Interview – Expressing The Macallan’s 200-year journey through a fresh identity, performing arts and the power of travel retail

A landmark year for The Macallan single malt Scotch whisky – as it celebrates its 200th anniversary – hit one of many highs on 9 May as the first in a series of spectacular experiences took place at The Macallan Estate in Speyside, in collaboration with performing arts specialist Cirque du Soleil.

The one-of-a-kind theatrical event – titled Cirque du Soleil Spirit – blended sight, taste, smell and sound for a rounded sensory experience, a fitting contribution to this anniversary year for one of the great names in whisky making.

These celebrations at the distiller’s home were preceded early in 2024 by the reveal of a ‘200 Years Young’ logo along with a revamped brand identity. The graphics pay tribute to The Macallan’s heritage – Alexander Reid distilled the first batch of whisky on The Macallan Estate in 1824 – and celebrate its future.

In travel retail, various activities such as product launches and events are scheduled to celebrate The Macallan’s 200th anniversary.

The Macallan Creative Director Jaume Ferràs and Edrington Regional Managing Director – Global Travel Retail Jeremy Speirs spoke to The Moodie Davitt Report about the multi-layered anniversary celebrations and year of activities across business channels.

Ferràs says that the new logo and identity (above) plays a role in communicating the brand’s illustrious past but also in pointing the way forward.

“The anniversary logo features a wave pattern that evokes the connection between the brand’s foundations and its future, merging the curve of the River Spey that weaves its way through The Macallan Estate to the rolling curves of the striking distillery.

“The evolved brand identity features an elevated and simplified logo, red colour statement, pattern and iconography that are inspired by the Six Pillars, the foundation stones for The Macallan’s character and its rich history.”

The Macallan worked closely with influential designer David Carson to blend the principles of art and branding. The result, says Ferràs, “is a combination of craftsmanship and creativity that embodies The Macallan’s legacy: past, present and future”.

Ferràs adds that the new identity, Cirque du Soleil partnership and campaign around the anniversary can all help drive recruitment to the brand – with story-telling a vital element.

“We have an obsession with quality and craftsmanship that has been at the core of what we do for the past 200 years, and this is highlighted in our whisky, our Estate and our collaborations. However, there is still so much to come for The Macallan.

“Our focus on legacy is a constant reminder of the need to preserve and enhance The Macallan for future generations – we have the responsibility to build on decades of dedication, craft and decisions made for the long term.

“We are investing in our future – from developing and hosting incredible experiences at our brand home, The Macallan Estate on Speyside, Scotland, to global campaigns that reflect the craft at the heart of our whisky, and of course innovation as we push the boundaries of what is possible. We want to bring people into our world and allow them to appreciate our depth of storytelling. Storytelling is at the heart of what we do and this is even more apparent this year.”

Speirs says that bringing ‘200 Years Young’ to life is also a celebration of ‘time travel’ explored through five themes: Incomparable, Creativity, Craftsmanship, Legacy and Sustainability.

“The anniversary is an occasion to reflect on The Macallan’s legacy, reinforce the credentials we have built over two centuries but also to look forward to everything that is still to come.”

The values of the brand as it marks 200 years will shine through in how The Macallan is activated in travel retail, adds Speirs.

“We have developed an extensive programme of 200th anniversary activities – including exclusive product launches, experiences and campaigns all centred on the time travel theme.

“This summer in global travel retail, we’ll be launching special initiatives designed to create excitement around The Macallan’s latest travel retail exclusive range, The Macallan Colour Collection.

The Macallan Colour Collection, introduced last year to travel retail, will be a focal point for the 200-year celebrations in the channel

“Activities include celebratory point-of-sale merchandising, media assets featuring the vibrant works of art created by David Carson for the Colour Collection and special gift bags all incorporating the iconic 200 Years Young logo. Designed by the acclaimed visual artist Alex Trochut, the anniversary logo is the embodiment of the brand’s legacy: the past, present and future of The Macallan.

“Towards the end of the year in travel retail, we will bring to life The Macallan’s legacy and reputation via special experiential activations that celebrate not only the rich history of the brand, but also what is to come.”

To further mark ‘200 Years Young’ in the channel, the brand has developed a programme of product innovations that encapsulate the time travel theme.

One of the highlights is Tales of The Macallan II – which Speirs describes as “a remarkable whisky that is a fitting tribute to our founder, Alexander Reid, and his journey from teacher to whisky master”. This is the second edition of the prestigious Tales of The Macallan series: a collection that tells the story of The Macallan pioneers and the defining moments and decisions that have shaped its story.

Tales of The Macallan II will be joined by other new products, including exclusive limited release anniversary editions and special collaborations, that Speirs says are “daring and push the boundaries of innovation”.

Jaume Ferràs: “The past 200 years have been a prologue for everything that is still to come”

Like Ferràs, Speirs says that the 200th year landmark can assist in driving followership and engagement among consumers.

Taking inspiration from nature: The Macallan Harmony Collection Green Meadow pop-up at Changi Airport T1. The expression is a collaboration with Stella and Mary McCartney.

“Fundamentally, it’s about continually evolving our strategy to ensure that our recruitment efforts resonate with new audiences and are focused on the channels where they choose to engage with brands.

“Partnerships will continue to play a powerful role in this. They have played a crucial role in The Macallan’s success story, fuelling a broad spectrum of storytelling and visibility – whether that’s with Bentley, The McCartney sisters or now Cirque du Soleil.” {Main story continues following the panel below}

“An unforgettable experience”

At times whimsical, humorous, wild, nonsensical, profound, thoroughly Scottish and always energetic and dazzling, Cirque du Soleil Spirit represents a majestic collaboration between The Macallan and the performing arts specialist. The show vibrantly and elegantly marries nature and art, with influences from around the world.

The Moodie Davitt Report attended the inaugural performance on 9 May at The Macallan Estate in Speyside, Scotland. The experience represents the first phase of a multi-year partnership with Cirque du Soleil, one that will extend to a series of product launches worldwide.

Stellar performance: The Cirque du Soleil Spirit debut at The Macallan distillery on 9 May

Through a blend of sight, taste, smell and sound, guests were transported into a theatrical universe that included hair suspension, aerial silk, contortion, cyr wheel, tight wire, juggling, hoop diving, bagpipes and flamenco dancing at the heart of The Macallan Estate.

The integration of bespoke tasting experiences, with The Macallan’s whisky-making craft woven into the performance, offered guests a further sensory element. Further performances take place through to 31 May.

Of the Cirque du Soleil partnership, The Macallan Creative Director Jaume Ferràs says: “We knew we wanted to tell a story about staying connected to nature. How do you create a story about nature, but in a playful way?

“If you ask this, Cirque du Soleil instantly comes to the forefront of your thinking. We began conversations and we were both intrigued and inspired to create a theatrical experience like no other. A love letter to the natural realm of the Highlands, which is a call to reconnect with our natural world, and to raise a glass to this realm in which we are all guests.”

Legacy is a word often used in the world of Scotch, and one that Ferràs returns to time and again.

“In a world focused on the here and now, we take time to make the right choices, what we do is guided by our values, focusing on our incomparable craftmanship and creativity. Quality is also paramount in everything we do. 

“Legacy is a constant reminder of the need to preserve and enhance our brand, building on decades of dedication and craft and decisions made for the long term. For us, this means doing the next right thing – to nurture our Estate, our communities, and our brand for future generations.”

Both Speirs and Ferràs repeatedly stress that the celebration of the past 200 years is just as much about looking ahead, and projecting The Macallan’s values into its third century and beyond.

“At The Macallan, we always look forward,” says Speirs. “This mindset exists because what we create today is for future generations, however we never forget where we come from, and the legacy given to us. For The Macallan, reaching our 200th year is of course a chance to celebrate the years past, but importantly also enables us to send a clear message about the future.

“The Macallan believes in doing the right thing with the long-term in mind. This commitment to doing the right thing actively informs every decision the brand makes, in relation to what is right for the legacy of our precious single malt, but also what is right in relation to our local and global social and environmental legacy.

The Macallan’s first shop-in-shop in European travel retail opened recently at Istanbul Airport, with the colour palette paying homage to the brand’s 200-year-old legacy. Click here for our on location story. 

“We are working towards achieving net zero emissions across all global operations by 2045 with a near-target to reduce emissions by -50% by 2030. We’re also sustaining a secure and responsible packaging supply chain across our portfolio whilst lowering the impact of our emissions.

“In travel retail, engagement and experiential retail are critical in differentiating The Macallan and leveraging the unique opportunities the channel offers as a consumer touchpoint. The Macallan’s new shop-in-shop at Istanbul Airport is a great example of how we are continuing to invest in the shopper experience at the point of sale. We are actively encouraging shoppers to engage with a raft of interactive elements in The Macallan space, including a nosing tray, digital profiling tool called ‘Discover Your Expression’ and gifting ritual.

“We know that shoppers in our channel actively seek out The Macallan so we will continue to focus strongly on launches that meet this demand, engage shoppers and deliver memorable experiences. As a brand we’ve built a strong reputation for pushing boundaries and not being afraid to innovate. When it comes to attracting and recruiting new generations of consumers, we can’t just rely on the tried and tested but must continually find new ways to engage shoppers and bring our incredible brand heritage to life.”

Ferràs says: “The past 200 years have been a prologue for everything that is still to come, and our collaboration to create Cirque du Soleil Spirit is a pinnacle moment that brings our anniversary to life through an unforgettable sensory experience at The Macallan Estate.

“We will continue our tradition of crafting exceptional whiskies, as we introduce select new expressions, with each of these acting as a testament to the craft and quality of the spirit, and to the people that make it.

“The past 200 years are just the prologue of what is to come. Legacy is a key focus for our brand, that deep sense of responsibility we all carry to ensure we preserve The Macallan for future generations.” ✈

Performance, new products and the power of partnership

“The Macallan is delivering a strong performance this year and so long as passenger numbers continue to return to pre-Covid levels, the outlook for the rest of 2024 remains positive.” So says Edrington Regional Managing Director – Global Travel Retail Jeremy Speirs about the current market conditions for the travel business.

The performance at The Macallan in particular is being buoyed by the launch of the Colour Collection and higher age statements within the range, as well as the launch of The Harmony Collection Green Meadow, he adds.

Jeremy Speirs hails the recent opening of The Macallan shop-in-shop at Istanbul Airport as a “showcase [of] the power of partnership”
“The reintroduction of an age statement travel retail range (Colour Collection) and the retail excellence being delivered in boutiques, shop-in-shops and activations in conjunction with our airport and retail partners are key factors in driving The Macallan’s growth.”The Macallan’s 200th anniversary marks a unique opportunity for the brand to time travel from its origins to the future. In line with this, we have created a pipeline of new products that emphasise the brand’s commitment to ground-breaking innovation. The launches, including rare and collectible whiskies, will ensure strong demand so we’re confident that the high value launches planned for the remainder of 2024 will contribute to a successful year.”Speaking about travel retail’s positioning as a brand-building and story-telling channel, Speirs says: “One of the main challenges in travel retail is how to engage shoppers in a way that makes our channel a go-to for them. Engagement and experiential retail are therefore critical in differentiating our brands and leveraging the unique opportunities travel retail offers as a consumer touchpoint. This is a dynamic fuelling our celebrations in travel retail. Of course, we can only execute these amazing experiences via the partnerships which lie at the heart of our business in the channel.”

With The Macallan Boutiques, a key criteria is that the local partner understands the brand and how to deliver the kind of experience it merits, Speirs adds.

He cites the recent opening of The Macallan shop-in-shop opening at Istanbul Airport as one that “showcases the power of partnership in terms of identifying the right kind of space and then creating something memorable within it. The most fruitful kinds of conversation we can have are focused on delivering growth through recruitment and engagement. This will continue to be central to travel retail’s positioning as a retail destination.”

Food & Beverage The Magazine eZine