How Wood From Two Continents Creates the Peerless Style and Flavour of The Macallan Double Cask

The Macallan & Sharp

People have always had a strong connection to wood and how it shapes our environment. We burn it for warmth, we build houses out of it, and we use its rich, lustrous grain to beautify our most beloved objects, like handcrafted furniture or luxury cars. At The Macallan, however, this elemental material doesn’t just feature prominently in the architecture of their landmark Speyside distillery, it’s also essential to the flavour of the whisky.

While all of The Macallan’s whisky is aged in oak barrels, The Macallan Double Cask range puts the wood centre stage. The best way to appreciate the distinctive warm character, and contemporary soft sweetness of The Macallan Double Cask 15 Years Old and The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old, is to taste it. Just released to Canada, these whiskies are sure to please. However, to truly understand how these rare whiskies attain their unique flavour profile, you need to follow the wood, from acorn to cask.

The Macallan Double Cask barrels

The story of The Macallan Double Cask begins far from the brand’s Scottish homeland, in the American forests of Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio where humid conditions create straight, tall oak trees with a tight grain. Half a world away, in the hilly regions of Northern Spain, heavy rainfall and mild winters provide ideal conditions for European oaks to mature over the course of a century. It’s these trees and their special characteristics that give The Macallan Double Cask much of its flavour — lighter coconut and vanilla notes from the American oak, dried fruit and spice from the Spanish oak — and its rich natural colour.

After being harvested and cut, the wood is transported to Jerez de la Frontera — the heart of Spain’s sherry wine country — where it’s aged for another year before undergoing its next transformation at the hands of The Macallan’s master coopers, who use fire, water, and steam to expertly alter the raw oak staves into barrels. After being inspected and approved by The Macallan’s Master of Wood, Stuart MacPherson, the barrels are then filled with Spanish sherry wine and left to mature. The specific qualities of Spanish and American oak means that each type of barrel will influence the sherry wine in a different way as it slowly seasons, while taking on the rich sweet notes of sun-ripened Spanish grapes in the process. After more than a year, when this maturation is complete, the barrels are emptied and shipped to Scotland for the most important step of the journey.

The Macallan barrels
Credit: Steve McCurry

At The Macallan Estate in Speyside, the former sherry wine barrels are filled with new-make spirit from The Macallan’s copper stills, and laid to rest in the distillery’s cool, quiet warehouses. During the aging process, The Macallan’s Whisky Mastery Team carefully monitor the whisky’s progress, sampling and evaluating each barrel for the distinct flavours that make up The Macallan Double Cask expressions.

With a golden butterscotch hue, The Macallan Double Cask 15 Years Old leads with aromas of dried fruit, toffee, and vanilla, with a creamy mouthfeel and a warming finish. The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old, meanwhile, has a richer, deeper amber colour, with notes of dried fruit, ginger, and toffee, balanced by citrus flavours and a warm, spicy finish.

“Nothing compares to a whisky that brings the comfort of something familiar, yet delivers beyond expectations,” says Cameron Millar, The Macallan Brand Ambassador. “That is what you get from the The Macallan Double Cask 15 Years Old and The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old. They are simply sublime.” This result is owed to many skilled hands; from the foresters in Kentucky, the sherry makers and coopers in Spain, to the Whisky Mastery Team in Scotland. None of it, however, would be possible without the most important element of all: the wood.

Bottles of The Macallan Double Cask range
Credit: Brilynn Ferguson

Lead Image: Steve McCurry


The Macallan