‘What makes our whisky such an exceptional product is that it has evolved over centuries,’ explains Dr Nick Savage, Master Distiller at The Macallan, the historic distillery on Speyside, Scotland.
While whisky is now an established luxury product, The Macallan is especially prized by connoisseurs and collectors. Savage traces the reasons for this back to the distillation process.
‘Our spirit stills are very small within the industry, and they’re also short, which helps us to generate a quite heavy, viscous new-mix spirit liquid,’ he explains. ‘We spends twice as much on our oak casks as we do on our malt, which shows you where our emphasis is.’
Trying to map out the interactive behaviour of all the compounds that are generated during the distillation process — those drawn from a cask, and those from the distillery — and how they break down and develop over a period of time is, admits Savage, ‘as near as dammit impossible’.
The Master Distiller insists the most important thing is to appreciate that whisky is made to be enjoyed, and to be savoured as part of an occasion. But he is also keenly aware that some releases can become highly collectible.
On 29 November 2018, a bottle of The Macallan 1926 was sold for £1.2m at Christie’s in London. It was the first whisky to surpass £1m at auction.
‘Age can play a part, but the rarity of a bottle or a single cask really drives the collectability,’ he explains, ‘because only a few people can enjoy that liquid at some point in time.’ Here, then, are 10 whiskies by The Macallan that Dr. Nick Savage recommends.
The Macallan in Lalique 72 Years Old: The Genesis Decanter
‘The oldest ever Macallan to be released is a taste of history, and a phenomenal taste experience. It’s both humbling and a privilege to even be associated with a whisky such as this, and what it will represent for The Macallan.’ The legendary French glassmaker Lalique collaborated with the distillery to create a special decanter for this limited edition.
The Macallan Distillery Launch Dram
‘The whisky team delivered a very special dram for the opening of the new distillery in 2018. Working through some amazing aged stock, an exclusive whisky was developed specially for the launch event. This whisky was limited to only 20 bottles and was an amazing expression of The Macallan with a character steeped in history, as well as marking an important moment in the history of the brand.’
The Macallan 50 years old
‘For this particular aged Macallan the style was subtle and complex and almost refreshing in parts, but with a phenomenal body and distinct characters. The blackcurrant notes and subtle hints of peat make this one of my all-time favourites.’
A 2018 release of The Macallan 50 Years Old presented in a solid oak presentation case — number seven of a limited-edition release of 200 bottles signed by Dr. Nick Savage — sold for £72,000 on 29 November 2018 at Christie’s in London
The blackcurrant notes and subtle hints of peat in The Macallan 50 Years Old make it one of Savage’s ‘all-time favourites’, while The Macallan 18 Years Old Gran Reserva was ‘the very first dram I had at a dinner’ at the brand’s HQ, Easter Elchies House on Speyside
The Macallan 18 years old Gran Reserva 1979
‘When I started with The Macallan, this was the very first dram I had at a dinner in our spiritual home, Easter Elchies House, and showcased aged Macallan to me for the very first time.’
The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old
‘This was one of the very first drams of The Macallan I tasted in the sample room, and I’ve never looked back. It’s got that classic Macallan fruit cake in a glass flavour and, for me, it’s unbeatable.’
The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection
‘Whisky from the Fine & Rare Collection is always special. The different cask types, distilling styles and breadth of ages really lend to the experience. When I taste drams from the years my parents were born or, say, the year my grandad returned home from the war, they stop me in my tracks. A dram of Fine & Rare can be quite moving.’
Different cask types and distilling styles, as well as a breadth of ages, are used in The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection
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Exceptional Single Cask range
‘Although still a relatively new series of products, our Exceptional Single Cask range has been amazing to work through, and in the coming year there will be some casks with really distinct and complex characters coming to market. I really enjoyed working with the whisky-making team to discuss our individual preferences and styles in order to showcase The Macallan, and bring a truly exceptional drinking experience to every dram. Look out for something ultra-exceptional in the not too distant future!’