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Racing driver and automotive aficionado Vicki Butler-Henderson recently traveled to southern Spain—specifically to the heart of the sherry triangle in Jerez de la Frontera—to learn (and to see) firsthand the precision that’s required to construct a sherry-seasoned cask for The Macallan. After all, those casks are what impart the vast majority of flavor and aroma into the whisky company’s trademark spirit.
Butler-Henderson enjoyed much of that journey from behind the wheel of a new Bentley Bentayga—a vehicle that exemplified the unwavering commitment to precise craftsmanship that the luxury automaker and Scotch whisky brand share. “I just know that I’m going to be comforted and cosseted,” she said of the moments when she slides behind the wheel of any Bentley automobile. “Precision and technology play such a large part in Bentley’s design, the driving, and the interiors. For example, this stitching,” she continued, running her hand across the dash. “It’s hand-stitched and yet so precise. The connection between both brands is that attention to detail.”
More specifically, a Bentley Bentayga’s leather-wrapped steering wheel requires almost 30 feet of thread and is hand-stitched hundreds of times. Remarkably, such precision pales in comparison to the specificity that a bespoke needlework project might require. In those instances, Bentley’s embroidery specialists could make as many as 500,000 individual stitches to complete the job. Elsewhere within the Bentley Motors factory, more than 1 million square feet (100,000 square meters) of wood veneers are inspected throughout the year. From there, the veneer is artfully processed six different ways, all of which marry traditional hand-crafted skills with the latest technological advancements.
“We’ve had an unrelenting pursuit of quality that’s been with us since 1824 when we were founded..."—Charlie Whitfield, Manager of the Macallan's Global Brand Ambassador Program
While such attention to detail occurs inside The Macallan’s modern and progressive distillery, where Master Whisky Maker Kirsteen Campbell crafts new make spirit from traditional pot stills, the same level of precision dictates the construction and toasting of each oak cask. “We custom make the casks to suit The Macallan’s new make spirit,” explains Charlie Whitfield, Manager of The Macallan’s Global Brand Ambassador Program. “There’s a lot of precision here ensuring that every single cask gets the exact same time, the toasting profile, and the overall temperature, as well. With little tweaks of technology, we can ensure the quality and that consistency that we need. At the end of the day, it all impacts the quality of the whisky.”
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As Whitfield explains, the brand’s research has revealed that as much as 80 percent of the character and flavor of The Macallan’s whisky—not to mention all of its color—is imparted from those casks. This understanding can be traced back to the whisky maker’s origins almost 200 years ago. “We’ve had an unrelenting pursuit of quality that’s been with us since 1824 when we were founded,” he says. “One way that we do this is tracking the provenance of each and every single cask, which will give us the ability to create the best possible quality and consistency in our whisky.”
At Bentley Motors’ headquarters in Crewe, England 1,500 miles north of The Macallan’s sherry bodega in southern Spain, a similar attention to precision and a respectful acknowledgement of the past further align the two brands.
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