The Macallan has released a little biography detailing the life of former managing director Janet Harbinson, who created The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926, the most expensive wine or spirit ever sold at auction.
The eight-minute campaign film, which will be screened in several cinemas across the world and is also accessible on YouTube and The Macallan’s website, honours her quiet heroism and significant impact while also embodying The Macallan’s brand principles in her character. It takes place mostly on The Macallan’s picturesque 485-acre Estate in Speyside, Scotland.
Janet Harbinson, sometimes known as ‘Nettie,’ is a significant character in the history of The Macallan. Her beloved husband Alexander, who had been in charge of the distillery at the time, tragically passed away in 1918, just a few months before the end of the First World War.
Following his passing, Nettie took over the distillery because it was the best option to safeguard The Macallan for its employees and support the community. She maintained the business, keeping it viable and contributed to the area’s reconstruction through her passion, concern for those around her, and commitment to craftsmanship.
She unwittingly created The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926, which has become legendary after it sold for £1.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2019. Even after several years, it is still the most expensive bottle of alcohol ever sold at auction. Its existence is a result of Janet Harbinson’s dedication and commitment to her family, the neighbourhood, and The Macallan.
“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.”Jaume Ferras, Global Creative Director for The Macallan and a producer of the film
“At its heart, this is a love story; it celebrates the love that Nettie had for her husband, her love for the local community, her love for nature and her love for the family business. She cared deeply about others and was determined to use her position at The Macallan to enrich the lives of those around her.
“Guided by her conviction and strong belief in doing the next right thing for everyone she cared about, she unconsciously made history and it is only right that we pay tribute to her.”
The Macallan worked with an exceptional range of top creative talent, including acclaimed director Mike Newell, whose credits include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Mona Lisa Smile, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to create the short film, which stars British-American actress Emily Mortimer in the role of Nettie. Screenwriter Allan Scott, whose Hollywood successes include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Don’t Look Now, Castaway, and the most recent Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, wrote the script.
Allan Scott is the pen name of Allan Shiach, a former chairman of The Macallan and Nettie Harbinson’s great nephew. In 1986, after 60 years of maturation, chairman Allan Shiach decided to bottle The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926, further demonstrating his close connection to the incredible tale.
Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane, known for his namesake line, produced a number of 1920s-era ensembles for the movie using bespoke The Macallan tweed and hand-crafted lace from artisan sources. Scottish rock band Simple Minds provided the film’s original soundtrack.
Emily Mortimer, who plays Nettie, said: “The story is all about people finding their vocation in life. It’s really about holding onto the memory of someone that you really love. Nettie is living in the first half of the 20th century. She just enjoys her life then her husband dies. She had to decide what to do with the business and she decides that she’s going to run it. There are some people who take what they do very seriously and care, not just about the product they’re producing, but about the people who work for them and what they are adding to the world. There’s something about that whisky, that was made under her watch in 1926, that symbolises the heart of the company and what The Macallan whisky is all about.”
Jaume Ferras added: “Film is in The Macallan’s DNA. Our whisky has appeared in the background of many movies and TV shows, even taking centre stage on occasion, and our former chairman Allan Shiach is an award-winning screenwriter.
“Turning Nettie’s story into a film was a huge challenge, but a bit like Janet herself, we felt compelled to follow the courage of our convictions and give her contribution the treatment it truly deserves.
“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.
“Each of our incredible collaborators have done a magnificent job of bringing to life our vision of Nettie.
“We can never repay her for her wisdom, her courage, her care and her craftsmanship, but we hope through our film our gratitude as a brand shines through.”
The Spirit of 1926 will be screened in select cinemas around the world and is available to view at www.themacallan.com from 16 November 2022.
Visual credits: The Macallan
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