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The Macallan has gained super cult status, rising from relative obscurity to become the third best-selling malt in the world. The Macallan distillery is set in wooded land, which runs down to the river Spey.
Alexander Reid officially founded the distillery in 1824 at Craigellachie, a fording point on the River Spey where drovers would rest on their journey. The Macallan takes its name from the old parish of the same name - the ruins of the church and its graveyard lie within the distillery grounds. The illustration on the malt’s label is of Easter Elchies House. Now the distillery office, this 300-year-old house was the home of the Kemps, the last family to own the distillery.
Macallan has been marketed as having ‘Six Pillars of Spiritual Wisdom’ which govern its production.
1/ Only a lightly peated old barley variety called Golden Promise is used. New varieties (such as Prisma) can give farmers a yield of three tonnes per acre compared to only two for Golden Promise. Hence The Macallan have contracts with farmers to grow this uneconomical grain. Only 5,000 tons of Golden Promise is grown in Scotland each year and 4,500 tons of that is used by The Macallan.
2/ A combination of four separate yeasts are used in stainless steel washbacks to ensure a perfect fermentation.
3/ Macallan use the smallest (direct-fired) copper pot stills in Speyside – these are featured on the back of Scotland’s £10 note.
4/ Only the very heart of the run goes forward during the second distillation. Macallan take 15% of the run – other distilleries can take as much as 24%.
5/ Macallan is the only single malt to be matured exclusively in Sherry casks. Dry Oloroso Sherry casks are favoured. The distillery buys them in Spain and leases them to Sherry producers, giving them total control over the quality of the casks that will eventually be used to give the distinctive Sherry character to the whisky. The casks are imported as whole barrels with a small amount of Sherry left in each to prevent the wood from drying out during the journey.
6/ No caramel is added to Macallan to ensure colour consistency.