It is always a wonderful day when you have a luxury dinner with the team from Gordon & MacPhail, let alone when you are treated to three whiskies with one dating back to 1939 and one being a band new £5,000 gem to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of the founder of G&M.
The first sample; a 1939 archive sample from the Glenlivet Distillery - drawn in the 1960s
What. A. Treat. The nose has an underlying fruity smokiness. Old, clearly – a bit vegetal, citrus and sweet fruit notes punch through. Punchy on the palate, so fruity, lovely smooth smoke present, quite sweet and a crazy long finish full of spice, ash and happiness. Oily. White pepper notes. Thick and fabulous.
Quite a heavy spirit that has held up the standards of how whisky was made way back when.
So complex. Pre-ABV so we have no idea on the strength.
Would have cost around £4.92 back in the day, in 1939… that’s £295.11 in 2016 money (latest data available when writing).
I truly cannot believe I was allowed to try such an historic whisky, thank you Stephen and the G&M team!
So, on to the main event, but first; what makes Gordon & MacPhail so special?
As a company, they have the incredible foresight to think about taking distillery releases from the archive to market in the 1960s as most of these brands we know and love today did not have their own ranges or even bottle design, let along label design apart from some like Glen Grant that licensed their labels to G&M. Others like Mortlach, Highland Park, Strathisla and many others who were Blend fodder and did not have their own label designs or their own range or product in their name in the market.
It took until the 1980s when the ‘majors’ realised they needed to exploit the opportunity to release proper single malt in their own name when consumers realised that each distillery produced something different to the one next door.
And that’s thanks to the vision of Gordon & MacPhail and their long term planning from decades previous. Laying down stock for their children’s and grandchildren, and are still doing that now for next – like the William Grant & Sons ethos.
Mr. George was fundamental to that vision.
Laid down in 1956, the year ‘Mr George’ as he was known by colleagues, became senior partner, the 62-year-old single malt features spirit from one of his favourite distilleries, Glen Grant.
Renowned whisky writer Charles MacLean remarked, “It is no exaggeration to say that George Urquhart was the father, the originator, of the current success and appreciation of Scotch malt whiskies.”
Joining the business in 1933, George Urquhart began his career working alongside his father, John, who had become sole owner of the company in 1915 after John Alexander MacPhail’s retirement and James Gordon’s passing.
‘Mr George’ went on to develop a deep understanding of Scotch whisky, especially the unique interaction that occurs over time between spirit and cask. He was instrumental to the success of single malt, championing it at a time when the vast majority of whisky went towards the production of blends. In 1968, he created the Connoisseurs Choice range giving little-known distilleries a platform to have their whisky enjoyed in its simplest form, as aged single malt.
Nose is heavy on burnt sugar, Crewe brûlée and sherry notes – quite floral, woody and clove notes dominate with time in glass, a slight smoke note develops, as does a note of powdered chocolate too.
Palate brings forward that sherry and floral note, quite a juicy peach and pineapple notes, quite sweet, more stone fruit comes through with a solid juicy oak note too. Lovey spice notes develop and couples with the fruit for a long finish.
£5,000 may sound like a lot for a whisky, and of course it really is, but for a 62 Year Old this is surprisingly reasonable in my opinion – although I don’t think I will be stumping up for one… a little out of my budget!
Glen Grant 2015 Cask Sample. Cask 5822.
We then tried something unexpected after two mega drams; a 4 Year Old cask sample from the Glen Grant distillery that delivered big on the toffee, banana notes on the nose... Really fresh and alive, a minty note with a vibrant nose.
The palate is bold, but delicate - those honeycomb and toffee notes, like a liquid banoffee pie, with a creamy lemony note there too. Powerful, fruity and smooth. A lovely work in progress that will develop into something quite special when bottled according to its planned.Should be interesting to see how this develops and what G&M may release it...
Today, Mr George’s legacy is built upon by his family, including his grandson Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige.
Stephen comments: “My grandfather’s drive, commitment and foresight helped to ensure that single malt Scotch whisky grew in popularity. His introduction of the Connoisseurs Choice range in 1968 was a landmark moment for the sector, launched as several new export markets opened and growth in demand for single malts came from countries including Italy.
“Our specially selected Mr George Centenary Edition embodies the qualities that made Mr George a master
of his craft; patience, depth of character and exquisite taste. Not only was Glen Grant one of his favourite drams, the year 1956 is especially significant as this was the year George became Senior Partner at Gordon & MacPhail, marking the first step in a new direction for the company.
“It’s also a reminder of the importance of maintaining relationships built on respect – something which has become our family’s philosophy. Many of these relationships, built decades ago, still thrive today.”
Only 235 bottles of Gordon & MacPhail Mr George Centenary Edition 1956 from Glen Grant Distillery will be available for purchase from selected specialist whisky retailers internationally for £5000* [UK RRP].
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and let’s have a chat!