The Macallan Focus
Ken Grier has had a busy few years. Since 2012, he's been a driving force behind the creation and construction of The Macallan’s new distillery, a £140 million, space-age building that will increase The Macallan’s output by 15% while also housing a new visitors centre, café and bar.
That building was finally opened to the public in June this year, drawing nearly universal praise from architects and whisky lovers alike. So now that the distillery is finished, what’s next for Grier and The Macallan? We sat down with Grier to discuss the public’s response to the building so far and to get a first taste of The Macallan Edition No. 4, a single malt released to celebrate the completion of the new distillery.
The new distillery has been open for several weeks now. What has the response been from the public?
The response was overwhelmingly positive. People have been amazed and impressed, they say it’s beautiful and have told me they’ve never seen anything like it. The local community are very proud to have it.
The building is very much in sympathy with the local area, the design echoes the local rolling hills. It’s a very modest and unobtrusive building where the secrets lie inside—and that was deliberate. It’s very much in keeping with the persona of The Macallan. We’re not a terribly upfront brand, we’re a brand that likes to be a little bit modest but then give you a big "wow".
You’ve been involved with the building from the very beginning. What’s most surprised you about it now that it’s complete?
It surprised me how emotional I was about the building. I was really quite tearful at times during the opening. It was such a great effort from my team and really was a lot of personal effort from myself—it was like emptying my brain on to the land and then seeing it there in front of me.
When I think about the building, I think about the drama as you walk through the doors. I think about the majesty of seeing 840 bottles of The Macallan on the wall. I think about the bar, which is right next to the production process—you can’t get any closer than that. Even the pipework is beautiful.
To mark the opening of the new distillery, you’ve just released The Macallan Edition No. 4. Can you explain the ideas behind The Edition series?
With the Scottish whisky regulations, you can’t have a whisky without an age statement and split out the different years for the different casks—we’re not legally allowed to do it. But what we can do is tell a little bit about the topography of the whiskies, the role of different casks and what role they play in bringing the whisky together.
Edition No. 1 was about exploring the influence of casks from different cooperages and was very well received. For Edition No. 2 we worked with the Roca brothers. No. 1 was very conventionally Macallan, with notes of dried fruits and ginger, while No. 2 had surprising notes like cracked pepper and chocolate.
No. 3 was led by an old friend of mine, Roja Dove, professor of perfume and ex nose at Guerlain, and it was really talking about the heady nature of whisky; more floral, more aromatic, juicier, sweeter.
So what’s the idea behind No. 4?
For Edition No. 4, we set off to have something that would perfectly complement the new distillery. The brief here was to build a whisky that describes the process of how you build a building, so this whisky has a foundation, which is a most classic whisky from sherry-seasoned oak casks. Then you have the steel frame of the building, which again comes from Spanish casks but from different cooperages.
The third element is like putting the walls in. For that we decided to use American Oak casks, which have a tighter grain, so the notes you get from that are vanilla, butterscotch, toffee and crème brûlée. Finally, we have some second-fill casks, which are almost like the capstone of the building.
I think our whisky maker Nick Savage has done a great job with it because it does unwrap itself in a way that is like looking at a building from foundation to steelwork to walls to detailing.
To find out more, visit themacallan.com
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