Distinction in the Distillation
The uncompromising story behind our curiously small stills
There are times when the choice to do things differently is where the real, deep value lies, even when this deviation goes against conventional thinking. Take our curiously small stills for example...
One of The Macallan’s marks of distinction is what we affectionately refer to as our ‘curiously small’ stills. These small copper stills are one of the defining features of our distillation process, and are one of our Six Pillars – the guiding principles that shape everything we do. Yet the decision to continue operating stills of this size and shape comes at a cost, and in fact they are some of the smallest within the scotch whisky industry. So why keep them?
There is a “purpose to the process”.
These exceptional stills play a significant role in the dense and full-bodied spirit that we make.
The short, squat nature of the stills maximise the contact of the spirit with the copper, helping to concentrate the new-make spirit. As the liquid is heated, the alcohol within boils and turns to vapour, travelling over the neck of the still, where it cools and is condensed back into liquid. With the more common larger and taller stills, the alcohol vapour has a long way to travel. This results in heavier vapours falling back into the boil, with only the lighter vapours finding their way into the condenser. In contrast, with small stills the alcohol vapour doesn’t have very far to travel, enabling us to collect a dense and rich style of spirit. This transition of the spirit through the still is the shortest leg of the long and exceptional journey we choose to make in our unwavering pursuit of an exceptional single malt.
This uniquely dense and full-bodied spirit ensures that we can mature our whiskies for a long time– meaning the spirit has a longer time to soak up all the intricate flavours of our wood casks.
These copper stills are traditional and handmade, and are truly works of art, crafted by coppersmith company Forsyths, located just three miles from the distillery and our trusted stills partners since the 1950s. When we made the decision to build the new distillery, our shared values and principles made them an obvious choice.
Instead of changing the shape or size of our stills, we deliberately chose to fashion the exact same shape, size and lyne arm orientation of our original squat copper stills. This ensures that the character of our new-make spirit is preserved and consistent. There are 24 of these exceptionally crafted spirit stills within the new distillery; each one distinctive, each one Macallan.