe an Aberlour.

The launch of The Macallan was steered to success by the present chairman, Alan Shiach, a member of the family, and a successful screenwriter.
© Michael Jackson 1994

This is what they say about themselves:

"Hidden in a fold of wooded hills, lapped by the waters of the Ringorm Burn as it hurries on its way to meet the fabled Spey below stands the ancient manor-house of Easter Elchies, home of The Macallan. The site of whisky-making for many generations, the distillery was formerly accorded legal status in 1824. It has since become famous as the seat of Scotland's most prized malt whisky.

"What is the secret of this legendary single malt?

"Immemorially, The Macallan has been distilled by craftsmen of the same estate in particularly small, hand-beaten copper stills - and whilst other distillers no longer insist on using oaken sherry casks, at Macallan this costly tradition is maintained. The results are shown partly in The Macallan's sumptuous colour, partly in "the nose" and wholly, may we venture? in the glass."

They have a Web page of their own on the Grampian Region server (below):

Distillery rating: 5*

Craigellachie, Banffshire, AB38 9RX
Tel: 01340-871471

I visited this in August 94 and was seriously impressed. The distillery is a large complex laid out among impeccably tended lawns and ornamental trees. There are old buildings but also major investment in split-new still and a huge warehouse facility. It is not out there touting for passing tourist traffic - far from it. It is tucked away and not announced from the road at all that I could see. You really need to arrange a visit beforehand and it pays to do some homework beforehand. The party I went round with clearly knew their stuff from the questions being asked and we were treated in kind. This should not be the first distillery you ever visit but should most definitely be on your list if at all possible. A note about their use of sherry casks: They use them, yes, as do others but they use them complete. The barrels are not re-made as is common practice.


18 yr old, 86 proof
Perhaps the defining highland malt. Amazing depth of flavor, with a lingering finish that goes through several stages. Slightly higher proof than many others, corresponding to my experiment diluting the barrel proof version (see below). I only wish I could have found the Macallan 25 year old... [lh]

120 proof "As we get it."
Barrel proof Macallan, undated, although I suspect it to be about 10 years old. Extremely astringent at first taste, but with all the Macallan character. Like with the Linkwood, my slow dilution test leads me to think that this is best at higher than 80 proof, which is apparently Macallan's judgement, too, since they bottle at 86 proof. [lh]

SMWS bottling 24.15, 15yo, 108.4 deg (54.2%) proof, distilled 6/78:
Sweet and Peppery:
From the heart of Speyside. Matured in sherry casks. The colour is quite unlike that of proprietary bottling, being pale gold. It is heavily sherried and sweet and sour. With water the nose is of astonishing complexity, exhibiting peat and fruit and a sort of soapy leatheriness. The taste is sweet, peppery, and rich and the aftertaste is much the same.
SF mar 3

MacCallan has introduced a 52 yo version bottled in 1946. Retail price ,000 USD!!!! also, the 18 yo gran reserva replete with wooden box for 60 USD

The 1946 was released in Europe some 8 months ago at approx US$ 2,500 and the Gran Riserva vintage 1979 was released for 0 end of last year. We are now waiting for the vinatage 1980 version (rumor says that material for vintage 81 and 82 have been put aside for coming annual releases). The Rieseva is an upbeated version of the regular 18 years vintage serie that started 1963 (last release was the 1980). The Gran Riserva is cut from the best casks of the batch of casks that normally should have gone into the production of the regular 18-year vintage series. [ub 150/q3.98]

Hear "Macallan" pronounced in AU or WAV format
Visit the distillery's Web site
Search Dr. Do'g's index for the history of Macallan
There just might be some news about Macallan in The "Scotsman" newspaper