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

4th January, 2018 by Amy Hopkins
Macallan-Sherry-Casks

The Macallan spends millions of pounds annually on Sherry casks

Investing in wood

Spanish oak has become a major finishing trend in the Scotch industry, but The Macallan whiskies usually remain in the same cask from filling to bottling. When one considers that a “very high proportion” of The Macallan spirit is aged in first-­fill Sherry-seasoned casks, the mind boggles at just how much investment is dedicated to Edrington’s wood programme. “The accountant in me sometimes frets about how much we invest in casks,” McCroskie concedes, “but when we look at what it gives us – this quality – without a doubt it’s worth it.”

The Macallan made a bold statement in 2012 when it released the 1824 range, which defined its expressions by colour rather than by age. Will aggressive cask investment mean the creation of more age­-statement products in the future? “The vast majority of our output has an age statement on it already,” answers McCroskie. “We will continue to produce age­-statement products and no-­age-­statement products, simply because without age statements, you can produce wonderful products.”

The brand still has a few special parcels of aged stock up its sleeve. In 2015, The Macallan launched the travel retail exclusive Rare Cask Black, made with whisky from the few mature casks of peated Macallan available. McCroskie explains: “This was a discovery of casks, many of which dated back to the war years when we didn’t have the materials that we have today. It’s still The Macallan, but it’s quite a different take. The reaction has been fantastic, and it really made me think that consumers want to try different takes on brands that they know. Thinking about how we will use precious parcels of stock will certainly continue.”

Old and rare

Last May, The Macallan concluded its luxurious Six Pillars collection with the launch of The Macallan Lalique Peerless Spirit – which at 65­ years ­old is one of the oldest and rarest products ever released by the distillery. When asked if The Macallan has any liquid older than this in its stocks, McCroskie is coy. “We might have,” he laughs. “I couldn’t possibly comment – watch this space.”

Like the vast majority of other luxury spirits, The Macallan’s new product developments usually come in the form of limited editions. But in 2016, the brand added Double Cask 12 Years Old to its core range. The expression is described as a “new take on the signature Sherry oak style of The Macallan”, combining European and American oak. “We want to have a core that’s strong and consistent,” says McCroskie. “There will be developments in the core, but most activity will be in limited editions, because the consumer today demands that. They want to try new things and explore different flavour profiles through different products.”

Macallan-Whisky-collection

Old and rare bottles of The Macallan have been known to sell for eye-watering amounts at auction

As well as its pioneering status in the primary luxury single malt market, The Macallan has carved a strong position on the secondary market. The brand is often among the leading lots of any notable spirits auction – just last month, rare whisky analyst Rare Whisky 101 said The Macallan now accounts for £300 of £1,000 spent on Scotch at auction in the UK. Earlier this year, a bottle of The Macallan Lalique 50 Year Old became the “most expensive non­-charity bottle sold at any UK auction” after fetching more £65,210. Meanwhile, a collection of six Lalique-­bottled Macallan whiskies aged 50­ to 65­ years­ old became the most expensive lot of whisky sold at auction anywhere in the world, after fetching US$993,000 (£769,000).

As whisky becomes an increasingly attractive proposition for investors, commentators have expressed concern over the shockingly rapid price increases on the secondary market. Could The Macallan’s success at auction negatively affect its main business? Might consumers be put off by what they see as its inaccessibility? “Possibly,” replies McCroskie. “Recently, prices have gone up and up and up, and people may think that they are beyond where they should be. But we have no influence over that – it will be what it will be. I think where we are at the moment is helpful, and it sends a positive message.

“I hope it doesn’t change, but we shall see – markets are markets.” Ultimately, he says: “If someone chooses to collect The Macallan, then fine, but I’d rather see the brand consumed and enjoyed.”

Whether for collection or consumption, The Macallan remains one of the most well regarded names in Scotch whisky. How has a brand that is not known for competing on price managed to retain such a popular reputation? “When you look back at the brand over the course of generations, it has always been respected,” McCroskie says. “It was respected for its quality even when it was a malt to buy for use in blends. The fundamental reason for its success has been an obsession with quality and continuing investment in the long-­term to make sure that this quality is sustained for the future. And long may it continue.”

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