Nov 252020

Funny how chance sometimes leads you to pour part of a mini some friends made sure you’d get to taste, and as you nose it you take note of the fact that the 56th distillation anniversary is just a couple of days away (and is today!)….

This is one of those drams that will actually put you in the camp of those who believe that older was better, which echos Neil Ridley’s article in the 2021 Malt Whisky Yearbook which I reviewed the other week (see that review here). That, however, would be a mistake. The reason for that is that Gordon and MacPhail are an exception in the independent bottling world as they procure their own casks. Their filling contracts have them bringing the casks to the distillery to have them filled, rather than purchasing the distillery’s casks. That means that wood management was front and center for G&M at a time when the industry’s focus was squarely on filling the American’s market almost unending demand for whisky (until it did end about a decade and a half later, plunging the industry into the whisky loch of the 1980s) and not on the quality of the liquid. This whisky is gorgeous not because it’s a 1964 Bruichladdich, but because it’s a Gordon and MacPhail 1964.

The casks are different than the 1950s sherry casks in that they’re lacking the smoky waxiness so prevalent in the earlier G&M casks, which might be either because the casks were, indeed, different or because not all three casks vatted for this expression were all the same, although being three consecutive casks, that is unlikely. Note that the label gives only the first three digits of the last cask (stating 367 instead of 3672).

Photo Credit:

Gordon and MacPhail Bruichladdich 1964, 29 Years Old, Casks 3670, 3671, 3672, Distilled November 25, 1964, Bottled October 1993 (50.6% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep bronze, very slow and thin legs peeling off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Gentle oak, with a very Woody Sherry and a hint a vanilla custard. Dried fruit (namely apricot leather and dried apricots), wood spices with dusty cinnamon, clove and nutmeg and a very light whiff of smoke.

Pallet: rich and spicy with a hit of black pepper and cinnamon followed by a wash of sweetness more of a fruity kind than of honey, with the dried fruit playing their part and some red fruit. At the end of the tasting, you get the bitterness of the wood.

Linger: dry with spice and fruit a little more of the red fruit than in the nose with some spice down the gullet. The tannins keep the inside of your cheeks tingling for a long time, with the slightest hint of smoke lingering.


This is a fabulous example of the older style of whisky curated in good wood. Much of the old Bruichladdich whisky was placed in very mediocre wood by the previous owners, some of which was salvaged through finishing, but none of the whisky was as glorious as this one.

This would be a textbook example of “old whisky”, that’s not quite as extreme as the Gordon and MacPhail 1950s sherry casks that had the smoked waxiness to them.

Thanks to three special people whose generosity made tasting this gem possible!

Sep 032018

Gordon & MacPhail have revamped their bottlings, and consolidated some of the many “mini brands” into only five very clear lines of products. Connoisseurs Choice is at the heart of the range. It includes both cask strength and reduced strength whisky, always carrying a vintage statement on the label. These are single casks or a few casks vatted together.

Photo Credit: Gordon & MacPhail

The other Gordon & MacPhail ranges are: the Discovery range – the range caters to newcomers to the G&M portfolio, color coded into “smoky” “bourbon” and “sherry” designations; Distillery Labels is the “unofficial official bottling” program the company held for decades for distilleries like Mortlach, Strathisla, Pulteney, Ardmore, Scapa, Glentauchers and Linkwood.

Gordon & MacPhail will reveal the Private Collection and Generations ranges revamped design sometime in the fall of 2018.

Obviously, the bottles may have changed, but the liquid inside hasn’t. You know what you’re getting with every purchase, and you know it will be a quality product.

This is a bottle of Clynelish from a single sherry butt, but with a very gentle sherry influence.  I got to enjoy it with great friends on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, in what is probably the best setting for a dram in the whole wide world.

Photo Credit:

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength Clynelish 2005, Refill Sherry Butt 18/012, Yielded 518 Bottles (55.1% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, Viscous with quite a bit of residue on the glass.

Nose: Starts out closed hinting at honey and spice. There’s a touch of fresh stone fruit and more honey, with hints of sweet wood spices and some orange.

Palate: Honey and lots of wax, with allspice and some cinnamon.
Water adds spice, with a touch of cardamom and helps the wax stand out.

Linger: Waxy, citrusy, and peppery staying long on the tongue. After water, the pepper stays even longer on the tongue.


It’s good, but I would expect that a few months in the open bottle will take it to a whole new level. There’s a lot of potential in this one, especially if it loses some of the heat in the finish.

A wonderfully fun whisky for a sunny evening on a Finnish island….Skål!

Jul 252017

We all love reviewing (and reading reviews of) the 1955 Linlithgos and the £2500 latest Port Ellens, but in truth, a blog should have many more daily dram reviews than those stellar outliers, and here’s a classic daily dram. The 2006 Bunnahabhain from Gordon and MacPhail’s The MacPhail’s Collection is priced around £35 and is still available from some retailers in the UK.

Matured in sherry casks, both first fill and refill casks, with a very gentle sherry influence, this is a solid daily dram. Not overly complex, but a lovely accompaniment to an everning with friends.

Photo Credit:

Gordon and McPhail – The MacPhail’s Collection – Bunnahabhain 2006 (43%)

Appearance: Gold, slow droplets coming off a necklace.

Nose: Malt, honey, touch of sourness, hay, some dried fruit but the sherry is not not strongly influential.

Palate: Pepper and sweet honey, malt, wood dryness and some bitterness.

Linger: Peppery and very dry, here’s where the influence of the sherry cask comes through. A sweetness is hinted on the tongue, which is very cotton candy like.


Simple, good sipper and at a price point that will give you joy and  provide you with excellent value for your money.

Apr 082017

Speyside’s Strathilsa distillery is the spiritual home of the Chivas Regal blends. This seems normal, the way it’s always been. Only it isn’t.

Strathisla, which was officially named Milton (although it was founded in 1786 as Milltown) enjoyed a stellar reputation for making great whisky, which was named for the river that ran behind the distillery, Strathisla. In the 1940s, the distillery was owned by one George Jay Pomeroy, who resisted advances by Seagram’s agent in Scotland, the famous whisky broker Jimmy Barclay (a true character, worthy of a book about his life, who owned Ballantine’s and was one of the big suppliers of whisky to the prohibitionist USA, and the man who bought the Chivas grocery for Seagram’s – who had a burning desire to best DCL, owners of Dewar’s, Bell’s and Johnnie Walker who had turned down Bronfman’s offer to work together during prohibition). Quite conveniently, Pomeroy was convicted of tax evasion in 1949, and the distillery went out to auction in Aberdeen. Chivas, acquired by Sam Bronfman in  needed a reliable source of single malt around which to build a blend, and Barclay was going to get it. You can read a lot more about this fascinating story in  F. Paul Pacult’s well written book “A Double Scotch: How Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet Became Global Icons” ($4.99 on Kindle).

Photo Credit: Strathisla Distillery by Reinhard Fasser on 500px

Gordon & MacPhail have wanted to have their own distillery since the 1940s, and in April 1950 when the distillery was put up for sale, G&M bid on it, against Jimmy Barclay. Barclay had the deeper pockets, and bought the distillery for £71,000, which opened the way for Chivas Regal – reintroduced in 1954 – to become the powerhouse it is today. G&M maintained a close relationship with Strathisla, and were the de facto official bottlers of the brand for many decades.

What about Gordon and MacPhail? The Urquhart family held on to the dream of having a distillery, and in 1993 bought DCL’s silent Benromach distillery, which they rebuilt and refitted (the equipment being dismantled for parts), taking it well beyond what it was (or probably would have been) under Diageo.

Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 1963, Bottled 2009 (43%)

Photo Credit:

Appearance: Deep mahogany, thick legs running down, slowly tapering off.

Nose: Sherry, burnt wax, mint, blueberries, really fresh nutmeg and some strawberry jam. Despite being 45 years old, it has those fresh berries. They just don’t make them like this anymore.

Palate: That bitter old burnt wax, with a fruit compote and lots of red wine tannins, and quite a bit of milk chocolate.

Linger: Bitter with sweet overnotes, dryness in the mouth and coffee and some chocolaty notes.


It’s really hard to beat these old G&M sherry casks, with their signature burnt wax and the deep deep sherry. I could nose this stuff all day.

Feb 202017

G&M’s house expressions need no introduction and the Speymalt has been a pretty steady feature coming out of their seemingly unexhaustable warehouses. The Speymalt label has been used for Macallans as old as the 1938 vintage, all the way up to this youngish nine year old. The older releases were released at 40%, and later ones went up to a standard 43%.

As with all house brands coming out of Elgin, the quality is impeccable, and the value for money is relatively high.


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

G&M Speymalt – Macallan 2006-2015 (43% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Hay colored, slow legs with quite a bit of residue.

Nose: Sweet vanilla, floral and light. Doesn’t feel as young as it is, although the malt does come out a bit after some time. This dram has something fresh about it.

Palate: Barley sugar, hint of the Macallan character, light peppery notes, slightly reminiscent of the Gold, though much better.

Linger: White pepper, some spiciness down the gullet and a hint of sweetness on the tongue. The spice is pretty long lasting.


It’s a youngish Macallan, but is far better than what makes it into the Gold…