Last week The Macallan unveiled its newest Scotch, The Macallan Estate, a rare single malt made from barley grown exclusively on its home turf, Easter Elchies. While its estate-grown barley has gone into other expressions from the distillery, this is the first bottle made up exclusively of that grain. This barley is distilled just once a year over the course of a week and usually is reserved for The Macallan’s top whiskies.
This spirit (£190) is a rich chestnut colour with some wood spice, vanilla and orange essence on the nose. Its signature sherried notes are there of course, along with caramel, banana and warm spices on the palate. Sarah Burgess, whisky maker for the distillery, calls it a “rich, satisfying and complex spirit that pays homage to the fertile Speyside lands.” She’s got it right — its many layers speak to that complexity.
At just 86 proof, this is an easy, delicious dram to sip, more warmth than burn. It matured exclusively in sherry-seasoned oak butts and hogsheads, but offers no age statement. The whisky makers wanted total flexibility to choose the right casks for the expression, regardless of age.
“Estate-grown” is a phrase used more often in winemaking than in whisky distilling, but that’s changing swiftly. While many brands have always grown their own barley, they rarely make a spirit exclusively from it. The tradition in whisky making has been more about seeking a certain distinct but consistent quality of barley for most of the top distilleries. But as whisky makers seek to expand their range of releases, they’re looking increasingly at the unique terroir of their own landholdings. Easter Elchies, for example, is a 485-acre estate in Speyside, on the banks of the river Spey, in Scotland’s Highlands region, and its barley fields are overlooked by the brand’s modern new distillery, which opened in 2018 after its approximately £140 million build-out.
Known for being a frontrunner, The Macallan is one of the first of Speyside’s distilleries to release an estate whisky, but we expect more to come soon.
Last year, the brand not only opened its contemporary distillery and visitor experience, it had record sales of its rare, older expressions at auction.