Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection January 2019

Philip Day looks at Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection January 2019

In his feature about Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection January 2019, Philip provides the brand’s tasting notes as well as his own.

As the dark nights begin to recede, now that Christmas and the New Year celebrations are over and done with for another year. It’s time to take stock and look forward to the pleasure that 2019 can offer us over the coming months. The popularity of malt whisky, estimated to be worth over £1.1 billion to the UK economy in the last financial year, will hopefully continue to make 2018-19 an even better year.

Gordon & MacPhail, the specialists in Single malt Scotch whisky maturation is adding to its ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ by releasing for 2019 as part of this range of single cask releases, the following unique bottlings: Mortlach Distillery 1988 and North British Distillery 1990, which have been personally selected by members of the family that owns the company.

The ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ range was created by whisky visionary, George Urquhart, member of the second generation of the family that still owns Gordon & MacPhail.

Since 1968, almost 100 distilleries have been featured as part of the range, with over 2,000 individual bottlings, each telling its life story through its label: cask type, bottling date, strength, vintage, and tasting notes.

Set against a backdrop of seismic social and political change around the world, George Urquhart decided in 1968 to go against the grain and bring whiskies to market under the ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ brand in their purest form: as single malts.

The growth of the ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ range in the 1970s and 1980s was accelerated by George Urquhart’s annual pilgrimage to visit Italian collectors and distributors who helped to build awareness and shape the future flavour profiles of new stock being laid down for maturation.

Just as his father had introduced him to the firm, so George brought in his own children. His eldest son, Ian, joined in 1967, with his younger brother, David, welcomed in 1972.

In 1981, Michael Urquhart and his sister, Rosemary (Rankin) joined the company, completing a whole generation of siblings all working within the company, each bringing skills and valuable business experience learned elsewhere.

George Urquhart’s legacy is brought into particular focus when the facts and figures are scrutinized. In 1968, the total export value of all single malt Scotch was less than £3million. Last year the equivalent figure had grown to more than £1.1 billion.

Commenting on this legacy last year, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige, Stephen Rankin, a member of the fourth generation of the Urquhart family stated:

“I’m sure my grandfather, George, would be immensely proud of how the category he pioneered continues to grow and positively affect the Scottish economy. He’d also love the fact that members of the family still play active roles in helping to shape the next fifty years of the range he created.”

So, the first batch of releases of 2019 of the ‘Connoisseurs Choice ‘ brand features bottlings from the distilleries of Mortlach (1998) and North British (1990) a bottled single grain whisky: the first time such a whisky has been bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 123 years of its history. These two releases are genuine one-offs: unique in every sense of the word.

The single malts gaining entry into the ‘Connoisseurs Choice ‘ have been lovingly created by matching the finest new-make spirit with the highest quality casks. These single cask or small batch expressions are always non-chill-filtered, natural coloured and bottled at cask strength, 46% ABV, or for our wood finishes, 45% ABV.

Once bottled, these unique expressions will never be seen again.

Please note that some of the expressions in this range are only available to certain market areas.

For further information, please visit their website at


Overview of the Connoisseurs Choice January, 2019 releases:

Mortlach Distillery (1988) 48.8% ABV

Colour: Dark Gold

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Wednesday, 07 December, 1988

Bottled: Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Years old: 30

Cask No.: 4839

Cask Type: Refill American hogshead

Outturn: 129 bottles

Batch: 18/068


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Subtle sherry highlights breakthrough the delicate aromas of vanilla meringue topped heavily with redcurrant, strawberry, and raspberry. Zesty lime notes add a fresh element.

Taste: Mouth-warming chilli chocolate follows the initial refreshing menthol notes. As the sweet and fruity flavours of candied peel in a light fruitcake fade, mature oak undertones come to the fore.

Finish: Balanced charred oak notes linger on the finish.


Personal tasting notes (Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail)

Nose: Light and engagingly fruity with an initial evocative combination of freshly baked vanilla infused pavlova and red berry summer fruit with subtle sherry notes and a hint of a refreshing lime citrus note.

Taste: A stylish, mouth feel. After an initial wave of menthol notes, warmth is provided by a blend of comforting dark chocolate with a chilli kick. The influence of the maturing oak breaks though as the fruitcake notes and sweetness subside.

Finish: Medium length with notes of charred oak rounding out this balanced dram.

In short, a light, accessible, classic dram, loaded with fruit notes with oak undertones, made for sharing with friends appreciative of the lighter Speyside types of whisky.


North British Distillery (1990) 61.0% ABV Single Grain

Colour: Mahogany

Region: Lowland

Distilled: Tuesday, 23 October, 1990

Bottled: Thursday, 29 November, 2018

Years old: 28

Cask No.: 73847

Cask Type: First fill Sherry puncheon

Outturn: 181 bottles

Batch: 18/107


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Rich and bold; fruitcake laden with sultanas, raisins, and dates soaked in golden syrup. Hot dark chocolate aromas infuse with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried ginger.

Taste: Undertones of marzipan and orange peel complement ripe cherry flavours. Notes of stewed blackcurrant and blackberry develop; a delicate menthol edge remains.

Finish: A delightful dram with a subtle and lingering charred oak finish.


Personal tasting notes (Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail)

Nose: A rich, confident Christmas cake aroma full of soaked vine fruits made with a light treacly mixture full of spicy elements. A warming dark chocolate note provides a secondary aroma experience with just a whiff of menthol.

Taste: Rich plum fruits and stewed autumnal fruits are complimented by an undercurrent of almond paste and citrus peel. Subtle menthol influences persist.

Finish: Delicate and refined with a lingering hint of bitterness provided by the charred oak.

In short, a charming dram. Definitely worth trying.

Among Gordon & MacPhail’s maturing stocks are casks from no fewer than twenty-six closed, mothballed or demolished Scotch distilleries – a liquid archive unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

Further unique releases from the ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ range will be revealed in coming months.

For further information, please visit their website at


Gordon & MacPhail Whiskies

Established in 1895, family-owned Gordon & MacPhail is renowned as a curator of some of the world’s finest and rarest single malt Scotch whiskies from over 100 distilleries. Four generations of the Urquhart family have continued to pursue the perfect partnership between spirit and cask.

Since its foundation, Gordon & MacPhail has carefully matched spirit to the highest quality oak casks which are sent to distilleries throughout Scotland, filled with new-make spirit, and matured either at the distillery of origin or in the firm’s own bonded warehouses in Elgin.

Managing a portfolio of casks is a complex business. The Urquhart family have honed their expertise over generations allowing them to fully comprehend how the different styles of spirit produced by Scotland’s individual distilleries will mature in cask.

It is this simple but endlessly complex pairing that creates an intriguing and unique portfolio of expressions – single malts that Scotch whisky lovers will not find anywhere else.

It is this in-depth knowledge and experience of cask curation that allows them to consistently deliver a range of perfectly matured whiskies.

“Our maturation management creates complex, balanced and subtle single malts, which will only carry the Gordon & MacPhail name when ready”.


The Gordon & MacPhail core malt whisky portfolio:

In 2018, the company unveiled its new portfolio:

  • Discovery – Utterly dependable, this flavour-led range is the perfect introduction to our portfolio of quality single malt Scotch whiskies.
  • Distillery Labels – A range celebrating our long-standing relationships with Scotland’s distilleries.
  • Connoisseurs Choice – The heart of our portfolio – always unique, these non-chill-filtered, natural coloured, small batch expressions are genuine one-offs.
  • Private Collection – Greatly-aged single malts from celebrated, little-known, or closed distilleries specially selected by members of the Urquhart family.
  • Generations – A prestigious collection of old, rare, and exclusive masterpieces.

(See website for more details)

In addition to possessing an inimitable knowledge of Scottish single malts and passion for matching spirit with oak, the Urquhart family long held an unfulfilled ambition to own its own distillery. This desire finally became a reality in 1993 with the purchase of the Benromach Distillery on the outskirts of Forres, just twelve miles from the steps of their world famous shop in Elgin. Following five years of careful and deliberate re-equipping, Benromach Distillery was officially reopened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998.


Company Details:

Address: Gordon & MacPhail, George House, Boroughbriggs Road, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, IV30 1JY

Telephone: +44 (0) 1343 545 111

Website:  Twitter: @gordon_macphail

Email: Facebook: @gordonandmacphail

Instagram: gordonandmacphail



Media materials and complimentary samples kindly provided by Gordon & MacPhail


Images kindly provided by Gordon & MacPhail

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