GreatDrams gets to review a rare, 38 Year Old Coleburn single malt whisky from Gordon & MacPhail

let’s begin

The 38 Year Old Coleburn single malt whisky is the latest addition to the ‘Private Collection’ range. Having never tried anything from this long-silent distillery, I made it my mission to try the sample sent within minutes of the postie arriving.

Single malt whisky creator Gordon & MacPhail has recently announced their Spring Collection. They unveiled a series of stunning whiskies which draw upon their enviable warehouses that are maturing whisky from over 100 Scottish distilleries. The 38 Year Old Coleburn is one such Whisky.

Thankfully the fine ladies and gents of Gordon & MacPhail sent out some cheeky little samples of their new releases. I got to dive in nose first…

The one that caught my eye, and is the focus of this review feature is the Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery. It is the latest addition to the ‘Private Collection’ range. This malt has been maturing in the company’s warehouse for the full 38 year maturation period.

Spirit from Coleburn Distillery – mothballed in 1985 – was traditionally used in blending but Gordon & MacPhail carefully matched the spirit with a first fill Sherry hogshead to create this extraordinary and very rare single malt.

– G&M press release

Only 101 bottles will be available for purchase worldwide. So if you have a £1,250 sized wedge burning a hole in your pocket make sure you check it out. It is a true rarity in the whisky world.

When I tried my sample, I found the nose to be laden with the gorgeous, unmistakable boozy fruitcake note I love so much at Christmas (and, oftentimes, at weddings). There was a freshness to it too though, a slight smoke maybe. A lovely molten toffee note mixed up with a fabulously balanced oak note too.

On the palate, I was greeted with near enough all my favourite notes. Bitter chocolate, that boozy fruitcake again. This time with a much more pronounced sherry wine note oozing through the thickness of the whisky itself. That smoke hint, not overt but present seeped in again leading into the finish that lasted what felt like forever.

A stunner of a whisky. And now I’m sure I will not get to try again. So thank you very much to G&M for the sample, gratefully received as ever.

What do you know about the Coleburn single malt whisky and its distillery?

According to G&M, the distillery was hidden from sight behind a rich green landscape. The Coleburn Distillery was founded in 1897 in Longmorn, five miles south of Elgin in Speyside. Designed by renowned architect Charles Doig, who also designed the Gordon & MacPhail retail shop in Elgin, the distillery was one of many that closed its doors during a challenging period for the whisky industry in the 1980s.

Laid down on 11th March 1981 to mature in cask 476, Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery was bottled at 55.9% ABV on 14th March 2019. With a distinct mahogany hue, the new release has rich flavours of Sherry-soaked fruit, liquorice, and dark chocolate, and a long finish brimming with toffee notes and a hint of smoke.

“Our mantra has always been to ‘do right by the whisky’; recognising when it has reached its ultimate peak and then bottling it regardless of commercial pressures or notable birthdays. Brought to you as a rare single malt, this 38-year-old release exhibits the true spirit of the Coleburn Distillery. My grandfather, George Urquhart, was always keen to champion the quality of the new-make from previously unheralded distilleries and this remarkable whisky perfectly exemplifies his vision. It’s one to celebrate and savour.”

Said Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige and member of the fourth generation of the Urquhart family

Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery will be available for purchase worldwide from selected specialist retailers with a UK RRP £1,250.

For more information on the Spring Collection, please visit

Tags: 38-year-old whisky
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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