Gordon & MacPhail
Gordon & MacPhail are one of the oldest and most important bottlers of single malt whisky in Scotland - and indeed the world. They were founded in 1895 and quickly began the pioneering practice of bottling various distillery’s whiskies under license and selling them through their shop and wholesale.
They were the first to offer higher strength (100 proof) bottlings on a regular basis as far back as the 1950s and one of the first companies to set up a proper, independent bottling range in the form of the Connoisseur’s Choice series which was launched in 1968.
They developed an important connection in Italy and helped develop the market and passion for malt whisky in that country. Later independent bottling ranges included the CASK series, the Speymalt range under which they specifically bottled Macallan single malts, the Private Collection and the Old & Rare series.
They have bottled the four oldest whiskies ever released, including the 1939 75-year-old Mortlach as part of their ongoing ‘Generations’ series, and recently a 71-year-old Macallan under the Speymalt range.
They have provided the stock for a number of importers and bottlers overseas over the past few decades and have probably been responsible for a higher proportion of what is now considered the great and legendary whiskies over the years than any other company. Today they still hold and release stock of unparalleled age and quality.
Connoisseur’s Choice is one of the oldest and most emblematic range of independent bottlings in the world. First created by George Urquhart of Gordon & MacPhail in 1968 to sit alongside the company’s licensed distillery bottlings as a way to showcase smaller batch examples of single malt from a greater variety of distilleries.
The first releases covered only a handful of distilleries. This rose to around 20 different distilleries by the late 1970s when the livery changed from the old black and red label to the brown label.
By 1987 there were 69 different expressions in the range and it was fast becoming an important part of Gordon & MacPhail’s business. The series has been characterized over the years as small batch (often only 2-3 casks) production bottled at 40% or 43%.
It is hard to pick famous examples as there are just so many terrific whiskies which have been bottled in this range over the years. To name but a few we could site the incredible 1972 Broras, the majestic 1930s single malts such as Mortlach 43-year-old or Glenlossie 43-year-old. The 1952 Royal Lochnagar and the 1963 Ardbeg's are also magnificent.
The range has been criticized over the years for its lower bottling strength and use of filtration and caramel. However, no one can deny the influence and importance of this famous, long-standing range of whiskies.
Today it has upped its game and has introduced a cask strength series with new branding. Many great whiskies still appear under its name.
The Rare Old series by Gordon & MacPhail was first launched in 1998 and was conceived of as a way to showcase, very specifically, ‘rare’ and ‘old’ whiskies from the company archives.
However, the range quickly came to be the home for long-aged examples specifically from closed distilleries. So, although early releases came from working distilleries such as Glenlossie and Highland Park, the majority of releases have come from distilleries such as Glenugie, Convalmore, Glenlochy, Coleburn, Banff, Glenury, St Magdalene and Rosebank.
Initially, each batch of releases was put out at 40% and 43% - much like the Connoisseur’s Choice range. However, as trends changed and appetites for higher abv's grew, the series has moved towards 46% or natural cask strength.
Some of the greatest examples from this series are certainly the old closed distilleries such as the 1966 Banff, the beautiful 1970 Glenlochy's and the 1975 Convalmore.
Although, pretty much everything in this series has been, and continues to be, exemplary and utterly delicious.
The Private Collection is a small but extremely high-quality range of whiskies first launched in the late 1990s. It showcases small batch and single cask malt whiskies of great rarity, age and immense quality hand-selected by family members of Gordon & MacPhail.
Most are bottled either at 45% or at natural cask strength without filtration or colouring, although a few of the early examples were also bottled at 40%.
By its nature, almost every bottling in this series is a ‘highlight’ so it is hard to select just a few. But some particularly emblematic examples have been a 1942 Mortlach, 1943 Glenlivet, 1965 Caol Ila, 1969 Clynelish, 1955 Strathisla, 1951 Mortlach... you get the idea.
The range is often characterised by low outturn releases. For example, the 1942 Mortlach was limited to just 24 bottles. Similarly, a more recent Tamdhu 1960 was limited to just 36 bottles.
All this has helped secure this range a particular level of reverence since its creation and any releases in this series are always hotly anticipated and keenly sought after.
The MacPhail's Collection
The ‘MacPhail’s’ collection is a broad umbrella which has been home to a number of malt whiskies of varying ages and strengths by Gordon & MacPhail over the years.
The whiskies are not from the same distillery but are always Speyside malts and usually, sherry matured. Some of the oldest examples have been vintage releases from the 1940s bottled in the 1980s.
While younger expressions have been high strength 10-year-olds such as the ‘Gold 106’ series of bottlings. The range is broad, varied but generally consistent, high quality, sherry-driven, Speyside single malts. Many can still be found for fair prices these days and are often excellent to drink.