It may be hard to imagine today, but for much of the 20th century, Macallan was primarily a constituent malt in blends. It was not until the 1980s downturn in the market that the distillery decided to focus on its single malt brand. Fortuitously, this coincided with the crest of a wave of enthusiasm for the high quality releases that the distillery had licensed to Campbell, Hope & King and Gordon & MacPhail in the 1960s and 1970s. These remain some of the most collectible on the market. While global single malt sales volume is still lead by Speyside neighbours, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, Macallan is easily the most sought after. So much so in fact, that they had to open a brand new distillery in 2018, a subterranean architectural masterpiece within the Easter Elchies estate, boasting 36 copper pot stills.
Macallan vintage releases produced by Campbell, Hope & King tended to be aged around the 15 year old mark, but when Macallan took over the responsibility in 1980, they toyed for a few releases with more advanced age-statements of 17 and 18 years old. The latter was deemed the optimum maturation, and the official 18 year old was launched in 1984. It is now an absolute classic of the whisky world.
This version of the 18 year old was the first to debut a new packaging style since 2006, with the long-running shiny purple box retired the previous year. This now joined the classic 12 year old expression as part of the Sherry Oak Cask strain of the Macallan core range. As of 2016, the Macallan 18 year old has favoured stating the release year over the vintage of the whisky on its label.