Discovering the spirit of The Macallan (part 2)

The story of The Macallan begins in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, and concludes in Speyside, Scotland. Gordon Lam shares his two-part journey of discovery into the making of the brand’s legendary single malts

Chapter 2: The Macallan Distillery, Speyside, Scotland

Bidding farewell to everyone in Jerez de la Frontera was indeed a sad moment. The following morning we departed Spain and headed onwards to Scotland. Thanks to The Macallan Hong Kong team, #legend was blessed to be granted exclusive access to The Macallan’s legendary distillery along with another renowned writer.

The two-night, three-day trip was more than eventful, to say the least. Our base was the charming The Mansefield Hotel in Elgin, where after a hearty breakfast on our first day we were ushered to The Macallan Distillery in a spectacular green Bentley. This VIP treatment is not offered to anyone and has to be approved and arranged by The Macallan HQ, making it quite the honour. This was my first time visiting Scotland after having lived in England for 18 years many moons ago, and I was blown away by the beauty and hospitality. Even the drive from our hotel to the distillery was absolutely stunning.

When we arrived at The Macallan Estate, we first stopped at the famous house that is proudly depicted on all the brand’s labels. Easter Elchies House was built in 1700 for Captain John Grant of Elchies as his holiday home. It was occupied by various families until 1820, when The Macallan founder Alexander Reid rented the house and farm, and four years later established the first licenced distillery on the site. When The Macallan bought the house in the 1960s, it was in such poor condition that there was the potential to demolish it but the company recognised it as its spiritual home and chose to restore it as a symbol of the wisdom found through dedication and sacrifice.

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and built in 2018, The Macallan Distillery sits alongside the Easter Elchies House. This architectural masterpiece is truly a sight to behold, with its rolling roofscape echoing the form of the surrounding hills. Inside, the intriguing arrangement of stills and exhibits creates a sense of drama while the framed views between the floor and the curving eaves provide a constant link between the building and the Spey river outside.

Our first stop was the Elchies Brasserie for a special luncheon based on exceptional seasonal and local ingredients from Speyside’s natural larder. Served with paired wines, the five-course tasting menu was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, never mind in a distillery. Each course was a work of art, with the food carefully and strategically placed on the plate to ensure we got the most out of every mouthful.

After lunch we were greeted by our tour guide Zoe, who had a wealth of knowledge about the brand and its modern home. She led us upstairs, where we headed towards the east side of the building where the stills lie. This is where the real magic happens at the sustainably- focused venue, inside a 40°C room with 36 stills and 21 wash backs. The whisky makers draw water from the Spey from four boreholes and use a range of barley, including some that is grown on 100 acres of the 485-acre estate. The process of making whisky is the same as at any other distillery, but what makes The Macallan stand out is the fact that it produces 15 million litres of Scotland’s national drink per year.

Moving on, we were taken to a separate area that focuses solely on the barrels the whisky firm uses. The Macallan boasts 400,000 casks and only ever uses each one twice. Once they have lived out their usefulness at the distillery, they are then sold to independent businesses, cooperages or distilleries. This was an immersive experience with smells and smoke all coming into play. We also watched a series of videos about the casks, The Macallan brand story and some of the key individuals involved in the brand now.

We were then guided back upstairs to the bar, where we were treated to a whisky flight designed to showcase the quality and diversity of the brand. Zoe also introduced us to The Macallan Home Collection, The Macallan Highland Single Malt and The Macallan Rare Cask 2023 release, the latter of which I quickly fell in love with.

Finally, we arrived at the gift shop and learned of an exclusive collection from The Macallan called Litha, which is limited to Asia. Litha – which represents the coming together of Scotland and Spain – was a fitting end to our journey at The Macallan Distillery and one of my favourites of all the whisky we had tasted. I have to say that, despite being a non-believer to begin with, I have truly fallen in love with drinking whisky. And not just any whisky but only the finest single malts that The Macallan has to offer.

Also see: #legendeats: Last minute festive eats

In this Story: #dining