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Police step in as Macallan whisky sale causes road closures and ‘chaos’

The release of a limited edition Macallan whisky called Genesis resulted in the police enforcing road closures to deal with the crowds, with some Scotch lovers camping overnight in order to get their hands on a bottle.

Image: @spiritandwood

The sale, which took place yesterday (14 August) morning, caused “chaos” and has been branded a “shambles” by some of the many whisky lovers who travelled from all around the UK and then queued for many hours on Tuesday.

The £495 whisky went on sale at the distillery in Craigellachie, Moray – which opened in May at a cost of £140 million – at 9:30am on a first-come-first-serve basis. This in itself is a source of confusion, as by law, no alcohol can be sold in Scotland before 10am.

A traffic report from the AA said that around 300 cars were in the area with Moray police forced to close a section of the B9102 close to the distillery. The surrounding roads including the A95, which later becomes the A941, were also reported to be unusually busy. The B9102 was later reopened at 9:55am.

While some whisky fans were rewarded for their patience and were able to pick up a bottle, others were left feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Among those who were able to pick up a bottle was Twitter user Alistair Mateer @spiritandwood, a keen whisky collector, who arrived at the distillery at 10pm the night before.

Documenting what happened, he referred to the sale as “absolute chaos”. He did tell db, however, that Macallan has previously been “great” at dealing with such events and therefore stresses the need to learn lessons from the incident rather than criticise and write them off.

He said: “I arrived at 10pm the night before expecting to queue as I have for previous Macallan releases, however this was impossible as we were not allowed on site, as Macallan had previously said we would not, and we couldn’t queue cars on a public road. What followed was a steady build up of cars and people on the B9102 outside the distillery, many more than the 360 bottles we were being told would be available.

“I think Macallan, Saltaire Security and Moray Police are all responsible for this and did not take ownership of the problem for most of the night”.

He added that Macallan and Saltaire Security had not recognised that the incident might happen and had no system in place, while Moray police, after first moving cars away from the site, “left at 2am – the result was that those who arrived before 2am ended up parked too far away to get a bottle and those who arrived between 2am and 5am and illegally parked were likely to get a bottle”. He managed to get a place in someone else’s car and was thus able to get a bottle.

The police later closed the road with cars inside the road block made to queue. Those arriving later were turned away by police.

There were reported to be only 360 bottles on sale on the day. Twitter user Stuart Campbell criticised Macallan for its bad management of the sale while Michelle Frazer called it a “shambles”.

Mateer however said that despite the incident he had “great fun outside the distillery with family and my many friends and familiar faces from previous limited releases. To improve in future, Macallan must implement a queuing system. The value proposition is simple for this: the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to get a bottle. I have never seen trouble in a Macallan queue and Macallan have always managed us excellently”.

A distillery spokesperson said that lessons would be learnt from the experience this week. “Whilst every effort was made to communicate to our customers that there would be no access to the site prior to 09:30, a number of people hoping to secure one of these limited bottles gathered at the gates causing a local road to become blocked.

“After we contacted local police to help minimise any disruption, the road was swiftly cleared and sales got under way at the distillery when it opened.

“We are grateful to Moray Police for their assistance and in light of the issues, we are reviewing our procedures”.

In an attempt to lighten the mood, Islay disitillery Bruichladdich posted this response to the incident.

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