The Macallan unveils short film celebrating former owner Janet Harbinson

The Macallan unveils short film celebrating former owner Janet Harbinson

The Spirit of 1926, starring Emily Mortimer, celebrates Harbinson and her part in creating The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926

News | 16 Nov 2022

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The Macallan has released a short film celebrating the life of Janet Harbinson, who took charge of the distillery after the First World War and helped craft one of its – and the world's – most well-known whiskies.

The Spirit of 1926, starring British-American actor Emily Mortimer, is set in The Macallan's 485-acre estate in Speyside and focuses on Harbinson's part in creating The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926, the most valuable bottle of wine or spirit sold at auction to date.

The eight-minute film will be created at selected cinemas globally, and will be available to view at and on The Macallan's YouTube channel from 16 November.

Harbinson (also known as 'Nettie') took control of the distillery to secure its future, the jobs of its workforce, and the prosperity of the local community after her husband Alexander, who had been running the site, died in 1918.

Perhaps her most significant achievement during her time in charge was helping in the crafting of The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926, which sold for a record-breaking £1.5 million at auction with Sotheby's in 2019.

The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926

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.

“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.”

To create The Spirit of 1926, The Macallan collaborated with director Mike Newell, whose credits include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco and Mona Lisa Smile, and screenwriter Allan Scott, whose hits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Castaway and Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.

Emily Mortimer as Janet Harbinson in "The Spirit of 1926"

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: “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.”
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