Interview: The Macallan’s Daryl Haldane on The Expanded Repertoire

Head of Education for The Macallan, Daryl Haldane, talks craft distilleries, the perfect drink for the time of day, whisky investment and more.

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The Macallan recently unveiled the Double Cask in a characteristic American oak style that harmonizes a delicate blend of vanilla, citrus and light oak. Flavor and natural color effervesce with a rounding of wood spice, rich fruit and sherry in a traditional Macallan character.

To say the Double Cask was born from a journey is an understatement. Indeed, new oak was brought from America to Spain across thousands of miles, before being fashioned into casks, sherry seasoned, then subsequently shipped off to mature for twelve long years at the whisky-maker’s distillery on Speyside.

Their latest creation may prove a new triumph, but as Head of Education for The Macallan Daryl Haldane agrees, taste is subjective. The more important thing, arguably, is to go along with the time of day as one’s mood permits – perhaps a rich, fruity Sherry Oak for a nice end to the day, just as four o’clock could call for a soft, balanced Fine Oak on the rocks:

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How did you first get involved with the world of Whisky?

I was a bartender back in Scotland, where did lots of cocktail competitions. One of the first I did was on whisky and I loved it. I got the opportunity spend time at the distilleries and the heart of Speyside, the whisky-making region and where The Macallan’s from. I wanted to explore other categories as well, since I was interested in tequila and rum then, but I guess from the age of 18, I was always going to be in the drinks industry.

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Many would say that their favorite is The Macallan 16 Year Old Single Malt. Of the many iterations of The Macallan, which in your opinion is the best?

I think it depends on the occasion, it’s very subjective. It’s four o’clock, so right now I’d probably go with a Fine Oak on ice, and at six o’clock, I’d have a few of the Double Cask. Before I go to bed, I might have one more whisky and it’ll be a richer and fruitier Sherry Oak – I think it’s quite a nice whisky to finish up on.

Any reason why four o’clock is one and six o’clock is the other?

The fine oak is a lighter style of whisky – floral, fruity, zesty, kind of citrusy – that definitely lends itself to a more aperitif style of whisky. The Double Cask is richer and more intense, so it’s nice to have a whisky to complement and compete with the different food you’re having. There are definitely different types of whiskies for how you feel and the time of day.

You may also like: The Macallan Double Cask Launch Party

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How is The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old different from the others?

It’s all about balance. The Fine Oak is really light for The Macallan, the Sherry Oak is rich and the Double Cask is this beautiful balance, a great combination of the two styles. The 12-Year-Old is great because you can explore three different expressions from one distillery to work out what you really like. Not everybody is going to like the 12-Year-Old as their go-to Macallan, or even the Double Cask, but I suspect that the balance and style of the Double Cask will have people gravitating towards it.

Whisky appreciation in Asia has seen tremendous growth in the past decade. Where do you see this trend heading in the next few years?

I think you’re going to see more young people coming in to whisky and that category – maybe even younger than they used to. It’s definitely the case in Europe, maybe they start getting more into whisky after they’re thirty, but I think that’s getting a bit younger.

You may also like: Guide: How to Buy Scotch Whisky

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We have noticed a rise in the popularity of Japanese whisky. Does this affect the want for Scottish made whisky?

It’s funny because in the middle of Speyside, a two-minute drive from The Macallan, is a bar called the Highlander Inn, owned by Tatsuya-san, living right in the heart of Scottish whisky. That’s the last place in the world you’d expect to find a Japanese whisky bar – while he has lots of Scotch whisky, Japanese whisky is what he specializes in and I love it. I think it gives the whisky category even more to talk about. Japanese whiskies are very high standard whiskies and generally a little lighter than the Scotch, and I like to think of them as a friendly competitor. I’m really interested to see how they make their whiskies.

There is a growing interest in whiskies from small, independent distilleries, so what are your thoughts and feelings in these craft whiskies?

I don’t think craft whiskies are made in a different way. I think it’s really positive to have this new wave of distilleries, I love the idea and I think they will challenge the norms for Scotch. We’ve been perfecting The Macallan for 200 years. A new distillery brings fresh eyes and they will make the stakes. They might do things unexpectedly, but they’ll learn and make great whiskies.

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