The Discovery Range’s colour-coding tells you about the whisky inside each bottle at a glance. The Range is sorted by flavour profiles, with green packaging denoting ex-bourbon cask maturation. Bourbon casks are the most commonly-used type of casks used in the Scotch whisky industry, and are usually filled and refilled several times in their lifetime.
Bourbon barrels hold about 200 litres of spirit, and after they arrive in Scotland they are usually rebuilt with extra staves into larger casks called Hogsheads, which hold around 250 litres. Bourbon cask-matured whiskies usually have sweet flavours of creamy vanilla, honey, caramel and toffee, balanced by peppery spices.
The striking purple packaging on some bottles in Gordon & MacPhail’s Discovery Range is colour-coded to denote that the whisky inside has been sherry-matured, giving a very different flavour profile to the Bourbon-matured malts in the range.
Sherry casks are larger than bourbon casks - the standard size cask is called a Butt and holds around 500 litres, about twice the size of a bourbon hogshead (although sherry hogsheads are also used sometimes for maturing Scotch whisky). There are lots of different types of sherry, of course, but most sherry-matured whiskies will have notes of dried fruit such as raisins, prunes and dates, as well as citrus, nuts and spices like clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.
The third and final flavour profile in Gordon & MacPhail’s Discovery Range is Smoky whiskies, which are distinguished by their grey packaging and labels. The Smoky flavour profile of these whiskies comes not from the cask type used for maturation, but from the peat smoke used to dry the barley before distillation.
Although peated whiskies are also matured in sherry or bourbon casks, the peat smoke usually has more influence on a young whisky's character, imparting a range of smoky aromas and flavours (called phenols) that can range from wet turf or cereal to bonfires, soot, tar and medicinal aromas like iodine or bandages.