Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

The Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection includes an ultra-rare whisky from Inverleven Distillery and a 44-year old single malt distilled at Glenrothes Distillery. Philip Day appraises both whiskies.

This detailed review of the Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection includes tasting notes by Gordon & MacPhail as well as Philip Day’s own personal tasting notes.

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

The popularity of malt whisky, worth over £1 billion to the UK economy last year, continues to flourish. Cognizant of this trend, Gordon & MacPhail, the specialists in Single malt Scotch whisky maturation is releasing two very desirable bottlings, as part of its redesigned ‘Private Collection’ range of single cask releases, from celebrated, little-known and closed distilleries, which have been personally selected by members of the Urquhart family that has owned the company for four generations.

The new look to the range features beautifully crafted ridged heavyweight bottles presented in exquisitely veneered presentation boxes.

The first releases in the new-look range comprise an ultra-rare whisky from Inverleven Distillery and a forty-four-year-old single malt distilled at Glenrothes Distillery.

Both bottlings have been chosen by Stuart Urquhart, Associate Director of Whisky Supply, who determined that the two whiskies from the Glenrothes and Inverleven distilleries, being matured in Gordon & MacPhail casks, had achieved their peak potential and were ready to be bottled.

In 1985, Ian Urquhart sent a refill bourbon barrel (Cask 562) to the Inverleven Distillery (Dumbarton) situated in the ‘Scottish Lowlands’ whisky region. This distillery had been making spirit for only forty-seven years beginning in 1938 and new-make would only flow for another six years before the Inverleven still was mothballed, in 1991. In 2002, the site was demolished, never to produce again.

Inverleven malt whisky has always been something of a rarity, given the fact that the stills required to produce it were removed in 1991, so the whisky will disappear altogether as stocks are sold off in the decades to come.

This exceptional single malt has matured for thirty-three years before being bottled by Gordon & MacPhail at cask strength (ABV 57.4%). It will retail around £1000.

Inverleven Distillery 1985 (Private Collection) 57.4% ABV

Region: Lowland

Distilled: Tuesday, 22 January, 1985

Bottled: Friday 6 July, 2018

Age: 33 years old

Cask No.: 562

Cask Type: Refill bourbon barrel

Outturn: 130 bottles

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Tasting notes by Gordon & MacPhail

Colour: Dark Gold

Aromas: Intense tropical fruit aromas to begin – cooked pineapple, honeydew melon, coconut cream, and little burst of sharp yet sweet lime. A sweet creaminess continues with notes of vanilla ice-cream, sugared red apples, apricot jam, and white chocolate. Hints of overripe cherry and almond marzipan develop into flowering gorse.

Flavours: Creamy and mouth-coating; warming white pepper notes transform into sweet flambéed banana, Madagascan vanilla pod, and salted toffee. Subtle spicy undertones remain as toasted malt comes to the fore; a drying cocoa and charred oak edge develops.

Finish: A long and lingering charred oak finish with a subtle floral edge.

Personal tasting notes

Nose: Aromatic with initial notes of sweet tropical fruit cut by a slight citric tang. Pleasing whiffs of top quality vanilla ice-cream alongside hints of the sticky cherry jam and almondy marzipan of a cherry bakewell.

Taste: Well-rounded creaminess and sweetness on the palette, offering warming peppery notes, complimented by a spicy, if slightly charred oakiness and toasted malt with a final offering of bitter dark chocolate.

Finish: The pleasant charred oakiness with its subtle undertones of floral notes provide a lengthy lingering finish.

In short, a lovely old dram, the nose is tempting while the taste delivers a refined and rewarding experience.

The second ‘Private Collection’ release dates back to 1974 when a refill Sherry puncheon (with a capacity of 110 imperial gallons (500 litres) was filled at Glenrothes Distillery in Speyside. Currently owned by Edrington, and produces some aged malts for Berry Brothers and Rudd, the famed London wine merchants.  Most of the spirit from this distillery, however, is best known for its use in blended scotch whiskies, such as ‘Cutty Sark’ and ‘The Famous Grouse’.

This exclusive single malt has matured for forty-three years before being bottled by Gordon & MacPhail at cask strength (ABV 49.5%). It will retail around £1250.

Glenrothes Distillery 1974 (Private Collection) 49.5% ABV

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Monday, 2 December, 1974

Bottled: Friday 6 July, 2018

Age: 43 years old

Cask No.: 18440

Cask Type: Refill Sherry puncheon

Outturn: 276 bottles

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Tasting notes by Gordon & MacPhail

Colour: Mahogany

Aromas: Complex; aromas of Sherry soaked fruitcake filled with stewed sultanas mingle with sticky Medjool dates. Dark chocolate and citrus peel notes develop; a gentle woodiness with a delicate herbal edge comes to the fore.

Flavours: Elegant, smooth, and sweet; Subtle cinnamon and nutmeg flavours balance the mature oak and Sherry influences. Notes of fruit and nut chocolate and hints of raisin and toasted walnut emerge and evolve into zesty citrus. Salted toffee develops towards the end. 

Finish: A modest, medium sweet finish fades; hints of charred oak and chocolate remain.

Personal tasting notes

Nose: Distinctive sherry aroma combined with hints of alcohol soaked vine fruit are evocative of a matured sherry-fed Christmas fruitcake, minus the over dominance of the spice ingredients. Notable hints of premium quality dark chocolate infused with orange oil mixed with a delicate trace of fresh herbs.

Taste: Exquisitely sweet and smooth with emerging flavours of warming nutmeg and cinnamon and a welcome nutty toffee note together with touches of citrus zest that perfectly balances the influence of the spirit’s time in the Sherry puncheon.

Finish: Lingering chocolate notes combined with subtle hints of charred oak remain as the medium length finish subsides.

Out of the two samples tested, for me this one has the slight edge, being nicely balanced and complex.

Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige and member of the Urquhart family, said:

“For over a century my family has been maturing whisky and using our skills, experience, and passion for single malts to recognise exactly the right moment to bottle a spirit that will be loved by discerning whisky drinkers around the globe. These two exquisite malts are complemented perfectly by the beautiful new packaging.”

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 ultra-rare releases from the new ‘Private Collection’ 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.

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

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.

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Sample Room

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

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