The Macallan brings a piece of its home to international travellers
Written by Sam Coyne
Where do you go if you want to discover more about your favourite drinks brands? More and more frequently, spirits distilleries are becoming the go-to destination for travellers looking to delve deeper into the history and production of their favourite drinks brands and, of course, pick up exclusive bottles that you cannot find anywhere else. It’s all part of the experience you might say – an experience you’re unlikely to get by flicking through search engines.
The year 2018 saw record numbers of us visit Scotch distilleries, with the number surpassing two million visits in a year for the first time. It would be interesting to know how many of those visitors were global tourists specifically seeking out a distillery visit as part of their travels. Near the top of many people’s list of aspirational brands sits The Macallan. Best of all, unlike some of the Japanese whisky counterparts, similarly perched near the top of that list, The Macallan is still active and producing spirit.
The Macallan Distillery in Scotland’s Speyside received a £140 million redevelopment in 2018, becoming a future-proofed, subterranean venue that comes equipped with an art gallery and a whisky bar featuring open bottles of the most valuable and rare bottles of Macallan. It’s a marriage of The Macallan’s whisky making heritage and innovation, and was designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the people behind some of the most iconic buildings and structures around the world, including the Leadenhall Building in London.
The striking piece of contemporary architecture is cut into the slope of the land and takes cues from Scotland’s ancient rolling hills. As a visitor experience, it has quickly become the yardstick within the spirits and drinks sector for others to aspire to.
Throughout its history, The Macallan has featured heavily alongside notable collaborators and, with this in mind, its visitor centre is more than just a wander around some stills. While at the distillery, guests are invited to enjoy a meal at The Elchies Brasserie, with Scottish produce cooked with a twist inspired by The Macallan’s relationship with El Celler de Can Roca, twice voted the best restaurant in the world. The onsite Macallan Bar is the place to sample some of the finest whiskies produced by the distillery, with views overlooking the hills of Speyside, while the Distillery Boutique is your chance to pick up limited editions exclusive to the distillery.
Like many distilleries, The Macallan is available for tours, ranging from £15-£100 per person, offering an insight into the brand. Travellers flying into Edinburgh Airport will be faced with a three-hour journey up to Easter Elchies, where the distillery is based, but it’s well worth it and can easily be made a part of a whisky-tour as you take in the other distilleries in the area. For those looking to make a fleeting stop, Aberdeen Airport is only an hour away by car on a route that will take you via the iconic Dufftown, with Inverness Airport a similar distance, going through Elgin and Rothes. Each route offers something for whisky lovers.
However, if you’re one of the near-80 million people who travelled through London Heathrow, or 90-million who went through Dubai International, you’ll now find more than a little taste of Speyside if you look carefully. If you enjoy your Macallan, or perhaps are looking to grab a bottle, the brand is bringing this experience to travellers across the globe with the opening of flagship boutiques in international airports. As part of a multi-million-pound investment, the brand will connect travellers through these gateways with their home in Speyside. With Dubai in mind, it’s certainly a little bit of Scottish-greenery amongst the desert sands.
One such boutique has been opened in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and delivers a prestige experience for those familiar with the brand and its whisky, and also those looking to take their first steps into the world of this amber nectar. The experience has been described as a ‘home away from home’ for one of the world’s most valuable single malts. The boutiques include exclusive whiskies, with The Macallan Boutique at Heathrow offering expressions from the Macallan’s Fine and Rare Collection, The Macallan 72 Years Old in Lalique – The Genesis Decanter, The Macallan Folio 5 and expressions from the Exceptional Single Cask collection.
A new range, The Macallan Boutique Collection, has also been launched to coincide with the opening of the boutiques. The range will feature no-age-statement, small batch single malts, with a new edition released every year. For 2019, the single malt was matured in a combination of first-fill and refill European oak casks seasoned with Oloroso sherry. It has been bottled at 52% ABV.
The Macallan Boutique at Dubai International airport was notable for being the first-ever permanent spirits boutique for a single brand at the airport, when it opened earlier this year at Terminal 3. Meanwhile, The Macallan outlets at Singapore’s Marina One and Taoyuan airport in Taiwan will be ‘upgraded’ to ‘Boutique-status’ within the coming months, meaning that many more of us will get a chance to discover the history of the brand.
To provide a sense of home, both the Heathrow and Dubai boutiques feature stories and cinematography exploring the history behind the brand and its estate in Speyside. So, while a passing visit through Heathrow or Dubai might not quite be the authentic Macallan experience that you’d get on Speyside, there’s a little piece of Easter Elchies coming to an airport near you soon.