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5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Macallan

The Macallan is one of the most highly regarded single malt scotch whiskies in the world. The brand boasts an unparalleled reputation for the quality of its whisky, producing both consumer-level favorites, and some of the rarest and collectible whiskies ever released. 

If you’ve ever been curious about the brand which has become synonymous with luxury whisky, we explore The Macallan’s distinctive stills, fabled cask, and unique collaborations. Here are five things you didn’t know about this whisky icon.

The Macallan’s ‘Curiously Small Stills’ 

The interior of Macallan's still house.
Inside the stillhouse.

Macallan’s ‘Curiously Small Stills’ have been a core pillar of the malt’s individuality and whisky character since the distillery was founded in 1824 – Macallan began with two stills operating from a wooden shed. Equipped with some of the smallest stills in Speyside, Macallan’s stills measure less than 4 meters (13 feet) high with a capacity of only 3900 liters each. 

The compact size enables maximum copper contact, producing a ‘more intense, richer, and fruity spirit’. The Macallan uses 36 stills, run incredibly slowly – at a trickle – taking only 16% of the final spirit (known as the ‘Finest Cut’) produced to fill its casks.

When Macallan’s new £140 million distillery was built in 2018, famous coppersmith company Forsyths was commissioned to replicate the original distillery’s 21 existing stills, down to the last dent. Designed to be exacts replicas, Macallan maintains the spirit is unchanged – as the shape, size, and thickness of the stills all contribute to the resulting spirit.

The Macallan and 007

The Fine & Rare Series was launched in 2002. Credit: Whisky Auctioneer

The Macallan features in the James Bond film Skyfall (2012). In a memorable scene where Bond, played by Daniel Craig, confronts the film’s villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), the Macallan 1962 Fine and Rare Vintage appears balanced in a shot glass on the head of Bond girl, Severine. ‘Fifty-year-old Macallan, a particular favorite of yours, I understand,’ notes Silva, as he instructs Bond to shoot the glass.

Skyfall celebrates the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, giving the inclusion of the Macallan 1962 Fine and Rare bottling added significance as a reference to the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. 

Following Skyfall’s release, a bottle of Macallan 1962, which had been signed by cast members including Craig and Bardem, was sold in a charity auction by Sotheby’s in 2013, raising £9,635.

Unique Collaborations: Limited Edition Releases 

Credit: The Macallan

The Macallan is arguably best known for the brand’s varied range of limited-release bottlings, often created in collaboration with artists or luxury brands. Notable artistic collaborations include the 13-bottle Anecdotes of Ages Collection, which bottles an exceptional Macallan 1967 whisky, with each label in the collection created by British pop artist Sir Peter Blake featuring imagery of The Macallan Estate.

The ongoing Archival Series envisions a 24-bottle collection commemorating the Macallan advertising campaigns from the 1970s to the 1990s. Each Archival Series bottling focuses on a different illustration advert created by advertising director and designer David Holmes, presented in a folio-book style tin with an accompanying booklet. The Macallan Archival Series Folio One was released in 2015 – with only seven folio bottlings released so far.

The Macallan has also created more experimental limited releases in collaboration with luxury brands, announcing the forthcoming launch of The Macallan Horizon in April 2024. Horizon’s decanter glass is enveloped in a precision-engineered aluminum ribbon – a nod to the foundation material of Bentley car bodyworks – and is uniquely designed to be displayed horizontally. A limited release of only 700 bottles, The Macallan Horizon will be retailed for £40,000.    

Macallan’s Fabled Cask No. 263 

The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Valerio Adami. Credit: Whisky Auctioneer

The most coveted bottles from The Macallan were bottled from one fabled cask, a Spanish oak sherry seasoned hogshead – Cask No. 263. Filled in 1926, cask No. 263 was laid to rest for six decades, until the whisky was filled into only 40 bottles in 1986. Cask No. 263 produced possibly the most infamous whisky in the industry – The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old.

The 40 bottles of 1926 60 Year Old, were released under four different incarnations. The first 12 bottles featured labels designed by British pop artist Sir Peter Blake, while the second 12 possessed labels created by Italian graphic artist, Valerio Adami – each of these bottles was presented in a ‘brass and glass’ tantalus cabinet created by artist and designer David Holmes. 

Two bottles were auctioned privately, with one hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon to feature a depiction of Macallan’s spiritual home, Easter Elchies House in 1999. The location and fate of the second unlabelled 1926 remains unknown. In 2003, the remaining 14 bottles of the 1926 were released as part of Macallan’s Fine & Rare Series, originally retailing for £20,000.

The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old has become the most highly sought-after whisky in the world, with all four incarnations continually breaking records for the most expensive whisky sold at auction. The Michael Dillon hand-painted 1926 60 Year Old sold at Christie’s in London for a record £1,200,000, in November 2018. In October 2019, a Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Fine & Rare Series Label sold at Sotheby’s in London for £1,500,000. A Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old featuring a Valerio Adami label sold at Sotheby’s in London on the 18th of November 2023, for a record-breaking £2,187,500.

A Unique Partnership: Lalique

Macallan has a long-standing relationship with Lalique. This is the Macallan Lalique Oscuro with Kazak Rearing Horse.

Since 2005, The Macallan has partnered with renowned French crystal maker Lalique to release some rare and collectible whiskies presented in limited-edition decanters, representing the marriage and mastery of spirit distilling and artistic crystal craftsmanship. 

The most famous of these collaborations is the Six Pillars Collection, released between 2005 – 2016, celebrating the foundations of The Macallan’s distinctive character – Exceptional Oak Casks, Natural Colour, Finest Cut, Curiously Small Stills, Spiritual Home, and Peerless Spirit. Every decanter in the collection is a flawless piece of crystal art encasing some of the rarest and oldest Macallan single malt whiskies in the world, ranging between 50 and 65 years old.

The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection decanters have become highly sought after both individually, and as complete collections. On 24th October 2019, a complete Six Pillars Collection, encased in a French polished walnut cabinet commissioned by Sotheby’s and created by British craftsman James Laycock, sold at Sotheby’s London for £550,000 ($704,662 USD).

The collaboration between Macallan and Lalique has endured beyond the completion of the Six Pillars Collection. Lalique has continued to create distinctive decanters for some of Macallan’s rarest vintage and limited-edition releases, including The Golden Age of Travel Series, and The Macallan M Imperiale six-liter decanters. The Macallan in Lalique Genesis 72 Years Old was the oldest ever Macallan single malt when released in 2018. The bottling celebrated the opening of the new Macallan distillery.

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Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

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