Scott McCroskie: Macallan ‘very close’ to 1m case sales mark

4th January, 2018 by Amy Hopkins

Scott McCroskie says The Macallan will continue to make age-statement and no-age-statement expressions

Surprisingly, despite talk of The Macallan’s struggle to meet demand around the world, the new distillery “will not increase production in the short term”. McCroskie says: “The capacity is a very long-­term investment, but it does give us the option to meet demand if somewhere like China really takes off, and it could well do. This investment is a good sign for the entire Scotch whisky industry; it shows confidence in the future.”

Out with the old

The Macallan will mothball its existing site once the new distillery is fully functional. “We are going to preserve it,” states McCroskie. “It isn’t going to run, but we are going to keep it in a condition that should someone in the future want to restart it for whatever reason, then that option is open to them.”

And might that someone be Edrington? “Maybe,” answers McCroskie. “There are no plans at this minute. It’s not on our agenda, and it’s a big job to get the new place up and running. But this is a very long­-term business, so who knows what the future generations might want to do?”

A move by Edrington to restart the distillery would not be particularly surprising if demand for its aged expressions continues to outpace supply. “We are tight for stock,” admits McCroskie. “We have a nice growth trajectory ahead of us, but it is obviously constrained by what was made all those years ago. This does provide ample scope for growth, in any case, and we wouldn’t want to be growing at an exponential rate – it’s not that kind of brand. As long as we can support steady growth, which we can, then we are in good shape.”

Since Edrington is a private business, its privilege is to keep information about volume sales and production capabilities close to its chest. However, when I ask McCroskie if he would one day like to see The Macallan become a one-­million­-case brand, he tells me it is already “very close” to that milestone. “It’s just below that now, so hopefully in the not too distant future it will reach the mark,” he says. “The Macallan has steady growth – markets grow at different levels at different times – but it’s a good, strong, solid growth dynamic behind the brand.”

One-million cases

To reach 1m case sales would be particularly impressive for The Macallan – which is, on average, positioned at a significantly higher price point than its nearest single malt rivals. In 2016/17, the brand enjoyed a “strong” year of sales volume and revenue growth following an increase in brand­building investment. McCroskie observes: “We’ve had a bit of a windfall with the weakness of sterling over the year, but if you step back a level and look at trading, it’s really strong for The Macallan, both in top-­line and bottom­-line growth.”

Alongside the significant distillery investment, the brand will continue to pump funds into its Sherry­-cask programme. In 2013, I was told that Edrington spends roughly £16m on Sherry casks each year. When I tell this to McCroskie, he laughs and says: “It’s much more than that now. Stuart [McPherson, The Macallan’s master of wood] spends a lot of time in Jerez because of the scale of this investment. We do obsess about wood because we believe it sets us apart and underwrites the quality of our whisky.” McCroskie adds that Edrington “takes 90% of the output” of most of its partners in Jerez.

Wood, and Spanish oak in particular, has been a long­standing fixation of The Macallan’s, which is famously bottled without caramel colouring. “It’s a very honest approach to whisky,” says McCroskie. “What you see is what you get.”

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