June 16, 2016 — You’d have to be crazy to pay $35,000 for a single bottle of Scotch whisky, right? Not really. Apart from being wealthy, you would also be a smart investor.
The Macallan, one of Scotland’s premier distilleries, will be offering just 450 numbered decanters of a 65-year-old single malt whisky worldwide. In the U.S. market, the first of very few will become available in New York in early July. Further enhancing its provenance, “Peerless Spirit” as this release is known, it is the sixth and final masterpiece in the prestigious ‘The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection’.
The distillery and the famous French crystal house, Lalique, combined their talents for craftsmanship and perfection to create the Six Pillars Collection in 2005. That year’s release presented a 50-year-old whisky that paid homage to The Macallan’s exceptional oak casks. The Six Pillars each influence the whisky in its own distinct way: Spiritual Home, Curiously Small Stills, Finest Cut, Exceptional Oak Casks, Natural Color and Peerless Spirit.
The Macallan was founded in 1824 and even as it changed hands several times over the years, it has never departed from its mission to produce exceptional, indeed peerless, single malt whisky. A special variety of barley is a part of the recipe. Called ‘Minstrel”, this barley is sown each spring on 90 acres of the estate’s 390 acres, as well as by growers under contract in Scotland and England. It is used exclusively by The Macallan. The balance is made up by another variety called ‘Concerto’.
The Macallan is unique in the use of very small copper stills, which they describe with a delightful Alice in Wonderland touch, as ‘curiously small stills’. They are the smallest on Speyside and their unique size and shape give the spirit maximum contact with the copper, which acts as a catalyst enhancing sweet, fruity flavors. The ‘curiously small stills’ are so famous that they have appeared on the back of a Bank of Scotland £10 banknote!
One of the most important and costly investments in the production of The Macallan is the use of sherry seasoned oak casks for aging. In some of the newer expressions, bourbon seasoned American oak casks from Heaven Hill Distilleries, Kentucky are used. Prior to the 1950s, sherry was a popular drink and casks were readily available. Now not so much. To work around the shortage, sherry producers make dry oloroso sherry and age it for 18 months in Spanish or new American oak, then distill it into brandy, selling the casks to The Macallan.
The oak not only imparts flavor but also color. Some distillers add caramel color to the spirit to obtain an aged effect. However, all expressions of The Macallan are naturally colored, the palest coming from American oak while the darkest come from aging in Spanish oak. Natural color does not fade with age but maintaining continuity of color is a challenge for the Master Distiller.
Peerless Spirit, the last of the Six Pillars Collection remained in oak for 65 years, making it one of the oldest and rarest single malts ever released by the distillery. It comes from two casks that each evaporated at the rate of about two percent a year, euphemistically dubbed the Angels’ Share in the wine and spirits industry.
Having reached retirement age, this magnificent whisky will reside in a gorgeous crystal decanter whose shape was designed by Lalique to symbolize a single drop of the most precious spirit in the world. Proving that it is, The Macallan accounted for the top 10 priced bottles sold at auction in 2014. Eight of the 10 of these sales were decanters from the Six Pillar Collection according to Whisky Magazine.