Serious, Delicious & Completely Original Artisan Scotch Whiskies

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  • By Randy Kemner
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Serious, Delicious & Completely Original Artisan Scotch Whiskies

When the connoisseur in you wants more, the Gordon & MacPhail portfolio offers incredible individually barreled whiskies.

Most whisky drinkers are brand-conscious.  They identify with a particular label the same way a sports fan identifies with a favorite team.  There are Jack Daniels people and Jim Beam people, Johnnie Walker people and Chivas people.  Unlike wine people who are given to experimentation they rarely buy anything else.

 

It's true with Bourbon, Canadian, Irish and especially Scotch whisky drinkers.

 

We are all accustomed to seeing these popular brands of Scotch whisky in locked cases in every corner liquor store, Rite-Aid, Costco, and chain beverage outlet.  We are accustomed to reading about them in newspaper inserts and magazine ads.  These are the factory mega-brands, many quite decent to drink, but all engineered to appeal to the widest audience in their price tier. 

What few consumers realize is there lay hidden treasure troves of specially selected, individual barreled whiskies in warehouses curated by independent bottlers throughout Scotland.  In a tradition going back centuries, they buy individual barrels from distilleries all over Scotland, and age and bottle those whiskies themselves.  Over the years, we've discovered a few very good scotches from these various collections.

 

Then there is Gordon MacPhail, which to my mind stands above the rest.  Unlike their competitors, this 122 year old firm doesn't buy finished whisky, instead seeking out distinctive distilleries in Scotland and buying raw single-malt distillate when it is still clear and strong, then aging these in individual barrels of their choosing to create wonderful, individual and rare bottlings. 

 

And in many cases, these aged delicacies are far less expensive than the over-hyped offerings of similar age of their huge competitors.  It costs a lot of money for those mega-brand magazine ads.

 

This mission of the company is to match the right barrels with the right distillate.  They have long experience in maturation, so they pretty much have the gig down.  The results are so impressive, we have given up on most of the mainstream scotches in the market to highlight these incredible, satisfying and very accomplished whiskies.  You may find a familiar name, like Glen Grant, Glenlivet or Macallan on the MacPhail label, but these are very different whiskies than their mass-marketed cousins.  These rare bottlings have both breed and exclusivity baked in, often at competitive prices.

 

Currently, the Speyside firm has 25,000 to 30,000 casks aging away, and each year bottles their se-lect whiskies under four tiers.  The Generations, longest matured scotches ever to be bottled, released after 70 years with great ceremony, in places like Edinburgh palace with people like Prince Charles.

 

The Connoisseur's Choice collection (bottled at conventional 43% alcohol) is constantly changing due to the nature of limited supply, and is labeled according to its source distillate.

 

Cask Strength collection offers whiskies with unique ABAs, depending on the length ageing.

 

Finally, the Private Collection, a rare grouping of scotches into two tiers, those from 21 to 49 years old (they come in a green-framed box), and those aged 50 years and more, which are accompanied by hand-signed certificates.  These are naturally very rare and have to be special ordered from the headquarters in Elgin, northeast Scotland.

In 1993, the firm purchased Benromach, a run-d

own distillery long in disuse and spent years refurbishing it, yet nothing is automated.  The signature bottlings are at 43% alcohol at various age statements, but  one whisky is bottled at cask strength.  In recent years, Benromach has been the winner of numerous international tasting competitions, and my experience with the brand has been nothing short of impressive every time I sample them.

 

At a magnificent tasting of Gordon MacPhail Scotch Whiskies recently, only my second in the past decade, I was once again greatly enthused by nearly every sample I encountered.  Sitting alongside my colleague Nick Larson, we tasted through 11 Gordon MacPhail whiskies, and 9 of them were so stunning, we had to bring them to you right away.

 

Benromach 10 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

At a conventional 43% alcohol, this lightly peated whisky, aged in young first-fill casks goes through a triple barrel regimen, ending in Oloroso sherry barrels for added richness and a moderate hint of peat. Extremely rich for a 10 year old scotch.

$57.99 per bottle

 

Benromach 15 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

Extremely round, with a noticable peatiness, but not overwhelming, and very full-bodied.  It is a scotch lover's scotch.

$99.99 per bottle

 

Benromach 2006 Wood Finish Sassicaia Barrels Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Gordon & MacPhail

Since nearly all scotches are aged in used oak barrels, Gordon & MacPhail decided recently to experiment with used wine casks from prestigious sources, like the Super-Tuscan pioneer Sassicaia, and bottle whisky from a single year.  The result is a very smooth, richly flavored whisky with aromas of cooked peaches and a small dose of peat.  Very nice whisky.

$83.99 per bottle

 

Tormore 14 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

Described as a "summertime scotch," this delightful whisky has a lot of pleasure going on.  With attractive floral and vanilla components, it drinks very cleanly on the palate, offering up a terrific, satisfying aftertaste. 

$89.99 per bottle

 

Glenburgie 10 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

Exotic aromas of clove, spice and vanilla lead this fuller-bodied scotch in a satifying direction.  A tad sweet to the tongue, with a little vanilla and peat in the delicious aftertaste.

$62.99 per bottle

 

Blair Athol 9 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

The sweet aroma is delightful, leading to a whisky that is very easy to drink.  Some gentle warmth in the finish.

$72.99 per bottle

 

Linkwood 15 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

Linkwood provides 3 to 6-year-old scotch des-tined for Johnnie Walker.  Gordon & MacPhail, on the other hand, nurtures its small acquisition in its own sherry barrels to create a whisky that is golden brass in color, and richly flavored with caramel notes and a full-bodied texture.  Lovely.

$81.99 per bottle

 

Bladnoch 16 Year Old Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aged in used sherry barrels, Bladnoch's 16 is a light gold colored, delicate whisky that has surprising length for its lighter body.  Subtle aromas give over to a sweet, almost nutty flavor combined with a kind of fruitiness you get in quality scotch. 

$124.99 per bottle

 

Glenscotia 21 Year Old Campbelltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

There are only three distilleries in all of the Campbelltown region, and two are owned by Springbank.  The other is Glenscotia, an elite source used by Gordon & MacPhail for many, many years.  This is an incredibly appealing scotch I want to go back to time and time again.  With a darker color, it has a very complex aroma, with hints of vanilla and a green leafy component.  Plush in the mouth with a luxurious round texture, the flavors had me thinking there was some banana in there somewhere, plus a touch of peat.  Incredible scotch for very fair price, considering its age.

$199.99 per bottle

 

Mortlach 15 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

This is among our very best-selling super-premium scotch whiskies, and for good reason.  Whenever I have a hankering for a special glass of scotch, I reach for my Mortlach 15.  Year after year, the consistency is impressive:  richly flavored with a spicy nose not unlike that of an older tawny port.  The vanilla and caramel notes are nothing short of seductive.

$89.99 per bottle

 

Mortlach 25 Year old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Gordon & MacPhail

This is the older brother to our best-selling Mortlach 15, this elegant whisky is aged in completely different cooperage--refilled, remade American oak casks.  (The 15 is aged in sherry barrels.)  Brass colored, with a rich aroma and the faintest dash of peat, it is a high toned drink that reveals its pleasure, little by little, while you are sipping it.  I kept going back to it, as it got better and better in the glass.  A remarkable whisky at a remarkableprice. 

$239.99 per bottle

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