Planet Whiskies Tour of The Macallan Distillery | The Six Pillars Tour | April, 2014
Planet Whiskies Tour Around The Macallan Distillery
On Saturday April 12th the Planet Whiskies team woke up in Grantown-on-Spey after a great sleep in the Speyside Town. Today was the day we were going to see some of the finest distilleries in the Speyside region and there was a bounce in our steps in anticipation of these visits. The first distillery of the day was The Macallan Distillery and all concerned were so excited about the fact that we were visiting this famous Speyside distillery today and having a private tour around the facilities, and of course the whisky tasting of The Macallan malts after the tour.
On arrival at the distillery we went straight to the Macallan shop where we introduced ourselves as Planet Whiskies and were given a special welcome by The Macallan team. After the introductions we walked around the whisky shop taking photos of the different kinds of The Macallan malts on offer, and as you can imagine the selection was tremendous. We had a discussion about which malts may be later introduced in the whisky tasting and also which malts we hoped would be included. Another five minutes passed and we were called to the front desk as we were about to start the exciting tour around the distillery and finally see the process of making The Macallan Single Malt. This tour was called The Six Pillars Tour.
We had two tour guides who were going to show the Planet Whiskies team around the ins and outs of The Macallan and we could not wait to see what was behind the warehouse doors and the producing building of one of Scotland's most famous malt whisky brands. There are nine tour guides in total at The Macallan, two of whom are part time, who are on hand to show whisky lovers from across the world around the facilities.
The beginning of the tour took us downhill, along a road towards the main producing part of the distillery. As this is a working distillery on the way down the road a truck passed us with a delivery of the latest barley crop to be used in the production of their malt whisky.
After a three minute walk down the road we went up around 15 stairs to a glass door where Kat (one of the tour guides) gave us an introduction to the facilities around The Macallan and the history surrounding this stunning distillery. The history of The Macallan dates back to 1700 when Easter Elchies House, which lies in the middle of The Macallan estate, was built. To find out more about the history please go to The Macallan "the story" section. Kat explained to us all about the water supply to the distillery and how 150,000 litres of water go through the distillery each day in the making of the whisky. One million litres of water a day is taken from the River Spey for the cooling down condensers and is then recycled back into the River Spey. All of this water produces up to 10 million litres of malt whisky a year to keep the world in supply of the famous The Macallan brand.
When we walked through the glass door the heat and smell of malted barley which greeted us was truly amazing. Kat started explaining the process of making The Macallan malt whisky and showed us how the barley was processed and the stages of fermentation of the barley. Kat was very good at explaining everything to us and took her time when talking us through the different processes involved.
Quick Summary of the process of making The Macallan
In a quick summary she explained how the barley is soaked for two days to start the germination process, then it is dried. This process activates the enzymes which convert the starch into soluble sugars. The malted barley is milled into grist, which is then mixed with hot water in the mash tun. This process of mashing is repeated three times at different temperatures each time, to ensure all the sugars are dissolved. This produces a sugary liquid called wort. The wort is mixed with yeast in a washback and fermentation takes place, this results in a liquid called wash, which is around 8% alcohol by volume. After this process the stills are used and heat is added, this makes the alcohol start to evaporate from the wash. After the first distilling process, the first distillate has passed through a condenser and the alcohol is about 25%. This then passes through a spirit still, and the process is repeated and the alcohol increases to 69-72%. There are 7 wash stills and 14 spirit stills in production at The Macallan distillery.
The casks which are used in storing The Macallan malt whisky are 80% sherry casks and 20% bourbon casks. The sherry casks start off holding sherry for two years and are then sent to Scotland and once received, they are filled with the new spirit for maturation. Only the best will do for The Macallan and the proof of that is in the malt it produces at the end of the distilling process.
The tour was now becoming even more educational as we headed to another two buildings which showed the process of whisky making in much more detail. From the different size casks that were used, to showing how the whisky is cooled in a smaller scale production model. We were then taken to a tasting area where we could taste all the possible flavours which could be in The Macallan malts, from chocolate to vanilla. There were about 15 different flavours to taste and it really showed how the flavours can affect the final product produced.
There is somuch to write about with this second part of the tour and to give it justice you are better to go there and see it yourself. The picture above shows you an insight as to what is on offer during this part of the tour.
The whole tour at The Macallan is an excellently run production and the facilities onsite shows how well this is all put together. They have spent a lot of money in providing these tours with the facilities on offer to the public and you finish the tour by heading into the storage warehouse and seeing the casks maturing. It is all a fantastic experience and if you love your Scottish whisky a visit to The Macallan distillery is a must on your to do list.
Finally it was on to the whisky tasting and we were all in for a treat. We were given five "malts" from The Macallan core range to try at a lovely bar setup at the back of The Macallan shop and Kat introduced each malt before we did the tasting. When saying we were given five malts to try this is not quite true as the first one was the 69-72% rich new make spirit that was produced before the maturing process started. The other four malts were lovely to the nose and the taste was well worth waiting for. The four malts we tasted were The Macallan Select Oak, The Macallan Amber, The Macallan 15 Year Old Fine Oak and The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Oak.
We had to make sure we had a glass of water between each of the tastings so we could taste the full depth of the malt by itself.
The whole morning at The Macallan was a wonderful experience and one that I would like to do again in the future. Planet Whiskies would recommend calling The Macallan on +44 1340 872 280 to book a tour when you have the chance.
Below are some further details of the tour that the Planet Whiskies team went on from The Macallan website:
New for 2014 – The Six Pillars Tour
"Much like our curiously small stills, our small groups are limited to just 10 people to ensure a luxurious, personal experience. Your friendly and knowledgeable guide will explain how we create The Macallan's rich spirit in a working still house and introduce you to the ‘Six Pillars’. You will learn how our unparalleled investment in the finest casks contributes to the natural colours, aromas and flavours that set The Macallan apart. After a thorough immersion into the world of The Macallan, you will experience a nosing and tasting of four The Macallan whiskies as well as their very foundation, our wonderfully rich new make spirit".
Tour duration: approx. 2 hours 15 minutes.
Price per person - £15
To book please call +44 1340 872 280.
Below are just six of The Macallan range available to buy. If you want to see the more - Click Here