When we found out that The Macallan would invite the winners of their #ToYourMacallan competition over to their home turf for a full weekend of whisky extravaganza, my girlfriend Dini and I left no stone unturned to produce the best contributions we could. And apparently the fine folks at Edrington – which is The Macallan’s mother company – were quite fond of our videos and photos, too. Cause as fate would have it, they did not pick one of us as a winner, but both! So last Friday we got up early to fly to Aberdeen from where we were transported to the heart of Speyside by car. For the remainder of the weekend, the two of us as well as the other six winners would spend the days on The Macallan’s spacious estate and the nights in the luxurious Craigellachie Hotel. The two times Dini and I had been to Scotland before, we booked our rooms with a cheap (but comfy) hotel chain and lived mostly off Meal Deals. Unsurprisingly, this was a whole new experience for us!
On Saturday, we started with a tour of The Macallan’s vast estate. Split up into two cars and connected via speaker phone, we drove past the old production facilities, the still-in-use dunnage warehouses, the freshly harvested barley fields and the gigantic new storehouse complexes. We then got out in front of the cask storage unit, where everybody posed in front of the yet-to-be-filled sherry casks – 900 of which the distillery imports from Spain every week! Our last stop was the Craigellachie Bridge a few kilometres outside of The Macallan’s property. Since its construction in the early 19th century, the image of the first steel bridge to span over the river Spey has graced thousands of post cards and picture books. And believe me, it is even more beautiful in reality than it is on photographs!
Before we embarked on the much longed-for tour of the new production unit, we grabbed a bite at the distillery’s in-house restaurant Eat @The Macallan. The food was finger-licking good and if I may give you a hint, try the fried haggis balls! Previously, I had not been too keen on giving this traditional Scottish dish a fair chance. But man, this was good! With our bellies filled and our expectations raised, we then met our tour guide Lindsay, who walked us through the distillery and introduced us to “The Six Pillars” on which The Macallan’s excellence is grounded: 1) Spiritual Home. 2) Curiously Small Stills. 3) Finest Cut. 4) Exceptional Oak Casks. 5) Natural Color. And 6) Peerless Spirit. Each step of the tour was not only highly interesting, but also wonderfully visualized. More than once, the clever installations that The Macallan had prepared for their visitors managed to put surprised smiles on our faces. What I found most fascinating, however, was to walk between the shining copper stills and gargantuan mash tuns and marvel at the perfect architecture and sheer size of the place. When running at full capacity, the distillery can now produce as much as 15 million litres of spirit per year. And they still left room for future enlargements…
The tour culminated in a degustation of The Macallan’s three 12-Year-Olds as well as their Rare Cask. When not won in a contest, a ticket for “The Six Pillars” costs 15 GBP and grants access to the tour as well as the tasting. If you get the chance to do so, I’d strongly recommend you to pay The Macallan a visit. The drams are amazing, the people are awesome and the experience is fantastic! It is hard to imagine anyone not being awe-struck when they see this subterranean whisky cathedral from the inside!
Since all good things must eventually come to an end, our visit to The Macallan did also not last forever. Before Dini and I headed back to Germany, however, the company’s Communications Manager Louise and Hospitality Manager Morag had one last highlight planned for their guests: A sumptious three-course dinner in the oak room of Easter Elchies House. The food, the wine and – most of all – the company were absolutely fabulous. And so was the final dram we were given, which was a sample of The Macallan Reflexion taken straight out of the whisky makers’ room. It was bottled at a slightly higher ABV than the regular release and turned out to be pure nectar to the taste buds. While the air was filled with chatter and laughter before, the room was devoutly silent now. So overpowering was the allure of this once-in-a-lifetime whisky! I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that this was one of the most special drams I ever had… and as such it marked a perfect ending to an unforgettable whisky weekend!
Name: The Macallan Distillery
Type: Whisky distillery
Address: The Macallan Visitor Centre, Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, AB38 9RX, Scotland
Opening hours: Mon to Sat from 9.30am till 6pm, Sun from 12am till 6pm
More info: http://www.themacallan.com/ (Website)