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Inside the Macallan’s fine and rare whisky collection

March 27, 2022, 10:00 AM UTC

Whiskey sales, especially those for Scotch whisky, have been mixed since the onset of the pandemic. But even well before the arrival of COVID-19, premium spirits producers have been developing highly-curated, exclusive catalogs intended to draw in collectors with bigger budgets.

Among the most well-stocked collections is that of single-malt Scotch whisky maker The Macallan. First assembled in 2002, The Macallan Fine and Rare Collection is currently comprised of 58 individual releases, spanning eight decades, from 1926 through 1990. These vintages are only available in very limited quantities, coming predominantly from single casks, and only a small number of bottles are released each year.

Raquel Raies, regional education manager for The Macallan, overseeing all brand ambassadors in the U.S., described experiencing the Fine and Rare collection as “taking a journey back in time to celebrate something spectacular.”

“One of the greatest things about my role is sharing special moments with people, and those moments are made even more exceptional with exceptional whisky,” says Raies, who became the first ever female U.S. national brand ambassador for The Macallan in 2016.

The Macallan Fine and Rare collection was established to showcase prestigious and vintage whiskies.
Courtesy of The Macallan

The Macallan Fine and Rare 1990 is the latest addition to what the brand touts is the largest vintage-dated collection of single-malt whiskies worldwide. Filled in 1990 and bottled in 2021, this particular vintage is presented at its natural cask strength after being matured in a single sherry seasoned American oak butt cask for 30 years.

The spirit that goes into the wood is actually completely clear. The magic happens in the cask—a point of pride for The Macallan as the house follows a much more rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive process compared to its competitors. 

“Nearly everything you see and everything you taste comes from the wood,” Raies stresses. “It’s these precious vessels that can stand the test of time and why we are in a rare position to not only take you back in time, but you’ll also be able to taste time. It’s quite special.”

The Macallan doesn’t buy pre-made casks but commissions to have them made from scratch, sourcing its oak from Highland, Ky. and northern Spain. 

Essentially, it takes five years to make one cask especially for The Macallan—and 80% of the casks used are only used one time. And even then, only 20% are used twice. That is because, as Raies explains, the freshness and quality of the cask is all about imparting color, flavor, character, personality into the whisky.

“It’s the oak that gives all of this flavor and color. The journey that we take to make these casks is one like no other,” Raies says. “The journey truly begins when an acorn fell to the ground of the forest 100 years ago.”

The Fine and Rare collection on display at the Macallan estate in Scotland.
Tim Walker

Once the oak trees are grown, The Macallan says it harvests them sustainably, cutting them into staves to make casks. To preserve the integrity of this wood that fosters all the color and the flavors, the wood is allowed to air-dry naturally for one year before being shipped to Jerez, the Spanish region famous for producing sherry, a fortified wine. All the staves are left there for another year to dry. Once dried, the casks are crafted and filled with dry, oloroso sherry. These casks are left to have this specific sherry season the wood for two more years. At that point, the casks are emptied and make their way up to Speyside, Scotland, where casks are finally filled with spirit for maturation.

As a result of those casks, the 1990 has a distinct, 100% natural rosewood hue. Once in the glass, the 1990 is ready to drink with an absolutely sublime and smooth mouthfeel, filled with aromas of honey, vanilla, and caramelized apple. The palate is even more complex with tasting notes of orange and almond, with hints of nutmeg, licorice and leather, followed by gentle finish.

The 1990 Edition, Macallan’s newest addition to its Fine & Rare Collection of exceptional single malt whiskies.
Courtesy of Macallan

Only 467 bottles of the Fine and Rare 1990 are available. Each bottle features the cask number, year of distillation, and year of bottling printed on the label, while the age, strength and volume are all handwritten in keeping with the tradition that began when the collection was born. And each bottle is encased in an FSC-certified European oak presentation box.

Available now, The Macallan 1990 Edition has a suggested retail price starting at $17,921. Interested buyers can seek out a bottle of their own via The Macallan’s retail boutiques worldwide and online as well as through a few select and exclusive retailers, bars, and restaurants.

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