The Macallan makes whisky boxes from chocolate pulp and coffee husks as part of its latest sustainability commitments.
The top-selling whisky brand is aiming to hit carbon neutrality by 2030–a decade before the Scotch Whisky Association industry targets. And in one of its most innovative moves, it’s launched a unique sustainable packaging for its Harmony Collection—paper boxes made from coffee husks and chocolate pulp. But to understand the full story of The Macallan’s sustainability ethos, we have to travel back in time a bit.
The Macallan’s single malt whiskies are legendary. The Scottish brand has had time to perfect them—it’s been making world-class spirits for nearly two hundred years. Land stewardship has always played a role in that. To age casks, after all, requires stability and safekeeping.
That requires land that’s going to be there for decades—centuries in The Macallan’s case. That made sustainability a built-in. But it’s the last four years specifically that have been some of The Macallan’s most important on its storied timeline.
In 2018, the brand unveiled its new £140 million distillery, which is located in the Highlands of Scotland in Speyside. According to the brand, the contemporary architecture of the structure, which is cut into the slope of the land, takes its design cues from the ancient Scottish hills it abuts, “ensuring its presence does not disturb the beauty of the surrounding countryside.”
The2,000m2 facility is now one of Europe’s largest green rooftops built from PEFC certified timber and featuring a mix of native grasses; it’s home to local wildlife. More than 80 percent of The Macallan distillery’s energy runs on renewable—a big part of the brand’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The Macallan is bringing sustainability into all areas of its operations from innovation and environmental performance to community development, conservation efforts and charitable contributions. One of its efforts is a five-year conservation program for Atlantic salmon that migrate through the River Spey where The Macallan Estate is located.
These commitments earned The Macallan the Positive Luxury Butterfly Mark in 2020.
It also recently announced a partnership with Bentley Motors. The luxury brands will share learnings, knowledge, and experience in their respective sustainability efforts. Bentley is gearing up to launch its first EV and working toward ambitious sustainability goals. The brands say the partnership will help to “build a legacy of balancing excellence with environmental and social responsibility and help show that the exceptional can also be ethical.”
Most notably, though, The Macallan is bringing its sustainable efforts to something more tangible for the consumer—whisky. The Harmony Collection, the label’s limited-run whisky inspired by chocolate and coffee, showcases sustainable packaging made from the crops, both threatened by climate change.
Coffee cultivation could decline by 50 percent under the most moderate of climate change projections by 2050. Some estimates put the number as high as 88 percent. Likewise, studies on cacao have found primary growing regions along the equator could become unsuitable for meeting the global demand for chocolate within 30 years.
And like everything The Macallan does, this undertaking is an innovative display of craftsmanship and precision.
Chocolate and coffee notes, cacao and java boxes
“As I immersed myself in this world, I uncovered a great synergy between the whisky-making process and that of chocolate. Both take time and exceptional attention to detail, with even the slightest changes to the process encouraging different aromas and flavors to emerge,” said Polly Logan, The Macallan’s first female whisky maker.
Logan forged a relationship withJordi Roca, the youngest of the acclaimed Roca brothers of Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca restaurant, as well as time with master chocolatier, Damian Allsop.
“Working in collaboration with Jordi Roca, acknowledged as one of the best and most creative pastry chefs in the world, and with exceptional chocolatier, Damian Allsop, I went on a journey of discovery, learning of the craftsmanship, passion, and creativity which goes into making chocolate,” Logan said.
“Our collaboration with The Macallan allows us to challenge our own creativity, and in this project, we have been allowed to play with cacao, which is one of my passions,” Roca said. “Being able to inspire a whisky and to create a unique tasting experience has been wonderful.”
These relationships pointed Logan toward searching the distillery’s sherry seasoned oak casks for chocolate notes.“The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao is a wonderful expression which brings together the world of whisky with the fascinating world of chocolate,” she says.
Steven Bremner, Whisky Maker, worked with a number of experts on the Harmony Collection’s second release, Smooth Arabica, including Ethiopian coffee grower Kenean Asefa Dukamo, Scottish coffee roaster Lisa Lawson, award-winning American barista Andrea Allen, UK-based coffee artist Dhan Tamang, and coffee historian Professor Jonathan Morris.
“Exploring the world of coffee with our masters in the industry, who shared their knowledge, creativity, and love for their art, was both an education and an inspiration,” Bremner said. “There are many parallels between the approach to creating incomparable whisky and coffee. Each requires unique skills and craftsmanship to achieve depth and complexity of taste and both worlds aim to deliver an extraordinary consumption experience.”
Bremner said he sought out intense notes in The Macallan’s traditional sherry seasoned European oak casks “that would offer the rich and satisfying elements of coffee, with the influence of sherry seasoned American oak casks adding sweeter and softer vanilla notes for a balanced and rounded experience,” he said.
“Each expression has been paired with two different variations of Ethiopian coffee, which accentuate the unique tasting notes within the whisky when enjoyed side by side, creating an exciting new sensorial experience of The Macallan,” Bremner said.
“Today, people have a greater understanding of coffee, they know the vocabulary, they know what they like, and with whisky it’s the same,” Lawson, said. “Whisky goes well with coffee—it comes at the end of a meal and it’s natural for whisky and coffee flavors to sit together.”
The limited-edition whiskies mark the brand’s first foray into sustainable packaging. The Rich Cacao is packaged in an industry’s first box made from cacao hulls. Smooth Arabica boxes use coffee husks.
The husks are salvaged from the industries instead of being destroyed or sent to landfills. The boxes, outer wraps, and ribbons are a mix of organic cacao shells and coffee husks, post-consumer waste, and FSC fiber. The outer wrap contains Miscantheses, and the ribbon includes ink and bonding agents.