Gordon & MacPhail Spring Collection April 2019

Includes Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery (Private Collection)

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

Hopefully we can finally say farewell to winter, with its bitter winds, ice and snow, and welcome spring, marking the beginning of warmer weather and longer daylight hours.

It’s hard to beat that spring feeling – the one when you can finally leave the house without a thick coat, and begin to feel the promise of the sun’s warmth on your skin.

Of course you begin to recognise the arrival of spring when the bare tree branches of winter give way to budding green leaves and in the woods, in the countryside and even in urban landscapes the air is suddenly full of birdsong again, especially in the early morning.

To celebrate nature’s rebirth, Gordon & MacPhail specialists in Single malt Scotch whisky maturation has announced its Spring Collection, unveiling a series of stunning whiskies which draw upon the unrivalled depth and breadth of knowledge the company has gained from maturing spirit from over 100 Scottish distilleries.

One of the highlights of the Spring Collection is the Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery, the latest addition to their ‘Private Collection’ range, a collection of rare and exclusive single cask releases, from celebrated, little-known and closed distilleries, which have been specially selected personally by a member of the Urquhart family, owners of the Gordon & MacPhail company for four generations.

This exceptional whisky has been maturing in the company’s specially selected cask at its warehouse in Elgin for 38 years. Spirit from Coleburn Distillery – mothballed in 1985 – was traditionally used in blending but Gordon & MacPhail carefully matched the spirit with a refill Sherry hogshead to create this extraordinary and very rare single malt.

Hidden from sight behind a rich green landscape, 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.

Only 101 bottles of Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery will be available for purchase worldwide from selected specialist retailers (UK RRP £1,250) representative of the unique nature of all ‘Private Collection’ releases.

(Please note that Gordon & MacPhail 1981 from Coleburn Distillery won’t be available for purchase in the US and that prices in international markets may vary as a result of additional local taxes and import duties.)

Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige and member of the fourth generation of the Urquhart family, said: “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.”

Coleburn Distillery 1981 (Private Collection) 55.9% ABV

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Wednesday, 11 March, 1981

Bottled: Thursday, 14 March, 2019

Age: 38 years old

Cask No.: 476

Cask Type: Refill Sherry butt

Outturn: 101 bottles


Tasting notes by Gordon & MacPhail

Colour: Mahogany.

Aroma: Sherry-soaked fruit aromas with a touch of beeswax polish. Juicy black cherries drizzled with rich caramel leads into fresh coffee with a subtle smokiness.

Taste: Dark chocolate, coffee, and ripe plums. Dried fruits and sherry-soaked cherries, reminiscent of rich fruitcake. Subtle flavours of oak and liquorice emerge with a slight nuttiness.

Finish: Long; rich fruitcake, coffee, and toffee notes evolve into leather with a hint of smoke.


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

Nose: An initial sweet fragrance of sherried vine fruit mixed with a faint hint of waxy wood polish. There’s also a citric tartness providing a zesty note, while waves of fresh mocha coffee build, with traces of a gentle smoky undercurrent that insists on making its presence known.

Taste: The smooth influence of the sherried wood helps to bring forth soaked vine fruit flavours mingled with warming dark chocolate and coffee. Delicate background smoky charred oak notes slowly build, while a light nutty barley sweetness emerges together with a hint of liquorice root.

Finish: A rather long, perfectly smooth warming finish with just the right balance of fruitiness mixed pleasantly with subtle smokiness.

With Water: Not added, therefore I cannot comment.

In short, an enjoyable dram, that has aged gracefully. On the nose it promises much. On the palate it delivers a refined and rewarding experience. It had looked forward to sampling this since single malts from the Coleburn distillery are decidedly rare. I enjoyed the experience and found this refill sherry matured expression well worth the wait. Don’t miss out!

Gordon & MacPhail’s ’Private Collection’ range affords discerning whisky enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy some of the oldest and rarest single malts in the world. This latest release epitomises the expertise and commitment that has gone into pairing spirit and cask over 123 years and four generations of the Urquhart family. Thanks to the foresight of the company’s founding forefathers, they possess one of the most extensive single malt whisky libraries in the world, with expressions from over 100 Scottish distilleries.

Indeed, 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 and will be available to purchase from specialist whisky retailers.

For further information, please visit their website at

Two more notable whiskies from the 2019 Spring Collection include Connoisseurs Choice 1998 from Glenburgie (UK RRP £136). With just 245 bottles available, this whisky offers a unique opportunity to own a 20-year-old whisky which is rarely bottled as a single malt. Connoissuers Choice 2006 from Ledaig Distillery offers a striking whisky which has been carefully crafted using peated new-make spirit, expertly paired with a specially selected first-fill Sherry hogshead (UK RRP £73).

(Please note that prices in international markets may vary as a result of additional local taxes and import duties.)

(Please also note that some releases in the collection may not be available in some markets.)


Overview of the Connoisseurs Choice releases, Spring, 2019:


Glenburgie  Distillery (1998) 55.3% ABV

Gordon & MacPhail Spring Collection April 2019 whisky

Colour: Golden

Region: Speyside

Distilled: Wednesday, 22 July, 1998

Bottled: Thursday, 31 January, 2019

Years old: 20

Cask No.: 4036

Cask Type: Refill American hogshead

Outturn: 245 bottles

Batch: 19/026


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Sweet vanilla, white chocolate, and spiced apple pie aromas evolve into butterscotch and candied ginger with subtle citrus undertones . 

Taste: Creamy; vanilla fudge topped apple pie is followed by milk chocolate. Cracked black pepper with hints of aniseed develop into mature oak flavours.

Finish: Warming; sweet fudge with lingering pepper.


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

Nose: Engagingly sweet notes of white chocolate. Fruity aromas with an initial evocative combination of freshly baked vanilla and spice infused apple pie with subtle notes of syrupy sweet stem ginger and just the hint of a refreshing citrus note.

Taste: A stylish, creamy mouth feel. After an initial wave of vanilla fudge mixed with apple pie, warmth is provided by a blend of comforting milk chocolate with a peppery note. The influence of the maturing oak breaks though as the peppery notes develop and the sweetness subsides.

Finish: Medium length creamy caramel with an enduring note of warming pepper .

In short, a creamy, accessible, classic dram, loaded with vanilla notes and peppery oak undertones.


Ledaig Distillery (2006) 58.2% ABV

Colour: Golden

Region: Island

Distilled: Wednesday, 13 December, 2006

Bottled: Friday, 01 February, 2019

Years old: 12

Cask No.: 16603709

Cask Type: First fill Sherry hogshead

Outturn: 329 bottles

Batch: 19/041


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Sweet; rich smoked bacon accompanies aromas of toffee apple and salted lemon. Undertones of warm cinnamon followed by milk chocolate and subtle charred oak notes.

Taste: Cracked pepper with smouldering bonfire embers followed by sweet spices, baked apples and slightly drying grapefruit flavours. Charred oak comes to the fore with underlying hints of chocolate coffee.

Finish: A citrus edge leads into intense smoky flavours. A charred oak note develops.


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

Nose: Sherried sweetness cut through with aromas of smoked fish, brittle toffee and citrus fruit with just a hint of spicy cinnamon elements. A warming milk chocolate note provides a secondary aroma experience.

Taste: Bold peaty toasted oak taste followed up by a pleasing drying sweetness on the palate. Undercurrents of mocha coffee.

Finish: An intense smoky medium finish, following a citrus leading edge, with a lingering hint of bitterness provided by the charred oak.

In short peaty dram aficionados will love this iteration.


Caol Ila Distillery (2003) 55.7% ABV

Colour: Lightest gold

Region: Islay

Distilled: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003

Bottled: Friday, 01 February, 2019

Years old: 15

Cask No.: 302298

Cask Type: First fill bourbon barrel

Outturn: 210 bottles

Batch: 19/033


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Light touches of smoke weave around crisp green apple, sweet poached pear and creamy vanilla. Subtle hints of salt linger, while maple cured bacon adds a subtle sweetness.

Taste: Mouth-coating oiliness infused with ground ginger and chilli flakes. Toasted banana and freshly ground coffee beans fade to reveal a delicate menthol edge.

Finish: Long lingering finish as twists of lemon zest pair with a satisfying peat smoke.


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

Nose: Light and engagingly fruity with an initial evocative combination of tart green apples, creamy vanilla with gentle wisps of smoke. Subtle hints of salty sweet cured bacon.

Taste: A stylish, mouth feel. After an initial wave of oily pepper and ground ginger notes, warmth is provided by a blend of a comforting fresh coffee taste with a chilli kick. As the influence of the coffee notes and sweetness subside a slight menthol note abides.

Finish: Quite a lengthy finish with the satisfying taste of smoke from a citrusy seaside barbecue.

In short, an, accessible, classic dram, loaded with citrus notes with smoky oak undertones, made for sharing with friends appreciative of the not too peaty types of Islay whisky.


Highland Park Distillery (1989) 51.1% ABV

Colour: Golden

Region: Island

Distilled: Tuesday, 07 March, 1989

Bottled: Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Years old: 30

Cask No.: 1089

Cask Type: Refill Sherry butt

Outturn: 489 bottles

Batch: 19/003


Connoisseurs Choice Tasting Notes :

Aroma: Rich stewed fruit aromas – raisin, prunes, and apple with demerara sugar. Subtle roasted coffee bean notes come to the surface alongside cocoa powder. Sweet cinnamon spice complements vibrant citrus peel with a touch of beeswax polish.

Taste: Mouth-watering; gentle hints of pepper give way to juicy orange and dark chocolate praline. Flavours of red apple and nutmeg combine with charred oak.

Finish: Long and fruity; lingering oak with a very subtle wisp of smoke.


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

Nose: Rich, confident aromas of soaked vine fruits and zesty citrus peel made with a light treacly mixture full of spicy elements. A warming espresso coffee note with a dusting of cocoa powder provides a secondary aroma experience with just a whiff of wood polish.

Taste: Not too honeyed on the palate. Dark chocolate orange flavours dominate with peppery hints of chilli fading to reveal hints of oak char and fruity dessert apples.

Finish: Robust and refined: fruity with a lingering hint of dryness provided by the charred oak, with just a wispy aftertaste of peat smoke.

A veritable pot pourri of taste experiences.

For more information on the Spring Collection, including market availability please visit: 


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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