Sources of Excellence
The Easter Elchies House: A wise investment
Inside the Spiritual Home of The Macallan
With the passing of time, you learn what really matters in life and what doesn’t; what to hold onto – whether friendships, history, knowledge or goals – and what to let go of. Life, after all, is all about conscious choices – and sacrifices. Easter Elchies House on The Macallan Estate in Speyside is one of those elements of our history that we have chosen to hold onto, invest in and endow with value. Yet despite its celebrated status today, the unassuming house that still graces the premises was once nearly lost to our history.
From unassuming house to turreted mansion
Just above the entrance door, a carved date in stone dates Easter Elchies House all the way back to 1700, although a building in some form may have been present on the site as early as 1543.
Built for Captain John Grant of Elchies as his holiday home, the house graces the hillside above the picturesque River Spey, famous for its salmon fishing beat. Later his grandson (also named John) inherited the estate, and he sold it to the Earl of Findlater and Seafield in 1759. To circle the narrative around again, while the Seafield family took ownership of the estate, Sir Lewis Grant of Grant, kinsman of the original Grants of Easter Elchies later leased the house from the Seafields. Although Easter Elchies House was occupied by various families through the years, it remained under ownership of the Seafield family until the mid-1960s.
Records of the Speyside estate were quiet over the years until 1820, when Alexander Reid rented the house and farm from the Seafields. A man “well known locally for applying the most advanced methods of farming”, Reid had a greater vision for this quiet corner of Speyside. Four years later, and with the full support of the laird, he established the first licenced distillery on the site, although legend has it that whisky had been distilled on the estate for years, to be sold to thirsty cattle drovers before they forded the river on their way to the cattle markets of central Scotland. The distillery was possibly named ‘Macallan’, after the ancient and ruinous church which stands close by, and the former name of the parish. By the time he died in 1847, Reid had established a reputation for the ‘superior quality’ of his whisky.
Times of Upheaval
The distillery changed hands in the years that followed, and was formatively shaped by inimitable figures like Roderick Kemp and the Harbinsons, who saw it through years of global change and turmoil. Information about the fortunes of the grand old house during this time is limited, but by the 1960s when The Macallan bought the house it was in such poor condition that there was the potential to demolish it. This was a feasible option; the house wasn’t a necessary or even a functional part of the distillery, and would require quite a bit of investment to restore it. Yet we chose to turn away from the easier option with all its justification and rationalisations, and pursue an alternative path.
Easter Elchies House was worth investing in, despite appearances to the contrary. It represents so much more than a little piece of history on a portion of land in Speyside; it provides grounding for a kind of wisdom that is only found through dedication and sacrifice. Our Spiritual Home and synonymous with the brand today, it embodies our commitment to remembering the investment and choices that have shaped us and will continue to do so going forward.