Prestige issue 260, March 2015
«The Macallan is the world’s most precious whisky»
In 2007, Patsy Christie started her career with The Macallan, one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries still in operation. Five years later, she lives in Dubai and is the Brand Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa. It’s rare to be a woman Ambassador in the whisky world: «In the beginning, tasting seminars used to have an audience of 90% men. Today that’s changed and women make up roughly 40% of the audience. Their refined palates mean they can appreciate the whisky more than their male counterparts.»
What is according to you the most popular Macallan expression? Most whisky enthusiasts will agree, there is something special about The Macallan Fine Oak 18 Years Old. I recommend pairing it with a Partagas Série D No.4.
What is whisky made from? Whisky is made all around the world; in Ireland, America, Canada, Japan, India, throughout Europe, even in South Africa and Australia. The craft of whisky making traveled to Scotland from whiskies origins in Ireland; from there it spread all over the world. No single country can impose a regulation or law on how to make whisky to the world, but there exists a gentlemen’s agreement. Whisky must be made from grain, and matured in oak casks (although some countries disregard this). The four most common grains used, from least to most expensive are: corn, popular in American bourbon; wheat, made popular with the advent of blended whisky; rye, definitely made famous from Canadian whisky; and most expensive is of course barley.
What is the difference between single malt and a blended whisky? A single malt is a whisky which must be distilled at a single distillery, and made entirely of barley. A blended whisky, as the name suggests, blends whiskies together from various distilleries, and contains whiskies made from various grains. Many people conjure up images of a distillery somewhere in the Scottish highlands named after their favorite blended Scotch, this is a falsity. Only single malt whiskies share their name with a distillery. In terms of how this affects the taste, I like to make football comparisons. A blended whisky is like a football club where each member has a valuable role in the team. A single malt is like the Captain on the pitch, having an intense and unique presence.
What are people searching for when buying whisky? Enjoying whisky, or any aged spirit, requires a contrasting approach compared to white/unaged spirits where the aim is to create a subtle, some would say absence of, flavor. Whisky however grows in value the more flavor it contains. The industry looks towards oak casks to deliver flavors of vanilla, toffee, spices, fresh and dried fruits, floral notes and so much more. Over time, the whisky is absorbed into the oak walls of the cask and slowly extracts these flavors from the wood. It is a combination of time and high quality oak casks which create the best, award winning whiskies. Unfortunately, this is not something you can hurry along, and as such there are implications on cost and availability.
The Macallan is the most expensive whisky in the world; why does the brand have such traditional and standard packaging? Great question; one I often get. The Macallan has earned a reputation as «The Rolls-Royce of whiskies» and yet the brand doesn’t really splash out on the packaging for its core range. I don’t have a better answer than I suppose we invest more in the making of the whisky, than the selling of it.
They say that when you open a bottle of wine, you need to let it breathe for a while. What about the whisky? Whisky is the same, kind of. Straight out of the bottle, some whiskies can be overpowering, particularly if they’re bottled at a high alcohol percentage. Pouring whisky into a decanter would damage the spirit as it’s too volatile and the flavors would evaporate. Instead, all you need to do is add a drop or two of water to kick-start a chemical reaction which helps the whisky to «breathe».
What is the secret to The Macallan’s success? Everyone working for The Macallan believes in the brand’s Six Pillars: •The Spiritual Home: Easter Elchies House teaches us that there are no short cuts in life, and whisky. •The Exceptional Oak Casks: no other distillery invests more per cask than The Macallan. •The Curiously Small Stills: the smallest stills in Speyside create viscosity and rich, fruity, full-bodied flavors. • The Finest Cut: while the industry average is approximately 25%, The Macallan only takes 16% of the distillate to fill into oak casks. •The Natural Color: The Macallan has never added spirit coloring (e150a) to any whisky. •The Peerless Spirit: we all believe that when you follow the five pillars before, you create ‘the world’s most precious whisky.
Talk about The Macallan distillery and estate. The Macallan distillery was licensed in 1824, but we know whisky making was happening at that site long before. The manor on every bottle of The Macallan, Easter Elchies House, was built in 1700 by a barley farmer. It still stands proud today, overlooking The Macallan estate. The distillery itself is a testament to discipline and obsession. Despite the huge amount of pressure for global supply, The Macallan has not built bigger stills, taken a larger cut, used cheap casks, or added spirit coloring.
Tell us about the two Guinness World Records. In 2010 The Macallan Cire Perdue 64 Years Old (1.5L) sold for $460,000.00 USD, attaining the Guinness World Record for the most expensive whisky sold at auction. The record was broken in 2014 when The Macallan M Constantine Decanter (6L) sold under the hammer for $628,000.00 USD further affirming The Macallan’s reputation as a Peerless Spirit.
Why is The Macallan so expensive, and sought after by collectors? If I’m forced to pick just one reason, it’s the wood. The story of Macallan is the story of oak. The Macallan warehouses the world’s most expensive spirit wood policy, second to none. Using top quality casks means the Whisky Maker doesn’t need to add spirit coloring to achieve consistency because he has the widest selection of natural flavors and colors at his disposal. Conducted by Stéphanie Salha