The Reach marks a historical unveiling of The Macallan’s oldest single malt whisky that was laid to rest in 1940 during the Second World War, before the distillery had to close for the first time. The 81 Years Old, aged in a single sherry seasoned oak cask, comes in a mouth-blown glass decanter sitting in a bronze sculpture by Saskia Robinson in the shape of three hands.
Representing the workers of 1940, who were the first hands in the making of The Reach more than eight decades ago, the former chairman Allan Shiach, and current Master Whisky Maker Kirsteen Campbell. Part whisky and part sculpture, The Reach comes in its own cabinet made from wood of a fallen elm tree that’s thought to be from The Macallan Estate in 1940.
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We speak to Campbell, who’s also the first female Master Whisky Maker at The Macallan, for her thoughts on The Macallan The Reach Single Malt Whisky.
Could you explain to us your involvement in crafting The Reach?
The creation of many hands, The Reach has been a truly collaborative effort. It’s also a tribute to the people who made this precious whisky, and their enduring spirit.
In my role as Master Whisky Maker for The Macallan, it has been a privilege to work with colleagues and incredible artisans to bring this whisky to life. It was inspirational seeing first-hand how Saskia Robinson fused the story of our whisky into sculpture form, in their own unique style. We take pride in nurturing the next generation of Scottish craftsmanship by working with such a talented, young artist.
To achieve the uncompromised excellence that is demonstrated in The Reach and across our portfolio, there was a huge level of collaboration across so many teams, and we are all very honoured to see The Reach become a reality.
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How did you decide on when to bottle the whisky?
While every whisky has a story to tell, none can be more extraordinary than The Reach. Across our whiskies we carry out detailed assessments on a regular basis and adopt an even more meticulous approach for our oldest casks – carefully checking, monitoring, and managing our aged stocks. We decide on a whisky’s peak maturity by working as a team to deep dive into the whisky by undertaking a detailed nosing and tasting, which was the process for The Reach. Through this detailed assessment we build our understanding of how flavours are created and how flavours evolve through time, and when is the optimum time that each cask should be released.
With a deep auburn colour, this single malt has a gentle smoothness. There are so many flavours on the nose. For me, there’s rich dark chocolate, orange marmalade, plums, sweet cinnamon, and leather. There is also a rich, sweet smokiness which gives a nod to the spirit’s history. As coal supplies dwindled in 1940 and were diverted towards the war effort, the distillery fell back on older, traditional ways of generating heat and this subtle smoky note is attributable to the peat that would have been used when malting the barley and firing the stills. On the palate, we have treacle toffee, bramble jam, crystalised ginger, nutmeg, charred pineapple, and that hint of woodsmoke.
How significant is The Reach to the Macallan brand?
Created during a turbulent time in the world, this extraordinary expression showcases The Macallan’s history, ingenuity, and unmistakable strength of character.
To raise a glass of The Reach to your lips is to drink liquid history, it’s hard to put into words just how special it is. This whisky is an ambassador of an era, a place, and a celebration of people, dedicated to crafting nothing less than the finest single malt.
The Reach is truly the light work of many hands, and it’s an honour to be part of its legacy.
As the inspiration for one of the three hand sculptures on the bottle, what do you represent in the world of Macallan?
The sculpture of three hands presents three characters to tell the story of The Macallan’s legacy.
One commemorates the Distillery workers of 1940 who carefully laid the whisky down to mature, in challenging times, over eight decades ago. Another is the hand of one-time chairman, Allan Shiach, who is steeped in the history of The Macallan and whose grandfather owned the Distillery in the 1940s when this spirit was first crafted into existence and consigned to its cask.
The third is my own, representing the selection of the exquisite whisky, and it is purposefully designed as if the hand is set to open the stopper. This represents a gesture to ‘offer’ this exceptional whisky and that now is the time to share it with the world.
How long did this project take to come to fruition? Were there any challenges?
Due to the natural complexity of this release, stretching across the innate craftsmanship, quality, and rarity, this was a release in the planning for several years. The Reach is a truly collaborative endeavour of some of Scotland’s most esteemed and talented craftspeople.
To work on The Reach has most definitely been one of the highlights of my career – it’s hard to put into words how truly special this whisky is. The expression encapsulates the spirit of The Macallan and the timeless nature of our mastery and craftsmanship, which continues to this day.
Since taking on the role of Master Whisky Maker at Macallan in 2019, are there any trends you’ve observed?
One of the key trends within the single malt category is premiumisation, and I believe The Macallan has been at the forefront of this trend.
Over the years, and with a meticulous dedication to quality, The Macallan has built a reputation as one of the most premium and sought-after whiskies. It has been humbling to see our craftsmanship recognised globally.
What are your plans for the future?
Since joining The Macallan in 2019, I have been privileged to be involved in some incredible projects already. Many of the decisions we take as the Whisky Mastery team impact future generations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We have a role to continue to leave a legacy, as many of the previous custodians have done before us.
I am very much looking forward to continuing to deliver our exciting future projects and innovations.