The long journey from acorn to glass begins in the forests of Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias in northern Spain. In these ancient forest grow the mighty Spanish oaks that one day will provide some of the casks in which The Macallan Fine Oak is matured. From this rich timber, the logs are quarter sawn to provide the ‘stave’ lengths and the air-dried, firstly in the north and the in the south of Spain. The staves are then fashioned by hand into casks in the cooperages of Jerez, where traditional toasting changes the chemistry of the wood, adding another vital ingredient to maturation.
To season the cask and draw out the harsher tannins, some casks will be filled for a few months with ‘mosto’, the young, lightly fermenting wine produced immediately after the grape harvest in late August, early September. The cask is then emptied and filled with dry oloroso sherries. The sherry is left to season the cask for up to eighteen months.
Very unusually, The Macallan Fine Oak also uses a proportion of American oak sherry casks. These are handcrafted from timber sourced in the ancient woodlands of Eastern Untied States, sawn into staves in Kentucky and shipped to Jerez, Spain, where they are made into casks and seasoned with sherry.
The Macallan also sources casks crafted from American oak and seasoned with premium bourbon for up to eight years.
All casks, whether Spanish or American oak, sherry or bourbon seasoned, are emptied and begin their long journey to The Macallan distillery in Speyside, Scotland. Once the casks arrive they are filled with the clear, distinctively rich, Macallan ‘new make’ spirit.
Each cask will influence its contents in different ways. American oak casks, seasoned with bourbon or sherry, impart a subtle, delicate color with hints of apple, floral, vanilla and sweet citrus aromas and flavors. Spanish oak casks, seasoned with sherry, impart a deep, rich color with aromas and flavors of dried fruit, spice and chocolate orange.
The unique attributes of each cask and The Macallan’s unwavering commitment to natural color, presents Bob Dalgarno, The Macallans Whiskey Maker, with the complex challenge of ensuring consistent quality, character and color year after year. To achieve this, Bob and his team sample thousands of individual casks to select those that will finally be married together prior to bottling.
Text: AMURA ± Photo: Cortesía de la marca, Mariano O.