A Journey to be Savoured: How The Macallan delivers the ultimate in Scotch whisky experiences
Photos by Mauricio Calero, taken at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto.
“The Macallan is one of those whiskies that blows the minds of people who try it for the first time. That’s why it’s recognized as one of the best Scotch whiskies in the world,” proclaims Nicolas Villalon from the Royal Suite at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto. If there’s anyone that can attest to The Macallan experience, it’s this guy. He’s a suave, dapper gentleman that embodies the very soul of the Scotch whisky brand. Perhaps that’s why they chose him to be their brand ambassador — undoubtedly the coolest job in the world — thanks to his sheer love and passion for the spirit.
There is something to be said about The Macallan experience and its ability to bond individuals; bring people together. The true memories worth savouring in life are those that involve time spent with great company. Think of The Macallan as the link to those special moments.
There is a romance about the experience that people willingly facilitate; sons will share their first sips of Scotch with their fathers, and best friends will celebrate life’s big (and small) moments together over a dram or two.
“My first real experience with The Macallan,” reminisces Villalon, “was sharing The Macallan 18 with my grandfather. That was the first time I ever had whisky. To me, spirits were either always very smoky or sharp on the alcohol. What I was presented with was almost like a liquid dessert. It was amazing and I haven’t turned back.” And why would he?
The delight that The Macallan offers to both first-time sippers and longtime loyalists isn’t surprising. The brand has been mastering its technique and process for 192 years, since 1824. What separates The Macallan from the rest of its contemporaries comes down to defining factors including its rich history, strict wood policy and dedication to craftsmanship.
Bordering the Scottish Highlands, you’ll find Speyside, an iconic region that serves as host to the highest concentration of malt whisky producers in the country. The Macallan was founded in this region in 1824 and was one of the first distilleries to be legally licensed in Scotland. “A little known fact about The Macallan is that before we were a legal distillery, we were a malting company for barley. So our knowledge of Scotch’s base material is second to none,” says Villalon. Since then, the brand has achieved the status of being one of the premier single malt Scotch whiskies in the world.
At the heart of every bottle is the barrel from which the whisky is embraced and nurtured over time. But it’s more than just a ‘barrel’, it’s the acorn that grows into an oak tree; the oak tree that is handcrafted into a barrel; the barrel that is seasoned with sherry; the sherry cask that matures The Macallan Scotch whisky… an amalgamation of unrelenting passion, craftsmanship and time. “When up to 80 per cent of your flavour is derived from those barrels, it’s very easy to start investing incredible resources, both in time and dollars, in making that Scotch whisky,” states Villalon. “The Macallan invests upwards of $50 million a year in new casks, by far the highest investment in the Scotch industry.”
The liquid in the dram that you hold in your hand when you drink The Macallan is the result of a painstaking process that leaves no room for anything less than perfection. So much so that the brand has a dedicated ‘Master of Wood’ in Spain who is responsible for overseeing the sourcing, seasoning and production process. Once that’s done, each cask is transported to Speyside where they are filled with The Macallan’s distinctive spirit and nurtured by a team of 25 warehousemen. It’s a rare art form, but if any solace can be found, it’s in the fact that each drop of liquid in every dram — and thus, every experience — is that much more special for its drinkers.
“I think that the amount of time [that goes into a glass] is something that people can appreciate. You’re not sharing something that was made yesterday and bottled this morning. You’re sharing something that has been, sometimes, 200 years in the making. That’s if you take into account that we make the barrels ourselves from Spanish Oak that can take upwards of 120 years to come into maturity plus the time it takes to perfect the liquid,” says Villalon. “Odds are, the person who put the whisky in the barrel could be the grandfather of whomever pours it into the bottle at the end. I think that’s something special to bond over.”
The Macallan 1824 Series is a collection of premium Scotches Gold, Amber, Sienna and Rare Cask. It is a testament to the craft, showcasing a range of beautiful colours — from light oak to rich mahogany — that are naturally produced by the barrels that they are aged in. As no one tree is the same, each cask produces different flavours and colours that define how they are bottled and categorized. As the bottles decrease in light tonality, so too do the number of casks that are able to produce the rich, fruity and complex notes. This leads us to the pièce de résistance…
The Macallan Rare Cask: The Rare 1%
Rare Cask is born from The Macallan’s obsession with wood. It delivers the greatest diversity of any whisky created by The Macallan. The Macallan Rare Cask is exactly what its name alludes to. “The 1824 Series is outstanding,” states Villalon. “Bob Dalgarno, our master blender, smells about 1,000 different barrel samples every day, and he selects the perfect barrels to create a consistent 1824 Series. But, every now and again while going through the 260,000 barrels we have at the distillery, he finds one of those exceptional ones.” He continues, “So he sets that aside and by the end of that period, he has just about 1,000 barrels, far less than one per cent of all casks available at the distillery. That’s what he selects to make Rare Cask, which is arguably the most complex Macallan to ever be put in a bottle.”
Much of the unique traits found in these exceptional casks can be attributed to the fact that they come from 16 different profiles, the broadest range of barrels ever to be identified by the Master Whisky Maker, resulting in flavour complexities not found anywhere else. The Macallan has access to some of the world’s most precious casks (the majority of which are still first fill sherry seasoned), giving this ultra exclusive and unique bottle its alluring namesake.
Our experiences are what define us. They tell us about ourselves, and the people that we want to become. Some of our strongest memories are those that have bonded us to our family, friends, and strangers who have become friends. The Macallan is not just any Scotch whisky: it’s one that has spent almost two centuries perfecting its unwavering commitment to quality so that you can have those beautiful moments; moments that you’ll look to in fondness and for comfort; moments that you’ll never forget.
The Macallan: By the Numbers
1824: The year that The Macallan started making Scotch whisky.
50: The millions of dollars that are invested by The Macallan every year in new casks.
16: Percentage of final distillation from spirit stills that are used to fill sherry oak casks. In other words, the best of the best.
80: Percentage of flavour profile in The Macallan Scotch whisky derived from wood characteristics.
4: Minimum number of years required to make a barrel that adheres to The Macallan’s strict quality standards.
2: Maximum number of times each barrel is used in order to achieve optimal colour and flavour.
3: Number of years used to age casks in sherry.
1,500: Dollars invested towards making each barrel (10 times the industry average).
260,000: Total number of barrels at the distillery.
<1: The percentage of handpicked Macallan casks used to make The Macallan Rare Cask for the ultimate Scotch whisky experience.
16: The number of different cask types used to make Rare Cask, resulting in an incomparable complexity of flavour.