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Issue 2 - Two bites of the sherry

Whisky Magazine Issue 2
March 1999


This article is 19 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Two bites of the sherry

If you're going to age whisky in heavily scented olorose casks you need a powerfully flavoured spirit to start off with. Stephen Brook examines the elements that make up the Macallan, and how second-fill casks compare to first-fill

To create a drink that in under 20 years has achieved classic status is no mean feat, but that is the accomplishment of The Macallan. It was in the late 1960s that the Macallan managers, noting the success of Glenfiddich as the first single malt whisky to achieve wide sales outside Scotland, began laying down casks of whisky with a view to one day releasing their own single malt. Although Macallan seems to have been with us forever (and indeed the distillery, founded in 1824, had been selling fine malts to other houses as blending components for 150 years), it was first released as recently as 1980.

The distillery had been purchased in 1892 by Roderick Kemp, who renamed it Macallan-Glenlivet. It remained in the Kemp family until 1996, when it was bought by Highland Distillers. As a single malt, The Macallan had a unique selling point: it was the only single malt aged entirely in sherry butts. The mere notion of a Scotch whisky slumbering towards maturity in casks that had once contained warm, nutty, comforting oloroso sherry, conjured up visions of the perfect post-prandial malt, rich and sumptuous and soothing. Which is not far off the mark, as far as The Macallan is concerned.

The distillery, although only a mile or so outside Craigellachie and above the River Spey, is slightly off the beaten track. It does not offer distillery tours, although visitors are given a warm welcome if they take the trouble to make an appointment first. Nor is the site especially picturesque. T...

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