With rarity at its core, this whisky will differ from bottling to bottling; some casks are so rare that they will never again be used in any of The Macallan whisky.
I don’t really consider myself an accessories designer,” says Mark Tallowin. “These are not accessories. They’re pure, functional objects. They’re integral.”
Strictly speaking, Mark Tallowin is a leatherware designer, making handbags and wallets to order under his label TALLOWIN. In a business where the terms ‘exclusive’, ‘handmade’ and ‘limited edition’ lose some of their currency through overuse, the service he offers is truly unique.
“My tagline is ‘The finest handbags, made by one man’, so that’s baked into the whole idea of the brand,” he explains. “I’m a one-man operation. I love it, but it’s a huge job and it only works because of the customers who have the excitement and the confidence to order from me.”
Orders take up to three months to complete due to the time he puts into each design. There is, he admits, an almost
“ridiculous” level of care that goes into each piece that he makes. Every step of the process – from selecting hides to attaching an individual serial number into the lining “the way that bespoke tailors do” – is done by Tallowin alone.
It’s this minute attention to detail that means Tallowin’s customers tend to be clients for life. Each order has its own drawer in Tallowin’s studio-cum-shop in London’s West End. He offers customers a special ‘commission box’ when they first place an order and updates them with images of work in progress.
“They’ve paid good money and they want to know where they are in the process and have a guarantee of the final outcome,” he reasons.
Tallowin leaves no stone unturned in the process of creating each piece. “I make every single stitch, which means for the smallest bag, there are 738 holes that I have to hand cut before I even start stitching.” He estimates that the largest bag has 3,000 to 4,000 holes. (“I really ought to count them up!” he says.)
For cutting leather and hand-bevelling the edges, he uses tools that – of course – he has forged himself. “I’m using the same techniques as shoe makers and saddle makers, but very few people do hand stitching on handbags because it’s absurdly labour intensive. So the tools don’t really exist for that world.”
Tallowin’s focus on mastering his craft is intense and all-consuming: “Yesterday I was working on a wallet and someone came into the shop and distracted me and I made a mistake. No-one would have known, but I stuck a knife through it and put it in the bin and started again. You know you’re going to be doing this for a long time and you’re focused on long-term relationships, so you’ve got to get it perfect.”