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Macallan: an interesting read...

Given that Macallan’s current position of being one of the three great malts that sells more than one million cases per year, it is hard to believe that only 40 years ago it was virtually unknown as a brand.

The vast majority of production went in to blends. The person responsible for turning the unknown Macallan in to the mega brand it is today is Mr Willie Phillips. He was the managing director from 1978 to 1996, and by his side was a man with exceptional marketing skills named Mr Hugh Mitcalfe.

Mr Mitcalfe was responsible for establishing Glen Grant to the Italian market. He realised that Macallan had an unrivalled stock of old whiskies. He introduced the Anniversaries expressions - these were whiskies of considerable age. He also introduced small adverts featuring drawings which ran alongside the crossword puzzle in the Times newspaper.

By the time Mr Mitcalfe left the company in 1996, Macallan had become the sixth largest malt producer, selling more than two million bottles each year. Today, the brand sells 12 million bottles. Mr Mitcalfe died in January 2019 at the aged of 84. 

The new distillery is equipped with a full latter mash tun with a 17b ton mash and 21 wash backs made of stainless steel with a fermentation time of 60 hours. The capacity is 15 million litres of pure alcohol per year and the plan for 2019 was to do 35-40 mashes per week resulting in 11 to 11.5 million litres of alcohol.

The core range of Macallan consist of three styles: 

Sherry Oak(100% maturation in Sherry casks) was the only available version until 2004 when Fine Oak was introduced. Today it is known by 12,18,25and 30year old.

Triple Cask(Formally known as Fine Oak) is a combination of whisky matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and is represented by 12,15and 18year old.

Double Cask,finally, is the youngest edition to the range and is currently made up of a 12 year oldand Goldwithout age statement. In this case, double cask means a mix of sherry casks from both American and European Oak. The Macallan Quest collection is reserved for duty-free including, Quest, Lumina, Tera and Enigma. 

The Macallan timeline

1824 The distillery is licensed to Alexander Reid under the name Elchies Distillery.

1847 Alexander Reid passes away and James Shearer Priest and James Davidson take over.

1868 James Stuart takes over the licence.

1886 James Stuart buys the distillery.

1892 The distillery is sold to Roderick Kemp from Elgin. Kemp expands the distillery and renames it Macallan - Glenlivet.

1909 Roderick Kemp passes away and the Roderick Kemp Trust is established to secure the family’s future ownership.

1965 The number of stills is increased from 6 to 12.

1966 The Trust is reformed as a private Limited Company.

1974 The number of stills is increased to 1.

1975 Another 3 stills are added making the total now 21.

1984 The very first official 18 year old Single Malt is launched.

1986 Japanese Suntory buys 25% of Macallan’s Glenlivet plc stocks.

1996 Highland distilleries buys the remaining stock, 1874 Replica is launched.

1999 Edrington and William Grant buys Highland Distilleries for £601 million through the 1887 company with 70% held by Edrington and 30% held by William Grant & Sons, Suntory still holds 25% in Macallan.

2000 The first single cask from Macallan (1981) is named Exceptional 1.

2001 A new visitor centre is opened.

2002 Elegancia replaces 12 year old in the duty-free range. 1841 Replica, Exceptional ll and Exceptional lll are also launched.

2003 1876 Replica and Exceptional lV, single cask from 1990 are released.

2004 Exceptional V, single cask from 1989 is released along with Exceptional Vl, single cask from 1990. The Fine Oak Series is launched.

2005 New Expressions which is Macallan’s Woodland Estate, Winter edition and the 50 year old are all launched.

2006 Fine Oak 17 year old and vintage 1975 are released.

2007 1851 Inspiration and Whisky Makers selection are released as part of the Travel Retail Range.

2008 Estate Oak and 55 year old Lalique are launched.

2009 The mothballed No 2 still house is reopened. The Macallan 1824 Collection and a 57 year old Lalique bottling is released.

2010 Oscuro is released for Duty-free.

2011 Macallan MMXl is released for Duty-free.

2012 Macallan Gold, the first in the new 1824 series is launched.

2013 Amber, Sienna and Ruby are released.

2014 1824 Masters series (with rare cask, Reflexion and No6) is released.

2015 Rare cask Black is released.

2016 Edition No1 and 12 year old Double cask are released.

2017 Folio 2 is released. The new distillery is commissioned.

2018 Fine Oak changes name to Triple cask. The Quest Collection is released for duty-free and Macallan M Black and Genesis are launched. Concept No1 and a 72 year old and 52 year old are released.

2019 Macallan Estate and Edition No 5 are released.

2020 Annual release, Rare cask and the James Bond 60th Anniversary collection are all launched.

Information from the Malt Whisky Year Book 2020.