Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

Philip Day looks at Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

In his feature about Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018, Philip provides the brand’s tasting notes as well as his own tasting notes.

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

The Urquhart Family

The popularity of malt whisky shows no signs of waning, being estimated to be worth over £1.1 billion to the UK economy in the last financial year. With this fact in mind, Gordon & MacPhail, the specialists in Single malt Scotch whisky maturation is releasing as part of its ‘Connoissers Choice’ a range of single cask releases, 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, 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 final batch of releases during this fiftieth anniversary year of the Connoisseurs Choice brand features bottlings from the distilleries of Glen Keith (1993), Glenlivet (2002), Glentauchers (1991), Highland Park (1989) and Tormore (1995). These are genuine one-offs that are 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 November, 2018 releases:

Glen Keith Distillery (1993) 49.3% ABV

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

Colour: Lightest gold

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Tuesday, 21 September, 1993

Bottled: Thursday, 13 September, 2018

Years old: 24

Cask No.: 111152

Cask Type: Refill bourbon barrel

Outturn: 205 bottles

Batch: 18/078


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Warm pear and apple cake aromas accompany an elderflower cordial. Tropical fruit – pineapple, coconut, and lime – develop and complements a gentle camomile undertone.

Taste: Medium-bodied; citrus and vanilla combine, evoking flavours of a baked cheesecake. The developing tangy stewed rhubarb edge dissolves and reveals long malty notes.

Finish: A delicate herbal edge rounds out this balanced dram.


Personal tasting notes Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Nose: Light and engagingly fruity with an initial evocative combination of freshly baked Madeira cake and baked bramley apple aromas and a hint of vanilla custard.

A resiny aspect develops with more hints of tropical fruit mixed with a camomile

based herbal tisane.

Taste: A stylish, well-rounded and balanced mouth feel. Delicate hints of vanilla and a lime citrus note peek through a creamy maltiness. The tart notes help cut through the underlying syrupy sweetness. The influences of the bourbon barrel ageing are noticeable.

Finish: Medium length with a delicate herbal piquant aftertaste

In short, a light, accessible, classic dram, loaded with fruits and made for sharing with friends appreciative of the lighter Speyside types of whisky.


Glenlivet Distillery (2002) 58.4% ABV

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

Colour: Lightest gold

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Thursday, 5 November, 2002

Bottled: Thursday, 6 September, 2018

Years old: 15

Cask No.: 800772

Cask Type: First fill bourbon barrel

Outturn: 200 bottles

Batch: 18/090


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Delicate fruit blossom aromas layer over vanilla and poached pear. With time,

rhubarb and raspberry notes develop and mix with smooth white chocolate and fresh custard.

Taste: Intense summer fruit and pressed green apple flavours initially; undertones of chocolate nut praline unfurl. Hints of fresh ginger complement a drying, slightly grassy, edge.

Finish: A charming dram. Delicate and refined with a lingering charred oak note.


Personal tasting notes Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Nose: I found this a little thin. Yes there are definitely fruit notes evident, especially apple and a citric tang. Rhubarb and vanilla custard dominate other more delicate floral notes.

Taste: Not very complex. It is simple and light with a big taste of sweetened stewed apples cut through by an acidic tartness of grapefruit or gooseberries. In the background there’s a discernible taste of a nut flavour milk chocolate.

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

Its floral aspect, lightness and general tastes of summer make it a suitable dram for sociable summer drinking.


Glentauchers Distillery  (1991) 56.8% ABV

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

Colour: Amber

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Thursday, 20 June, 1991

Bottled: Thursday, 6 September, 2018

Years old: 27

Cask No.: 6943

Cask Type: First fill Sherry butt

Outturn: 473 bottles

Batch: 18/100


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Polished oak and twists of fresh orange join aromas of stewed forest fruits: blackcurrant and blackberry, subtle sherry and demerara sugar notes linger.

Taste: Well-rounded; warming cinnamon and nutmeg evolve into roasted coffee bean and creamy chocolate flavours, tangy orange marmalade, the heart of the dram, persists throughout.

Finish: A perfect winter dram, coffee and chocolate develop into mature oak.


Personal tasting notes Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Nose: A nice balance of oak polished with finest beeswax, autumnal fruits macerated in subtle sherry and maple syrup notes, with a hint of tangy orange peel and a whiff of wood smoke.

Taste: Warming Christmas spices combines with tangy orange marmalade while the character of the sherry makes its presence felt. Later mocha and chocolate flavours develop to add a creaminess punctuated by the lingering presence of the zesty orange with just a hint of smoke.

Finish: Lengthy lingering undercurrents of mature wood define the finish.

A pleasing, well-rounded dram: the epitome of a winter toddy


Highland Park Distillery (1989) 57.0% ABV

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

Colour: Amber

Region: Island

Distilled: Tuesday, 07 March, 1989

Bottled: Tuesday, 18 September, 2018

Years old: 29

Cask No.: 1087

Cask Type: Refill Sherry butt

Outturn: 613

Batch: 18/084


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Sherry influences infuse with deep vanilla notes and cocoa powder. Stewed fruits and cinnamon persist and combine with underlying beeswax polish aromas.

Taste: Stewed plum and cherry flavours give way to cinnamon and clove. Flashes of orange peel combine with a subtle tobacco note; smoky charred oak nuances linger.

Finish: Long with a lingering warmth; citrus highlights balance an undercurrent of charred oak.


Personal tasting notes Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Nose: Dominant aromas of sherry, vanilla and good quality dark chocolate combine with aromatic spices: cinnamon bark and nutmeg and stewed stone fruit, all on top of an underlying note of wood polish and a hint of smoke.

Taste: A fudge sweetness with elements of ground coffee and demerara sugar combine with complex aromatic spices as well as hints of dark chocolate orange and lingering subtle notes of floral peat or tobacco.

Finish: A long warming dry finish, with elements of citrus peel and charred oak smoke.

A superb bottling, demonstrating all the characteristics that has made bottlings from this distillery avidly sought after by any serious lover of the spirit.


Tormore Distillery (1995) 60.1% ABV

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Collection November 2018

Colour: Dark gold

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Wednesday, 14 June, 1995

Bottled: Wednesday, 5 September, 2018

Years old: 23

Cask No.: 5383

Cask Type: First fill Sherry butt

Outturn: 615 bottles

Batch: 18/096


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Sweet initially with stewed plum, sultana, and demerara sugar. Herbal notes develop and mature into aromas of pine needles and sage. Ground almond and cocoa powder notes add a layered depth.

Taste: Flavours of a fruit and nut chocolate bar mix with those of rum and raisin ice cream. Hints of dark chocolate develop; sweet and tangy stewed rhubarb highlights remain.

Finish: Sherry influences linger; fresh peppermint adds complexity.


Personal tasting notes Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Nose: Initial sweet sherry infused stewed fruits with herbal notes of fennel and sage. In the background, notes of dark chocolate with almonds and cinnamon provide depth with just a whiff of smoke.

Taste: Creamy dark chocolate flavours reign, featuring hints of vine fruit and mixed nuts. The sweetness of additional sticky toffee pudding elements are cut by acidic stewed rhubarb notes.

Finish: Lingering sherry elements with a fresh, cool minty aftertaste.

A little underwhelming. Palatable but the sherried notes over dominate.


Stop Press!

Finally, advanced notice of a soon to be released bottling that is new for 2018.

Gordon & MacPhail has enhanced the Connoisseurs Choice range with a series of single malts that are aged 30-years-old and above.

One of the latest expressions to be released in this select group is from Scapa Distillery.

Scapa Distillery (1988) 53.8% ABV

Colour: Light gold

Region: Island

Distilled: Friday, 02 September, 1988

Bottled: Thursday, 13 September, 2018

Years old: 30

Cask No.: 10585

Cask Type: Refill bourbon barrel

Outturn: 148

Batch: 18/069


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Not available at time of writing.


Personal tasting notes Official sample provided by Gordon & MacPhail

Nose: Tinned apricots or peaches are offered together with a mixture of nougat, buttery toffee caramel and barley sugars. A strong aroma of vanilla, some mineral notes that is a cross between freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil and a hint of sea spray with the additional hint of a floral element.

The merest threat of water releases additional fruit notes and expands the honeyed sweetness.

Taste: A sweet bread pudding made from a high quality panettone smothered with creamy vanilla custard that has juicy lemons and bitter orange marmalade added for good measure. The malt influences are perceptible, as are the accompanying hints of bourbon infused oak, the mineral and briny notes promised in its nose and just a wisp of smokiness, which combined help to tame the sweetness from becoming over dominant.

The addition of just a few drops of water help create a beautiful, simply well- balanced dram of pure whisky nectar.

Finish: A relatively long finish featuring more of the above with buttery notes emerging at the end. A sheer delight!

Being a new addition to the range and presented in a heavyweight bottle and wooden presentation box, details of its price and release date are yet to be published on the website.

If you are interested in this bottling keep an eye on their social media feeds, as this whisky will not be available for long.

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




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 from the media centre.

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