Gordon & MacPhail Rare Vintage Tweet Tasting

About Gordon & MacPhail

Gordon & MacPhail has been bottling single malts since 1895 – that’s a 122 years of selecting the perfect whisky. This family owned business is located
in North East Scotland. The firm was founded by James Gordon and John MacPhail, but their apprentice John Urquhart soon worked his way to senior partner, and it is his family that have continued to run the company since 1915. Urquhart was amongst Gordon & MacPhail’s first employees, starting at the young age of 15. Following MacPhail’s retirement in March 1915 Urquhart was made partner and following Gordon’s death two weeks later he was the senior partner. Urquhart was joined by his son George and daughter Betty in 1933, and was later joined by his other son Gordon in 1950. By this time Gordon & MacPhail had the largest range of bottled malts in the world.  Today, Gordon & MacPhail bottles over 300 expressions. In fact, one of Gordon & MacPhail’s expressions is history making. In 2010, Gordon & MacPhail released a Morthlach 70 year old single malt – the worlds oldest whisky ever released! The following year, they released a  Glenlivet 70 year old! Alongside over 300 expressions of independent bottlings Gordon & MacPhail owns Benromach distillery! That’s right. Benromach!

Thanks to Steve over at The Whisky Wire, we received some samples of five vintage Gordon Macphail bottlings as part of a Tweet Tasting back in November.

Balblair 1985

Bottled in 2015, this 30 year old single malt was matured in refill bourbon barrels.

Price: £191.30 (Master of Malt); £192 (The Whisky Exchange)

Appearance – Golden, with lots of thin legs which are slow to form.

Nose – Surprisingly light! Red and green apple peels with nutty  almond! Pineapple zest, fresh grassy tones and red grape. A slight splash of vanilla.

Palate – Not what you expect from a bourbon barrels! Fresh cinnamon and a burst of general fruitiness. The red grape from the nose is definitely there. It’s very Rum-like! A powerful dose of maraschino cherries that are on fire with a coating of brown sugar.

Finish – It’s a short finish but it’s still packed with flavour! There’s an odd flavour of nuts and sourness that surprisingly work well together! It’s followed by a combination of grassy, ethanol with fruitiness of grape and raisin.

Smith’s Glenlivet 1974

This 33 year old bottling was matured in sherry hogsheads.

Price: £420.67 (Master of Malt); £408 (The Whisky Exchange)

Appearance – Copper/amber. Viscous with very few drops that are slow to form.

Nose – Fresh! Damp moss blends with tone of… a plastic ball pit – and it turns out that’s a good thing. Much more familiar tones of orange, dark brown sugar, caramel and salt swarm in after.

Palate – You can really taste all those years in sherry hogsheads! A tangy explosion of red fruit, blueberries and cranberry. Some beautifully strong vanilla – it’s fresh too! Salted caramel mixed with grassy notes is followed by Christmas-y  raisin, cloves, Nutmeg and blood orange.

Finish – There’s Oak. A lot of oak – about 33 years of oak I’d say! Salt and grass. Damp bark and dark rum with cloves. A dash of Angostura bitters!

Glen Grant 1966

This 45 year old spent time in refill American hogsheads and first fill sherry butts.

Price: £583.82 (Master of Malt); £585 (The Whisky Exchange)

Appearance – A light amber tinged with yellow. Slow drops to form but they’re sticky.

Nose – Dessert whisky! It’s sweet and fresh. A dark honey that has had rose water and rose petals infused with it. A big of dollop of buttercream frosting and then fruit! Raisins and honeydew melon that is oddly dry and dusty. Dry twigs.

Palate  – An immediately buttery smoothness and creaminess melds with walnut. However, there is a burst of flavours.  At the forefront there is fizzy cola bottles with cinnamon, clove and hay. Dark chocolate overwhelms for a moment before it soothes into fruity guava.

Finish – Strong! An ashy note dries the throat before succumbing to malts, ground peppercorns and powerful pink grapefruit.

Strathisla 1965

Bottled on the 20th January 2016, this whisky is a fantastic 50 years old and was matured in first fill sherry puncheon.

Price: £658 (The Whisky Exchange)

Appearance – Hmmm. It seems that someone has swapped our whisky! This is dark, like iced coffee or dark ale. There is a slight red hue. There are few drops but they’re all rather fat.

Nose – Deep. The age is just as obvious on the nose as it is on the eye. Sherry! Which can be expected. It seems I’ve walked into an office… Dusty wood and coffee beans! Then there is hazelnut and fruity tones of overly ripe red apple and prunes

Palate – Dive into the flavour! It’s a plethora. There is musky old leather with allspice and Oolong tea. This then gives way to Polished mahogany. It’s refined and quite smooth. Then, there is Juniper berry with dry wood and juicy black grape. Thick and bitter dark chocolate with red fruit and overly ripe red apples that have long been stewed.

Finish – Still evolves long after swallowing. There is a sharpness but it is still smooth. There is spice! A good dash of nutmeg and aniseed with some powerful blackberries there peter out into charcoal.

Mortlach 1958

58 years old and only 347 bottles worldwide. Matured in first fill sherry butt.

Price: £1,700 (The Whisky Exchange)

Appearance – Yet again it’s very dark, like coffee, with an amber hue. There’re fat drops, quick to fall but slow to form.

Nose – The Hogwarts library! Delicately sweet but prominent plum and pear. A bizarre combination of burnt caramel, wet sand, ash and charcoal overwhelms. It is more reminiscent of a bourbon/rye. The senses are then confused by the strong, dark barley tones which are more expected in ale or porter – leaning toward porter. The final notes on the nose are chocolate covered coffee beans, sunflower oil and peanuts.

Palate – Powerfully musky and wonderfully smooth. The strong malts that were on the nose are definitely present in the palate. There is a sprinkle of fennel in a cup of steaming lapsang souchoung tea. Immensely dark treacle and an abundance of pipe tobacco that is dry on the tongue. Then there is  allspice and ground peppercorns which blends with sweet red fruit, caramel, raisin and maraschino cherry.

Finish – Bitter dark chocolate with charcoal and a distinct muskiness. It is thick and warming. Powerful tones of tobacco and rum peters out into dry parsley and maraschino cherry.

Overall – You may have noticed that we have not rated any of these whiskies. In truth, these whiskies are unrateable. I did this tasting on the night alone, as Mady was away, once she got back she asked me which was my favourite and I couldn’t decided. Now, Mady understands my dilemma. These samples were amongst some of the most delicious, flavoured packed, complex, pieces of history we have ever come across. We’d both like to thank Gordon & MacPhail and Steve Rush for this once in a life time opportunity. 

Slàinte mhòr!

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