How To Read a Macallan Label

An auctioneers' guide to the most famous single malt whisky brand.

How To Read a Macallan Label

The Macallan distillery was founded in 1824 by barley farmer Alexander Reid. What began as two stills housed in a wooden shed has grown to a 36 still site today.

In 1892 the distillery passed to Roderick Kemp, former owner of Talisker, whose descendants retained ownership until the 1990s. By 1975 the then 21 still plant was regarded as an important malt for blends. The downturn of the early 1980s led The Macallan to focus on the emerging single malt category and it began to establish itself as one of the world’s most popular and collectable single malts. The management team re-positioned the distillery as a ‘first-growth whisky’ and oversaw an innovative advertising campaign (commemorated in The Archival Series which began in 2015). In the mid-1990s The Macallan was purchased by Highland Distillers and became part of Edrington in 1999. The first single cask bottling, Exceptional Single Cask 1, was launched in 2000.

The Macallan has become known for its investment potential as well as the quality of its whisky, with rare bottles regularly breaking records at auction. In 2017 the new £100 million Macallan distillery was completed.

We’ve started putting a list together of some of The Macallans that have been released over the years:

 

 

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The Macallan Fine & Rare

 

The Macallan Fine & Rare collection showcases some of the oldest and rarest Macallans ever bottled. The series covers most of the 20th century with selected vintages from 1926 to 1991 and reveals how the distillery style has changed over time. In the 1920s the malt was mainly used as a ‘top dressing’ for blends, the 1930s saw a dearth of sherry casks due to the Spanish civil war, and a coal shortage during World War II led to peat being used to dry the barley in the 1940s.

Some expressions in the collection were drawn from single casks and bottled at cask strength, while others were re-bottled for the Fine & Rare series from 1970s and 1980s bottlings.

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The Macallan Campbell, Hope & King

 

Campbell, Hope & King was formed in 1896 after the coming together of Archibald Campbell, proprietor of Argyle Brewery, and whisky blenders and merchants Hope & King. The firm produced a blended whisky called Braemar. It also began to bottle single malts, notably The Macallan, for which it was the official bottler from the 1950s to the late 1970s.

The company bottled vintage malts distilled from 1945 to 1962, 8 Year Old and 12 Year Old expressions and the ‘Macallan-Glenlivet A Pure Highland Malt’ label, which is regarded as the first official bottling of The Macallan.

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The Macallan Gordon & MacPhail

 

Established in 1895 as a grocers and wine merchant, Gordon & MacPhail is one of Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers.

 

Gordon & MacPhail’s ‘Macallan-Glenlivet’ labels first appeared in the 1960s. Bottled from casks purchased in the late 1930s and 1940s, these long-aged expressions included 25 to 40 Year Olds, often bottled for Italian importers such as Donini and Pinerolo.

 

The firm became the official bottler for The Macallan in the 1970s, beginning where Campbell, Hope & King left off, with the 1962 vintage as well as 10 and 12 Year Old age statements.

 

Gordon & MacPhail continue to bottle Macallan today under the Speymalt label, which covers vintages from the 1930s to the 2000s. As of 2018, the Speymalt range will only be available in selected worldwide markets.

 

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The Macallan Handwritten Label

 

Only five vintages were released in this series, all bottled in the 1980s and which has become known as The Macallan Handwritten Label: 1938, 1940, 1950, 1957 and an extremely rare 1973, bottled for the 10th Anniversary of the foundation of the Opimian Society in Canada.

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The Macallan Anniversary Malt

 

The Macallan Anniversary Malt is a series of sherry matured malts first released in the early 1980s. Each bottling comes from a single year’s distillation, which is then matured for over 25 years.

 

Starting with 1957 the series covers most distillation years up to 1975. Non-vintage expressions were also bottled, as well as some ‘double vintages’ (for instance 1958 and 1959).

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The Macallan in Lalique

 

The Macallan’s collaboration with renowned French glass maker Lalique produced some of the oldest expression ever bottled by the distillery. The Lalique Six Pillars Collection was inspired by The Macallan’s founding principals:

 

The Macallan in Lalique 50 Year Old Celebrating The Macallan’s Exceptional Oak Casks was launched in 2005.

 

The Macallan in Lalique 55 Year Old Celebrating The Macallan’s Natural Colour was released in 2007.

 

The Macallan in Lalique 57 Year Old Celebrating The Macallan’s Finest Cut was released in 2009.

 

The Macallan in Lalique 60 Year Old Celebrating The Macallan’s Curiously Small Stills was released in 2011.

 

The Macallan in Lalique 62 Year Old Celebrating The Macallan’s Spiritual Home was released in 2014.

 

The Macallan in Lalique 65 Year Old Celebrating The Macallan’s Peerless Spirit was the final expression in the collection and was released in 2016.

 

In 2018, The Macallan 72 Year Old In Lalique was released. Housed in The Genesis Decanter inspired by the architecture of the new distillery and visitor centre, this is the oldest Macallan ever bottled.

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The Macallan Fine Oak

 

The Fine Oak range was launched in 2004 and saw The Macallan combine sherry cask matured whisky with American oak ex-bourbon casks. This was a significant departure for a distillery which built a reputation on sourcing its oak casks directly from Jerez.

 

In scenes reminiscent of the Electric Bob Dylan Controversy of 1965 it divided opinion on release. Many traditional Macallan fans were faithful to the 100% sherry range, but the new flavour profile was well received and 10, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25 and 30 Year Old expressions were released.

 

The Fine Oak range was replaced with the Triple Cask Matured series in 2018.

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The Macallan Masters Decanter Series

 

The 1824 Masters Decanter collection includes The Macallan M, The Macallan M Black, The Macallan Reflexion and The Macallan No.6.

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The Macallan Masters of Photography

 

The Masters of Photography is a series of collaborations between The Macallan and world renowned photographers.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography The Spiritual Home Ian Rankin was the first edition, launched in 2008. 1000 bottles of The Macallan Fine Oak 30 Year Old was each presented with one of Ian Rankin’s original works of art on Polaroid film based on Easter Elchies House.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography The Wood Journey Albert Watson was the second release. The limited release of 1000 bottles of The Macallan Sherry Oak 20 Year Old were each labelled with an Albert Watson image and came with a set of 10 portfolio prints. A hundred bottles were released exclusively to Global Travel Retail at 46.5% ABV and presented in a blue-grey gift box. A further 36 individually customised bottles of The Macallan 1946 whisky were labelled with a signed platinum print.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography The Feeling Annie Leibovitz, the third edition was released in 2011. This limited edition release of 1000 bottles comprised four individual single cask bottlings of The Macallan, each labelled with one of four images taken by Annie Leibovitz.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography The People Elliot Erwitt was the fourth edition released in 2013. It had a global release of 2030 bottles, one of 58 single cask whiskies were paired with a different signed print taken by Elliot Erwitt. Only 35 of each of the pairings were made available.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography The Six Pillars Mario Testino was the fifth edition released in 2015. Six different casks were selected to represent The Six Pillars. Each of the 1000 editions comprised a different Mario Testino print, a booklet featuring 20 images shot by Mario Testino, one bottle of The Macallan single malt whisky and six miniatures from each of the selected six casks.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography Time Steven Klein was the sixth edition. Limited to 1000 bottles worldwide, this was the first time The Macallan used Rioja-seasoned casks. This edition is presented in a leather case containing the whisky, one of ten signed Steven Klein colour prints, a black horse head bottle stopper designed by Klein and bar tools created by the Roca brothers.

 

The Macallan Masters of Photography The Distillery Magnum Edition is the seventh limited edition release. It comprises a whisky bottled from a vatting of eight casks, one signed print from each of the six Magnum photographers: Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, Steve McCurry, Mark Power, Gueorgui Pinkhassov and Alec Soth, and a book of photography.

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The Macallan The Archival Series

 

The Archival series was launched in 2015. When the series is complete it will comprise 24 Folios. The series takes a look back at The Macallan’s advertising campaigns of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s created by London agency Holmes Knight Ritchie which produced around 250 individual adverts.

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The Macallan Golden Age of Travel

 

Launched in 2015 for travel retail, The Golden Age of Travel series harks back to the 1930s, a period that saw René Lalique create some of his most celebrated work and was the first era of international travel by road, rail, sea and air. There will be 5 releases in total. The whiskies were distilled in 1937 and first bottled in the early 1970s before being re-bottled for the series from 2015 onward.