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Curious Details

Back to our roots: Macallan the Malt Part 2

E600CA23-A5CF-4F30-BC0F-7E8B830451E0@2x Nov 16 2018 · 3 min read

Our story has deep roots, and this is something we choose to honor and continue to invest in. This history has shaped what we are, and is the means through which we choose to shape our future – whether it’s our processes, or our communications.

When we first chose to step onto the global stage as a single malt whisky, we had to make decisions about how we would find and relate to our audience through advertising. The admen responsible for the campaign in the 70s and 80s, David Holmes and Nick Salaman, realised that a precedent had been set by our very first ad. It used line drawings in black and white which was an advantage in small space allocated in The Times. The easygoing copy used a distinctive, sometimes witty, almost scholarly, tone of voice, and helped to tell The Macallan story in a manner at once informative, convincing and ‘clubbable’. Furthermore, nobody else was doing it!

MACALLAN malt advertising history illustration of men with barrel
MACALLAN the malt advertising history photo of david holmes and nick salaman
MACALLAN the malt advertising history illustration of distillery in speyside

Weather that’s Made for Whisky

On being shown around the distillery in Speyside, which nestles on the side of a valley watched over by the distant peaks of the Grampian Mountains, Salaman and Holmes had latched onto a remark made by the Distillery Manager at the time concerning a tradition that ‘whisky is best made in raw weather.’ This tradition goes all the way back to the days of Alexander Reid’s in 1824, when he used to distill whisky in the off-season after harvesting was finished for the year.

As an encouragement to the distillery to ‘keep up the good work’, nature ensured that the neighboring peak of Ben Rinnes (2,759 ft and normally visible to the south of the distillery) was snow-covered six months of the year and seemingly providing the ‘raw weather’ suited to whisky making. While the setting provided inspiration for these two creative admen in conceptualising the campaign, within the distillery the temperature of the liquid in each stage is actually an essential part of the distilling and maturation process. Conscious awareness and monitoring ensures a malt at the peak of perfection for, and at, all seasons.

In one ad they came up with they used an old illustration from a Victorian era edition of ‘Punch’ (a British satirical magazine) showing urchins scooping up snow from the ground. Nestled in a crowded Times page, the striking ad must have hit the reader like a snowball between the eyes!

It was often said: 'these little Macallan ads had the punch of a full page and more'.

MACALLAN the malt advertising history illustration of men scooping snow.

Drawing from history as well as geography for the campaign, Salaman and Holmes noted that 19th Century cattle drovers used to stop at The Macallan on the way south, a wee dram of our whisky, providing a favorite punctuation point for the traveller, then as now, whether as a golden comma or a satisfying full stop at the end of the day. The Macallan’s home, it seemed, was of the essence, and a foundational place to start the campaign.

Even the wee-est dram of The Macallan could be described (possibly not by the drovers) as ‘multum in parvo’ or, as Wordsworth might have said ‘glory in the glass’!

Nick Salaman, Copywriter

As the campaign went on, we continued to draw from our history set deep in the rolling hills of Speyside. While our means of communicating and engaging with Macallan drinkers has evolved with the times, we still hold onto and preserve this history and the lessons learned through it, choosing for it be a part of everything that is to come.


The Macallan Archival Series

Commemorating the legendary Macallan advertising campaigns of the 1970s, 80s and 90s that took The Macallan name to a wider audience for the first time. First released in 2015, the series is comprised of 24 individual releases.

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