The distillery is located in the area of Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, Scotland. It acquired its distilling license in 1824 and started operating as Elchies Distillery. Many whisky writers and historians argue that illegal distillation could have taken place on the same site way before the license was acquired. Like many distilleries built in the early half of the 19th century, Macallan started as a farm distillery. The founder, Alexander Reid, owned and ran the distillery until 1868 when he sold it. The new owner, James Stuart, ran the distillery until 1892 when he sold it to the Kemp family who were among the biggest distillers during the Victorian era and beyond.
In 1996 the current owners, Edrington Group (known as Highland Distillers back then), took over Macallan distillery. Prior to this, the distillery’s production capacity was increased in 1954, 1965 and 1975. Today 21 pot stills operate at this distillery.
For most of its history, Macallan has produced malt whisky for blending. During the dreaded whisky glut of the 1980’s, production focused strongly on the single malt category.
Since the 1970s, The Macallan brand has gone from strength to strength. It has released several whiskies with and without age statements. In 2013 the construction of a new distillery was announced and the finished project was unveiled in 2018. The distillery was completed at an estimated cost of £140 million.
Macallan Whisky Style
Visitors to the Macallan distillery will notice the dramatically bent lyne arms as well the smallish looking pot stills. The size of the pot stills and their shape influence greatly the final product. Hotter pot stills and reduced copper contact yield a weighty spirit. Macallan also uses a tiny 'cut' of the distillation, the cut can be as little as 16% of the alcohol vapours produced.
Three barley varietals are used, Minstrel (20%), Optic and Oxbridge. The first varietal is exclusively used by Macallan. The heavy and viscous spirit is aged in oak casks that are made to Macallan's specifications. They insist on Northern Spanish and Kentucky oak for their casks. Once assembled, casks are seasoned at the Gonzalez Byass winery in Cadiz, Spain.
There are some 200 000 casks of Macallan spirit ageing at their warehouses at any one time. This makes Macallan the 3rd largest Malt Whisky producer in Scotland. Interestingly enough, once the whisky from several casks has been blended it is left in another cask for some six months to allow it to 'marry' and mellow.
Macallan single malt whisky
Many connoisseurs swear that the best Macallan character is enjoyed when the whisky is in its teens. No wonder the 18 year old sells almost as soon as it hits the shelves! The Macallan 25 year old is rare to find too. While many whisky aficionados praise the heritage and flavour of this famous Speyside single malt, some others are a bit critical of their more recent history and marketing.
Most recently, Macallan single malt bottles and casks have broken auction price records. In August 2021 a single cask of Macallan whisky distilled in 1991 was sold for a record HK$ 4464,000 (about £423000). Two years before, a single bottle of Macallan 1926 sold for an eye watering $1.9 million (£1.4 million).
Macallan is today, the most sought after whisky by collectors, investors and, lets not forget whisky drinkers. Check your drinks cabinet, you might be in possession of the next record breaking whisky bottle!