Actually there's nothing very 'hidden' about Macallan. It is a proud and iconic peacock of a distillery on a beautiful estate...
There are few places on earth as stirring and atmospheric as the bens and glens of Speyside.
In Spring, when there is still a chill in the air but a watery sunshine illuminates the Spey and a fresh breeze stirs up its waters - so sunlight flits off its surface - emotion courses through the body. On misty early mornings you could swear that the ghosts of smugglers are sharing the river banks with you. If you grew up on tales of illicit distilling and whisky smuggling, then the old trails near Glenlivet are irresistible. Many an illegal still once nestled in the crannies of this wild region, and you can sense it.
But there’s one distillery which stands apart and aloof from others in the region. Macallan is whisky royalty, and it has the location to prove it. The distillery sits high up on a sizeable estate, the Spey curving its way around it way below. The distillery has fishing rights for a stretch of river here, and with the ability to host guests in some luxury, their distillery has the capacity to offer VIP guests the ultimate in Highland hospitality.
If the offering was impressive before, then by next year it will be off the scale. Owner Edrington is in the process of investing a cool £100 million into what is effectively a new distillery on the site, taking the capacity to 16 million litres a year - the highest in Scotland. Add to that a new visitor centre to complement the special facilities offered by Easter Elchies House, the bespoke guest rooms, and the stunning warehouse with its interactive exhibition explaining the essential role of oak in the whisky making process, and we’re talking about a serious whisky connoisseurs’ offering.
Easter Elchies House is a manor house built in 1700, and Macallan’s spiritual home. The owners base their philosophy for the whisky on six pillars, of which Easter Elchies is the first. The others are:
- Very small stills: these contribute to the distinctively rich, fruity 'new make' spirit of The Macallan.
- A fine cut: only 16% of the final distillation from the spirit stills is used to fill the casks. The distillery says this is the best of the best.
- Exceptional oak casks: The Macallan is known for spending more on sourcing, building, seasoning and caring for its casks that any other single malt whisky producer.
- Natural colour: the rich range of colours in The Macallan whiskies is drawn entirely from the wood.
- The Macallan itself: the peerless spirit - long regarded as one of the world's greatest whiskies.
So what about the whisky? There are plenty of fine sherry cask Macallans, and if you can find any of the classics, such as the 18 Year Old, it’s worth paying out for them. Some of the older Fine Oak whiskies are outstanding, too. But my recommendation of the current range is:
The core range of Macallans are named after four colours, with each colour representing a progressively older and better whisky. This is the second darkest of the four, and it’s arguably the best, with the fruit flavours turned up to 11: bright orange and zesty cherry mix it up with berry fruits, including strawberries, and a touch of menthol. But the sherry notes aren’t overbearing and there is s a summery freshness. This is a modern Macallan classic.