The Macallan Releases Short Biopic, ‘The Spirit of 1926’


November 16, 2022

The Spirit of 1926 Emily Mortimer

The Macallan has released a short biopic titled “The Spirit of 1926,” revealing the real-life story of former managing director, Janet Harbinson, who in 1926 crafted the most valuable bottle of wine or spirit ever sold at auction, The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926.

The eight-minute campaign film, which will be screened in select theaters globally and available on The Macallan’s website and YouTube, celebrates her quiet heroism and her profound legacy and encapsulates The Macallan’s brand values in her character. It is set in Speyside, Scotland, primarily at The Macallan’s beautiful 485-acre Estate.

Janet Harbinson, known as ‘Nettie,’ is a remarkable figure in The Macallan’s history. In 1918, just months before the end of the First World War, her beloved husband Alexander, who had been running the distillery at the time, sadly passed. Nettie was highly committed to the local community and following his death, she assumed control of the distillery as it was the best way to secure The Macallan for its employees and help the community. Through her passion and care for those around her and her dedication to craftsmanship, she kept the business afloat and helped to rebuild the local area. 

Without setting out to do so, she also crafted The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926, which achieved legendary status after it fetched $1.9M at Sotheby’s in 2019. Several years on, it continues to be the world’s most valuable bottle of wine or spirit ever sold at auction. Its very existence is a direct legacy of Janet Harbinson’s commitment to doing the right thing for her family, the community and The Macallan.

Jaume Ferras, Global Creative Director for The Macallan and a producer of “The Spirit of 1926,” 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 short film, which stars British-American actress Emily Mortimer in the role of Nettie, The Macallan collaborated with an exceptional array of leading 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. The script for “The Spirit of 1926” was written by award-winning screenwriter Allan Scott, whose Hollywood hits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Don’t Look Now, Castaway and the recent Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit. 

Allan Scott is the pen name of Allan Shiach – a former chairman of The Macallan and great nephew of Nettie Harbinson. As chairman Allan Shiach took the decision to bottle The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926 after 60 years of maturation in 1986, amplifying further his deep personal connection to the remarkable story.

Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane, globally renowned for his eponymous label, created a series of 1920s outfits for the film using historic, luxury fabrics from artisan suppliers including hand-crafted lace and bespoke The Macallan tweed, while Scottish rock group Simple Minds delivered the film’s exclusive soundtrack.

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 symbolizes the heart of the company and what The Macallan whisky is all about.”

Ferras added: “Film is in The Macallan’s DNA. Our whisky has appeared in the background of many movies and TV shows, even taking center 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.”

The Spirit of 1926 will be screened in select cinemas around the world and is available to view at from November 16, 2022.