I n 1986 I heard that Macallan would be offering up a 60-year old Single Malt Scotch that was distilled in 1926 and bottled 60 years later. That the label would be designed by Peter Blake (of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine fame) was the figurative icing on the cake. The notion that I could acquire a scotch bottled during the roaring 20s elicited a Gatsby-esque desire in me. It seemed both a distant and yet a distinct possibility that this bottle could belong to me.
Upon further research I learned that only one bottle per continent would be released. Twelve bottles in total. I completed the application and was indeed awarded the opportunity to purchase this rare offering. This is how the Peter Blake 1926 Macallan 60 year and I came to belong to each other. These are the logistics. The real romance between us started on my trip to Scotland.
I was invited to Scotland to visit and tour the Macallan distillery. I flew into London, took one train to Glasgow and yet another to Craigellachie for my stay at the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside. My arrival at the famed Craigellachie Hotel was a welcome respite for my travel-weary self. I sat in the bar surrounded by hundreds – and hundreds – of bottles of single malt scotches and became restless with anticipation of what lay ahead.
I decided to walk from the hotel to the Macallan distillery. It was precisely as I had imagined Scotland to be. Mist in the air. Rainbows above. Dew under my feet. The roughly one-and-a-half-mile walk was an endless delight.
Upon my arrival at Macallan I was greeted by several people. Macallan’s managing director Willie Phillips and marketing’s Hugh Mitcalfe became my allies and guides for the day. I was delighted to learn that Sandy Curle, “the Whiskey Maker,” would be joining us later in the day as he was busy tasting whiskeys at the moment.
Although it was 9:00 in the morning, I was offered a drink — and I was enchanted. I was given the grand tour of the facilities and was even offered a tour of Glenlivet by Hugh Mitcalfe who had previously been with that distillery.
After these incredible tours I was escorted back to Macallan and treated to a lunch of locally caught and smoked salmon. I feel I should mention that Macallan sent me smoked salmon for many years after our meeting and it became something of a ceremony for me. Receiving and enjoying the salmon and reliving my hours with those fascinating people.
After lunch Sandy Curle met us in the tasting room and prepared a tasting for me with a span from five years aged all the way to 60 years aged. I learned not only of the nuances of each whiskey but the of the great care and diligence with which Sandy performs his duties as “taster.” He tastes at the same time each day, watches what he eats and prepares mind and body to fully appreciate the task at hand. I asked him what his favorite year was and how he enjoyed his drink. His reply was 18 year with either a drop of water or an ice cube. Believe it if you will – but this is precisely how I take my scotch. Was it a sign? Maybe not. It did, however, solidify in my mind that the entire experience was one that I was destined to have and one that I was worthy of.
Many have inquired about the impressions I left with. The answer is easy. The magnificence of the place is outdone only by the simplicity and attention to detail.
This bottle has been a little bit magical for me. It’s difficult to articulate exactly why. That it is rare and coveted is only a small part of it. The experience in learning of it, acquiring it and visiting its birthplace was a beginning for me. It sparked my obsession with and collection of Macallan bottles, as well as other rare and fine spirits. I became a student of single malt whiskies and have been continuing my education even to this day.
It is my hope that whoever purchases this bottle will appreciate that it is not simply a rare and exquisite spirit. That he or she understands that it is more than just an investment. It is representative of the finer things in life. It represents the life’s work of many people.