Macallan’s Oldest Ever Whisky Proves Many Hands Don’t Always Make Light Work

Old gold.

Macallan’s Oldest Ever Whisky Proves Many Hands Don’t Always Make Light Work

Image: The Macallan

For the first time in 81 years, the storied Scottish distillery, The Macallan, has released its oldest-ever whisky, The Reach; a whisky that’s survived wars, rationing and eras of prohibition, to be released at the perfect time.

There’s an old adage that I’ve long been fond of that suggests, “Many hands make light work.” This is true for many things tasks that perhaps won’t stand the test of time, but this isn’t something you could attribute to the fine art of whisky making.

But like with anything that requires a period of maturation to reach a final product, a deep commitment and passion are essential to realise the shared vision.

Through generations, the spirit of whisky must be shared and cared for by countless custodians within the distillery’s family; to honour its legacy and shared vision to make something truly unique in its production and unrivalled in flavour.

Image: McAteer Photograph 

The Macallan The Reach was the product of a nation torn apart by war; a period of immense uncertainty and sacrifice. Following the declaration of World War II, the UK government imposed on whisky production and sale of whisky, opting instead to use the barley produced to feed the nation.

From 1940 to 1944, distilleries were simply prohibited from producing whisky to the point that almost no Scottish whisky was made during this era – unless done so illegally.

“The Reach is an incomparable single malt whisky that reflects an extraordinary moment in time and exemplifies the enduring spirit that has been at the heart of the brand for almost 200 years,” The Macallan Master Whisky Maker Kirsteen Campbell told DMARGE.

“Crafted during the Second World War in a period of increasing hardship, The Reach was laid to rest in 1940 before The Macallan was compelled to close its doors for the first time in its history.”

Following the events of the Second World War, small distilleries – like The Macallan was at the time – were under immense financial pressure to sell what little stock they had left in storage to larger operations in order to survive.

Image: The Macallan

Through unrelenting hardship, The Macallan leadership persevered, resisting the urge to make short-term gains in this post-war era. For 81 years, The Macallan sherry-seasoned oak cask barrels that held its most prized possession stood idle, protected and maintained, allowed to mature for something truly special.

“Its very existence is a testament to the care and commitment to uncompromised excellence that has driven The Macallan since it was founded in 1824,” Kirsteen Campbell continued. “It also pays tribute to those who strived amid great adversity to resume distilling The Macallan’s spirit, as well as the craftspeople today who continue to uphold the brand’s values.”

Kirsteen Campbell first joined The Macallan in 2019 after years spent with the brand’s Scottish parent company, Edrington, and was implemented as the distillery’s first female Master Whisky Maker in its nearly 200-year history.

With experience in food science, a keen nose for nuanced flavour profiles – and a proud Scottish heritage – Campbell found that whisky and its rich history were in her blood. Quickly making her mark on the famous whisky brand, Campbell would then make a decision that had been more than eight decades in the making.

“In 2019, I became Master Whisky Maker for The Macallan. I was responsible for handpicking the cask to create what is now, The Reach, which has been very special moment in my career.”

As a custodian of the distillery’s famed heritage, Campbell was careful to select the perfect barrel, at the perfect moment for this truly perfect release.

Image: The Macallan

Only 288 bottles were made available of the Macallan The Reach; it serves as a lasting reminder of the expert craftsmanship that was deployed throughout its care, ensuring that the final product is the perfect reflection of the times from which it was first conceived.

Expert care and attention have gone into the maturation process of the liquid, auburn gold; for Kirsteen Campbell and her team, the shared responsibility was expertly handled to understand how flavours will develop and evolve over time. Research was conducted into the cask, the aging process and the conditions that could affect the quality of the final product.

“We work really closely with our scientific colleagues. I have a degree in food science as well, so it’s a special combination of creativity and science, which we also have throughout the team,” Campbell told DMARGE.

“The Macallan has been recognised for its outstanding quality above all else. Today, this remains the foundation for the worldwide recognition, so it is our responsibility to build on the close to 200 years of history of the brand and to continue the legacy.”

“The Macallan has now unveiled The Reach to the world; an incomparable single malt whisky that reflects an extraordinary moment in time and exemplifies the enduring spirit that has been at the heart of the brand for almost 200 years.”

Image: The Macallan

The result? A rare single malt that has peacefully waited and matured for 81 years; The Reach is the oldest whisky ever released by The Macallan, crafted from a single, sherry-seasoned oak cask.

“Its deep auburn hue is the first hint of this remarkable whisky’s astonishing depth. Offering notes of dark chocolate, sweet cinnamon and aromatic peat, leading on to treacle toffee, crystalised ginger and charred pineapple, before giving way to an intensely rich, sweet and smoky finish.”

The Macallan The Reach is a reflection of the whisky maker’s enduring commitment to its inherent traditional values; serving as a tribute to the unwavering care and respect shown to this aged cask throughout rich history.

“We’re so steeped in history and heritage, and we’re governed by Scotch whisky regulations, which in some ways limit what you can do, but it also protects us as well,” Campbell said. “For The Macallan, it’s a combination of our philosophy of art and science, so it’s being creative and using the stocks that have been laid down for us, but it’s also having that eye for detail.”

Image: The Macallan

To celebrate the release, three bottles have been made available in Australia. Each is housed in a mouth-blown glass decanted, and supported by a unique bronze sculpture depicting three hands holding up the precious single cask product.

One hand remembers the Macallan distillery’s workers in 1940 the first conceived of, and protected the spirit more than eight decades ago. The second represents the brand’s former chairman, Allan Shiach, whose grandfather helmed the brand when The Reach was first laid to rest. The third honours Kirtseen Campbell, for her unwavering commitment to the preservation of The Reach’s incredible story and for sharing the whisky with the world.

Whilst it’s impossible to imagine how many hands would have been involved in the production of the Macallan The Reach over the eight decades that it’s been conceived, surviving wars, financial struggles, changes in the law, and, let’s face it, people, to be released today, in Australia, at its most perfect time in history, the final release of The Macallan The Reach has been anything but light work.