Interview: the man behind The Macallan’s new Colour Collection, lead whisky maker Euan Kennedy

As The Macallan launches a new age-statement series, we speak with lead whisky maker Euan Kennedy about the importance of casks and the creativity behind the Colour Collection

Founded in 1824, The Macallan is often regarded among the oldest and best whisky brands in Speyside, Scotland – if not the world.

Today, 1 September, The Macallan launches its new range, the first age-statement series in some time and available exclusively via global travel retail. Named the Colour Collection, the series showcases a new look for the brand, with a unique bottle shape and elegant design. Celebrating the brand’s commitment to natural colour and sherry seasoning, the range has been brought to life in partnership with famed US graphic designer David Carson.

Ahead of the launch, we sat down with The Macallan’s lead whisky maker, Euan Kennedy to hear more about the collection, and why the casks are the real star of the series…

How long has this been in the making?
The Colour Collection is a really significant launch for us, bringing age statement back into the global travel retail environment is quite a big step and one we’re really excited about. Whisky’s a long term game, so though it’s been in discussions for a while, there wasn’t a seminal moment, more of a growing desire.

We spent time thinking through the flavours, the inspiration and how we tie to that. Ultimately, its about how we as whisky makers connect with the whisky we’re making and deliver on that for the people round the world that want to try it.

Fair to say, it’s been a number of years in the making and for me personally, it’s massively exciting to see it come to life. Hopefully the stars have aligned – we’ll see what the feedback is!

Can you tell us a bit about what makes the Colour Collection so different from The Macallan’s other ranges?
For me, what’s brilliant about the Colour Collection as a series is that it brings a real cohesion to our offerings, it really ties up our domestic and global travel retail offerings. The Colour Collection is led from a flavour perspective by American oak sherry-seasoned casks, whereas something like our Sherry Oak is European-led, and then our Double Cask sits in the middle. It creates a cohesive perspective in terms of really providing an education to The Macallan drinkers all round the world, that’s the real point of difference for me.

You get this really lovely citrusy, sweet, vibrant, almost tropical notes in this collection, that will change at the different age points, but really driven by that American oak.

This is available in travel retail. Is there a particular customer or audience you had in mind when creating this collection?
Yes! It’s really for someone whose got that desire to explore. For me, that’s what I find exciting about travel; it’s that opportunity to see the world a little bit. Hopefully by offering this in global travel retail it’s providing someone with that same kind of mindset to explore the Macallan in a new way.

The casks are front and centre of this collection. Can you tell us a bit more about them and their role in making this collection so unique?
Yes, so they’re American Oak casks – its quite unusual for those to be sherry seasoned, so it was a real investment on our part to explore the flavour nuances that you get there. Oak is sourced from most of the eastern side of the US, it all comes to Jerez where we have really strong relationships with bodegas and cooperages. The casks are then sherry seasoned to our exact specifications, we’re really clear on the style of sherry we’re after, and it spends 18 months with sherry in that cask. Then, and as soon as possible – we’re really on top of that process – we transport that fresh sherry-seasoned cask from Jerez, where it’s been patiently waiting, to The Macallan and fill it on the estate with our new make spirit. That’s the cask journey if you like.

It’s your first age-statement in a while. Can you tell us about why the return to age statements and why now?
I wouldn’t say it’s about going back, I’d say it’s about going forward. With this collection in particular we really wanted to shed the light on natural colour in a bold way. There’s a real understanding – this is the brilliant natural colour we get when we combine those two things [American Oak casks and sherry seasoning]. To tie that in with age statement seemed like the sensible thing to do.

The collection has been brought to life by famed US graphic designer David Carson. Can you tell us about David’s involvement and what that meant to you?
When you look at someone like David – taking a step back from whisky for a second – it’s amazing to be in a collaboration with a personality like that. This is a long standing relationship and he’s the natural person. You can see his collage and textured interpretation of art ties in really strongly to our mentality when we create whiskies; you’re really looking to pick and combine the right casks, at the right time, with the right flavour. There’s a complexity there that’s got really nice parallels, and the way he represents us is really special.

You’ve been working with The Macallan since early last year. Can you tell us a little more about how you got there. How did you discover your passion for whisky?
I was really lucky to have the opportunity to do a lot of travelling when I was younger. I was fascinated by the fact that on every bar round the world, every airport – speaking of travel retail – the whisky was there. There was a real presence there and I found it amazing that Scottish culture had transcended in that way.

For me to now get the opportunity to work with The Macallan, such a renowned whisky, its hugely exciting. I want to be a part of it and, with the team, put our stamp on things for the future of The Macallan.

I’m sure our readers will be interested to hear what you’re drinking at the moment. Do you have a favourite whisky? And how do you enjoy it?
I always say ‘the next one will be my favourite’. What I’ve got at home right now that I’m absolutely loving is the Double Cask, but the next time I go to an airport, if I’m treating myself, it’ll be the Colour Collection 21.

Honestly, my favourite way to drink The Macallan is with friends in a way that suits the group and the mood. The 15, maybe a touch of water, that’ll do me fine.

Following on from that then, who’s the most memorable person you’ve ever shared a dram with?
I don’t think I’m allowed to say! We get some amazing collaborators, clients and guests, I’ll keep schtum on some of that – there’s really exciting things down the line…

Speaking personally, the favourite person I’ve drank Macallan with was actually my grandfather. I find whisky to be personal and I encourage everyone who dives into the world of whisky and The Macallan to share it with friends, make those personal connections.

We’ve been talking Global Travel Retail. What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I had a very memorable experience in Morocco a few years ago; it’s a fascinating country. I went with a group of friends and just explored. I almost feel the destination doesn’t matter too much, it’s the mindset. What I love to do when I go to a place, a new environment, is go and explore. I think The Macallan is a whisky that speaks to that and that’s a mindset I’d apply. Morocco is my example but take the mindset, apply it anywhere, and you’ll have a good time!

As we finish our conversation, and with The Macallan Colour Collection available globally from 1 September, do you have anything else you want people to know?
We are massively proud to be able to share this with people around the world. I encourage people to find it for themselves, go and enjoy it, and see what you think.

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