Distilled over 90 years ago and aged in European Oak for 60 years, The Macallan Fine and Rare 60 Year Old 1926 has always been recognised as being the most sought-after Scotch whisky. Setting a Guinness record in 1987 for “The World’s Most Expensive Spirit”, its a tipple whose legend has grown in the years that followed; in 2018, five other bottles were sold, breaking the world record price three times before finally achieving legendary status  in 2019 after it fetched £1.5m at Sotheby’s. Though crude to measure in such gauche financial terms, it is a quantifiable testament to Janet Harbinson’s commitment to doing the right thing for her family, the community and The Macallan. 

Introducing The Spirit of 1926, it is a film celebrating Ms. Harbinson. Affectionally known as ‘Nettie’, it is a biopic of this extraordinary woman who was behind the most valuable bottle of spirit ever sold at auction.

“They want me to hurry up and make a decision They say it has to be a man runs it.”

The eight-minute campaign film encapsulates her quiet heroism, keeping in mind that just months before the end of the First World War, she inherited leadership of the distillery (during a time before Women’s Suffrage no less – equal rights for women in the UK didn’t arrive until 1928) from her beloved husband Alexander who had just passed.

Played by British-American actress Emily Mortimer, she describes the docu-drama as, “The story is all about people finding their kind of vocation in life. Nettie is living in the first half of the 20th century. She just enjoys her life and then her husband dies. And she has to decide what to do with the business. And she decides that she’s going to run it it’s really about holding on to the memory of somebody that you really love. There are some people who take what they do very seriously and care. Not just about the product that they’re producing, but about the people who work for them. And what they’re adding to the world. There’s something about that whiskey that was made under her watch and 1926 that somehow symbolizes the heart of the company and what Macallan whisky was all about.” 

Janet Harbinson assumed control of The Macallan distillery with two guiding principles: passion and compassion.

Highly committed to the local community, Nettie assumed control of the distillery with two guiding principles: passion and compassion. Dedicated to the craft, she not only kept the business afloat but also secured a future for her employees and the community, helping to rebuild the local area. 

Jaume Ferras, Global Creative Director for The Macallan and a producer of the film, said: “We uncovered Janet Harbinson’s story when researching the background to The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926 and we knew we had to share it as soon as we learned of her role in its distillation and maturation, as well as the deep influence she had on the future development of the brand.”

Allan Shiach – a former chairman of The Macallan and great nephew of Nettie, took the decision to bottle The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926 after 60 years of maturation in 1986, amplifying further this touching familial connection to the heritage of the brand and the history of the Easter Elchies. 

Only 40 bottles were produced from Cask 263 in 1986 and like the spirit itself, Ferras assembled incredible collaborators for this film production, “As a brand with a long Scottish heritage it was important to us to bring together the best of the country’s creative talent – people who are also dedicated to the incomparable creativity and craftsmanship for which The Macallan is renowned.”

Scottish designer Christopher Kane took great pains recreating the 1920s outfits using historic fabrics from artisan suppliers including and bespoke The Macallan tweed while Scottish rock group Simple Minds added an emotive atmosphere with their soundtrack.

The Spirit of 1926 will be screened in select cinemas around the world and is available to view at www.themacallan.com 

written by.

Jonathan Ho

Managing Editor
Jonathan Ho might have graduated with a business degree but he thumbed his nose at commerce and instead opted for a harder life in journalism. He edits Augustman, a title he first joined when he became a writer after a career in advertising and now, earns a living writing commentaries on the luxury industry.
     
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