Interview: The Macallan Prepares for the Future of Scotch

The Scotch category has recently struggled to keep pace with boom times enjoyed by other brown spirits. Lack of creativity is one part of the problem. Another is the spirit’s stuffy reputation as the drink old men sip in sitting rooms after supper. 

The Macallan aims to change all that. The Edrington-owned Scotch brand recently invested $674 million in its future, with an eye towards innovations that can bring in consumers of all ages. This included a brand new $186-million distillery, and updated packaging for the core line. For more information on how this global brand eyes its future, we recently spoke with Samantha Leotta, The Macallan brand director.

Kyle Swartz: How has The Macallan created products that target Americans? 

Samantha Leotta: The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old, which we launched a couple of years ago, is matured in sherry seasoned American and European oak casks, but with a predominant American oak flavor profile. It has resonated with the American palate and new Scotch drinkers, as it delivers fully rounded but approachable flavors.

“Leveraging social media for scotch education is a top priority for The Macallan,” says Samantha Leotta, The Macallan brand director.

KS: How will The Macallan bring more Millennials into the Scotch category?

SL: In addition to having a variety of expressions and flavor profiles available that may appeal to different taste preferences and occasions, we approach all of our campaigns with a 360 approach to ensure we are truly engaging our consumer base — and that includes Millennials. We lead the category on social media in followers, share of voice and engagement levels.

KS: How important is Scotch education on social media for attracting younger consumers?

SL: Leveraging social media for scotch education is a top priority for The Macallan. We value our online following and are always look for new ways to engage our consumers. We partner with like-minded social influencers, photographers and enforce a 360 marketing approach into all of our campaigns to ensure that we are keeping social media top of mind.

We use social media to stay ahead of the curve, specifically in the technology space. For example, we developed at chatbot on Facebook that offers brand facts and bottle suggestions depending on your taste or occasion. We’ve also created AR apps, VR experiences, and touchable videos to coincide with product launches and brand initiatives. All of these campaigns are tied together with best-in-class social content.

This year we created highly visual content that stopped consumers in their scroll. Our feed told an aspirational story, and invited fans to embody the jet-setting, curious and innovative Macallan persona. We used multiple editing techniques to accomplish thumb-stopping content:

  • Short form video (GIFs and Cinemagraphs)
  • Dynamic Photography
  • Graphic Design
  • Double Exposure
  • VR & AR Technology
  • Composition Techniques

In the 17/18 fiscal year we reached +100k followers on Instagram, and increased our engagement by 245%, specifically with users aged 25-34. 

KS: How would you introduce a bourbon drinker into Scotch?

SL: Made with corn and in new American oak barrels, bourbon drinkers are used to a sweeter liquid that gets a big impact from the wood its aged in. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old serves as an excellent introductory expression for bourbon drinkers, as it is also matured in American oak casks and features a similar flavor profile that bourbon drinkers are familiar with.

KS: How will the new distillery allow the brand to enhance and expand its product offerings?

SL: The new distillery gives us greater capacity to meet future demand of the brand. Now, we will be able to increase production by approximately 1/3, if required. In addition to production, it provides us with the environment for us to showcase The Macallan to a global audience.

KS: Why has The Macallan invested so heavily in its future?

SL: Our business believes in long-term investments that go far beyond most economic cycles and allows us to have a sustainable brand building model. 

KS: The Macallan recently came out with a bevy of innovations: M., No.4, the 72YO, new core packaging. What’s behind this creative surge?

SL: The Macallan is constantly innovating, from our liquid to our new distillery. While our newest releases — Edition No.4, Masters of Photography: Magnum Edition, The Macallan M Black 2017 Release and The Macallan 72 Years Old — are all distinctly different, they do all tie back to our new distillery and visitor experience.

KS: The Macallan has launched several non age-statement blends in recent time. Will this continue? Do consumers care less now about age statements?

SL: As the category looks to innovate, and the consumer demand for new flavors and variants rises, we have seen a trend in non-age statement whiskies, among many others. The Macallan offers a wide range of whiskies that vary from aged to non-aged-declared, but quality remains our utmost focus. By being able to select whiskies based solely on character versus being bound to a specific age, we are able to bring rich, complex and unique flavor profiles. Our Edition No.4 and Rare Cask collections are examples of following this trend without compromising quality.

KS: What’s your favorite Macallan product?

SL: That’s a difficult one to answer! It depends on the occasion, really. The Macallan Double Cask 12 is my everyday go-to as it’s multifaceted: a great aperitif but also pairs so well with many foods, and it makes the perfect whisky sour, which happens to be my favorite cocktail. Edition or Classic Cut when I’m with my fellow whisky geeks. And Rare Cask is the perfect nightcap and cold evening dram. And I can keep going on!

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Why Have Scotch Sales Fallen Flat?

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