The Macallan establishes itself as the leading international single malt with the launch of its distillery and visitor experience centre, writes rubin khoo
A new distillery for
years to come
Distilleries typically have a rather antiquated feel about them. It is perhaps somewhat expected since most spirit companies are all about legacies that go back more than a few decades. Hence, the reason why The Macallan’s new distillery located amidst the captivating Easter Elchies estate will leave visitors more than captivated. The name denotes that it is not just a distillery but is also aptly labelled a visitor experience.
An experience it certainly is. It is architecturally breathtaking, the first in Speyside to be designed by an internationallyacclaimed architect. The firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners was selected to lead the project after an international competition. Upon first look, it is not the humble beginnings of The Macallan, which dates back to 1824, that come to mind but rather its status as the leading international single malt that it holds today.
“This is an exciting occasion for Edrington and The Macallan. The unsurpassed quality of The Macallan is in high demand and we face the future confidently with this new distillery. It’s an authentic, abiding, ambitious investment that will match consumer expectations for generations to come,” said Ian
Curie, chief executive of Edrington, the international premium spirit company that distributes The Macallan.
Curie added that t he distillery will bring numerous benefits to the community, boosting the tourism industry, Scotch whisky exports and the economy. Edrington invested a whopping £500 million in the brand involving the whisky, warehousing and particularly, in The Macallan’s signature sherry-seasoned oak casks. Of this amount, £140 million was allocated to the distillery, deemed to be the “masterpiece” of the investment.
The project was announced in 2012 and commenced building in December 2014. The first whisky ran through the stills in December 2017 and the visitor experience opened its doors to the public in June this year. The distillery is expected to attract massive numbers, doubling in the first year and continuing to rise thereafter. It will also enable production of The Macallan to increase by a third to cater to rising global demands, if the need arises. The new stills were crafted by Scottish coppersmith Forsyths, who has been making the brand’s distinctive, curiously-small stills for The Macallan since the 1950s.
“The equipment had to be made exactly the same as the existing equipment,” explained Richard Forsyths, managing director of Forsyths, one of the leaders in the supply of distillation equipment. To this day, Forsyths employs the techniques of its forefathers to form copper into beautifullyshaped pot stills. “All our pots are still hand beaten.”
The intensely-complex architectural design – just the timber roof structure, one of the most complicated in the world comprising 380,000 individual components – was undertaken by Robertson Construction. 25 contractors were deployed to realise the vision of the new distillery and visitor experience. During construction, up to 400 people specialising in more than 20 different trades were employed on site.
“The vision was always ambitious but this enabled us to challenge our own thinking to create something so dramatic and aweinspiring”
“Projects like this only get built with collaboration,” stated Brian Anderson, project director of Robertson Construction. “A lot of the guys from Robertson are born and bred in this area. To be part of this is huge.”
What distinguishes The Macallan distillery from others is its contemporary architecture. Cut into the slope of the land, the design takes inspiration from ancient Scottish hills, maximising the aesthetic beauty of the building whilst also minimising the visual impact on the Speyside landscape as it has been classified as an Area of Great Landscape Value.
“The Macallan estate truly is a special place,” said Graham Stirk, senior partner and lead architect, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. “A place we have come to love and respect hugely. The vision was always ambitious but this enabled us to challenge our own thinking to create something so dramatic and awe-inspiring.”
In conceptualising the design, Stirk added that the intent was to capture the spirit of The Macallan, “the mystery revealed, the idea of being aware of something, which is definitely man-made but is of landscape.”
The new distillery is designed to cater to growing global demand for The Macallan.
“It has been very important that we make sure we can sustain demand for this wonderful amber liquid,” explained Ken Grier, creative director of The Macallan. “We’ve taken exceptional care in making sure that the spirit that is produced in our previous distillery. This is the beginning of a really exciting new chapter in the evolution of this wonderful brand that is The Macallan.”
“The new distillery and visitor experience is outstanding,” added Scott McCroskie, managing director of The Macallan. “It’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. It will give us an unbelievable asset at the heart of The Macallan brand that will serve us well for years to come.”