The world has its fair share of landmark wineries, notable not only for the quality of their products but for their spectacular architecture and ‘destination’ status – Marqués de Riscal and The d'Arenburg Cube air just two popular examples.
Now the world of Scotch Whisky can lay claim to its own such “destination" with The Macallan's new Speyside distillery and visitor centre in north-east Scotland.
I was invited to visit the new distillery last month in the lead-up to its official opening, and it’s a sight to behold.
Located adjacent to Easter Elchies House – the original homestead of The Macallan, built in 1700) – and just 400 metres from the the old distillery, the facility was built at a cost of £140m over almost four years.
The design incorporates a series of grass-covered mounds which seamlessly blend into the landscape. That alone is pretty incredible feat when you consider the size and scale of what is, at the end of the day, a large production facility.
The distillery is built around 3 main ‘pods’, each consisting of 12 stills (8 spirit, 4 wash), with room to add a fourth pod in the future, if required.
I found the stills particularly interesting.
As most whisky lovers know, the size, shape and character of a still has a lot to do with the nature of its spirit. Often when a still is repaired or replaced there's a conscious effort to keep it identical to the previous one.
In fact, there are stories of new stills having the dents and dings of the old one painstakingly added by hand, just to retain the character of the spirit.
With a brand new facility, and 36 new stills, could they really retain the same Macallan spirit character?
Yes, as it turns out. The stills are said to be an (exact duplicate of the previous stills, and made by the same producers who have been crafting stills for The Macallan since the 1950s.
Of course, the brand's meticulous wood / cask programme hasn't changed, so we should expect the exact same whisky to result from this new distillery.
The new Visitor Centre sits just to the left of the actual production facility of things, with large windows allowing fantastic views of the production floor.
There’s also a tasting bar comprising over 952 different expressions of The Macallan, including the limited run of 2,500 "Genesis" bottlings and the Genesis Decanter in Lalique, a 72yo making it the oldest Macallan ever released.
The Macallan’s new distillery and visitor centre will no doubt be a beacon for whisky lovers, architecture aficionados and anyone seeking to learn more about one of the most prolific single malt Scotch whiskies.