Driving The Speyside – On The Whiskey Trail To The Macallan Distillery
Master of Spirits – The Macallan Distillery – Highland Single Malt Whiskey
In the last ten years, food, wine, craft beers, spirits have taken over as a focal point when one chooses a vacation destination.
Growing up and living in the cultural mecca of San Francisco, and having a wife who makes palatable, refined wines as a hobby. I’m drawn to the travel destinations that also produce a delectable spirit.
In early November I embarked on the one hour Easy Jet flight from London Gatwick to Edinburgh, to make my first visit to Scotland, with one goal in mind. The realization to finally live the dream of my first sojourn to the Whiskey Trail, to get up close and personal with Scotland’s amber “nectar of the gods,” in its native land, the destination that had eluded me in a life of travel.
Barrels of Liquid Gold
Everyone has a favorite food, wine, or spirit. Mine just happens to be a fine single malt whiskey, and one of my favorites is The Macallan. Having only 6 days in Scotland forced me to get my priorities straight. I clearly could not see the whole of Scotland in a few days, and knowing that Scotland consists of four Scotch whiskey producing regions: The Lowlands, Islay, the Highlands, and Speyside, I could only travel to one area. I chose to visit the Speyside region as here I would experience many of the flavors
I enjoy in a refined single malt which can be found in the terrain in the Speyside region. I wanted to experience first-hand the scents and flavors of the region, and learn more about the whiskey’s citrus, vanilla, dried fruits, apple, spices and what makes Macallan’s so flavorful. The greatest concentration of Single Malt Scotch Whiskey distilleries can be found in the Speyside region of Scotland.
Bottles of Golden Liquid are Proudly Displayed at The Macallan House
High on a hill overlooking the river Spey in Craigellachie, just outside of Aberlour, with magnificent views of Ben Rinnes, lies my main reason for my Scotland sojourn, ‘The Macallan.’ Yes, this trip was about Scotch whiskey, the essence of life, a fine single malt. The area, between the cities of Inverness and Aberdeen, sweeps from granite mountains down to fertile countryside and is universally acknowledged as the heartland of malt whiskey distillation. Speyside Single Malts are noted in general for their elegance and complexity, and often a refined smokiness. The question would be, would I get to visit any whiskey houses, after all, I was arriving at the Whiskey Trail after October and many of the distilleries are closed for the winter months. As good fortune would prevail, The Macallan is open all year long.
Taking The Tour Of “Liquid Gold” At The Macallan Distillery
The Macallan House, Easter Elchies, Speyside
The Macallan Estate and Easter Elchies House was built in 1700. Today, the Macallan land covers 370 acres, compromising of grounds to grow their own barely. The Macallan and pasture are also home to sheep and cattle, and the mown grassland attracts many species of birds. The River Spey, one of Scotland’s most prominent salmon rivers, borders the Estate to the south and southeast. The scale and diversity of the Estate are unique among distilleries and is managed in harmony with the beautiful landscape.
The sustainable Macallan Estate lies in an area of great natural beauty and is farmed in harmony with the environment. 95 acres are sown in March with The Macallan Estate’s Minstrel barley (a variety exclusive to The Macallan is harvested in late August / early September for malting. The Estate farmland is very fertile, with light, alluvial soils, ideal for barley growing. A single acre will produce nearly two and a half tons of Minstrel barley, which will yield about 1,800 bottles of The Macallan.
Manicured Grass on the grounds of The Macallan Distillery
Macallan’s was not bottled as a single malt until the late 1970’s and is now recognized worldwide as one of the finest and most sought after whiskeys in the world. Much of this liquid gold is matured in sherry casks from Jerez, Spain, although more recently The Macallan also uses other casks as well. Macallan uses the smallest spirit stills on the Speyside. Today Macallan is the third largest selling Scotch single malt whiskey only behind Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. Macallan can be found primarily in 12 and 18-year-old bottles, but also can be found in 10 years, and the rare and most expensive 25-year-old, and even a 30-year-old.
The commitment and craftsmanship of the Macallan Masters have been a labor of love producing whiskey perfection for two centuries.
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