Edrington, the global premium spirits company, has unveiled the new distillery and visitor experience for The Macallan, part of a £500 million spend on the brand.

DRN got an early look at the new “architectural wonder” distillery, which cost £140 million to build over a period of four years. The distillery is located on the Easter Elchies estate in Speyside, which has been home to the luxury single malt since 1824.

The new distillery is the first on Speyside to be designed by an internationally acclaimed architect. Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners was selected to lead the project after Macallan launched an international competition.

Ken Grier, creative director, The Macallan, told DRN: “This is a legendary moment in the history of Macallan. We wanted to make a statement and to do that takes a great leap of faith and Macallan has always done this; it has been in the brand’s DNA. We are in the legacy business. I don’t think anyone else has the audacity or the commitment to do this.

“We want to be the ultimate luxury spirit in the world’s leading cities. There is a vision for this estate that spans across the next 50 years; we have 150 hectares of gorgeous land here and we really want to bring this to life. We are always seeking to evolve and to be slightly ahead of our competitors. And all of us who work here are proud that the brand is strong and that it is the most collected whisky brand.”

It is expected that visitor numbers will double in the first year and will continue to rise thereafter.

Grier added: “At the moment we have 12,500 visitors a year and we think this will increase considerably. We will be restricting tours to 12 people at a time but we will be increasing the hours that we run tours to 8pm at night and we will do these across more days. We are very much about the quality experience and there is a lot to see.”

The distillery project was announced in 2012 and work started in December 2014. The first whisky ran through the stills in December last year and the visitor experience section will open its doors to the public on June 2, 2018.

The new distillery will also enable production of The Macallan to increase by a third if required. The new stills were crafted by Scottish coppersmiths Forsyths, who have been making the brand’s distinctive, ‘curiously small’ still for The Macallan since the 1950s.

Ian Curle, chief executive, Edrington, said: “This is an exciting occasion for Edrington and The Macallan. The unsurpassed quality of The Macallan is in high demand and we face the future confidently with this new distillery. It is an authentic, abiding, ambitious investment that will match consumer expectations for generations to come.

“When the doors open in June, we expect this new Macallan enterprise to deliver significant benefits for the tourism industry, Scotch whisky experts, and the economy.”

The visitor experience area also includes a whisky and a cocktail bar as well as a section for retail. It also it includes a number of striking features, such as a wall of 840 archived bottles. Graham Stirk – senior partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners – said: “We wanted it to look a bit like a Tim Burton movie with big high shadows.”

At the whisky bar visitors can choose from 952 drams, while 284 different bottles make up the core retail collection, along with branded merchandise and gifts. There are also two VIP rooms and a cellar, which contains 140 casks as part of an owners cask programme.  

The new facility forms a major part of the company’s planned £500 million investment into The Macallan, which also includes an increased spend on warehousing and the brand’s signature sherry-seasoned oak casks.

Elgin-based Robertson Construction delivered the complex architectural design, working with 25 contractors to bring the vision for the new distillery and visitor experience to life. During construction, up to 400 people specialising in more than 20 different trades were employed on site. The undulated timber roof structure is described by the producer as “one of the more complicated timber roof structures in the world”; it comprises 380,000 individual components.

Ken Grier, creative director, The Macallan, said: “As The Macallan has grown globally it has been very important that we make sure we can sustain demand for this wonderful amber liquid. We have taken exceptional care in making sure that the spirit that is produced in the new distillery is identical to the spirit that we produced in our previous distillery. This is the beginning of a really exciting new chapter in the evolution of this wonderful brand that is The Macallan.”