Gordon & MacPhail

Philip Day discusses Gordon & MacPhail: Private Collection from Longmorn Distillery 1961

This detailed review of the Gordon & MacPhail: Private Collection from Longmorn Distillery 1961 includes tasting notes by Stuart Urquhart, Richard Urquhart and Philip Day.

Gordon & MacPhail

The popularity of malt whisky continues to grow, being worth over £1 billion to the UK economy in 2017. With this fact in mind, Gordon & MacPhail, the specialists in Single malt Scotch whisky maturation is releasing two decanters as part of its ‘Private Collection’ range of single cask releases, which have been personally selected by members of the family that owns the company.

Both whiskies began their journey on 2nd  February, 1961, when George Urquhart, second generation member of the family owners of Gordon & MacPhail, wishing to investigate the long-standing debate of ‘nature versus nurture’ in a whisky context by laying down twin casks filled with new-make spirit from the fabled Speyside Longmorn Distillery. Both casks were first fill Sherry hogsheads, however one was made of European Oak, the other American Oak.

Following 57 years of maturation and the oldest Longmorn single malts ever released, the ‘twin’ whiskies were selected for bottling by fourth generation identical twin brothers Stuart and Richard Urquhart.

Richard Urquhart’s whisky from the European Oak Cask 508 was bottled at 45% ABV, while the whisky from American Oak Cask 512, selected by Stuart Urquhart, was bottled at 40.8% ABV.

The Longmorn twin cask bottlings offer the malt whisky connoisseur a unique opportunity to explore the effects of different oak types on spirit during maturation.

Each individually numbered hand-blown decanter of Longmorn 1961, bottled at cask strength, is beautifully presented in award-winning packaging, which includes a book written by renowned writer and rare whisky specialist, Jonny McCormick, along with a personally signed certificate of authenticity from each brother.

These rare and unique bottlings are being sold as a pair, with only 97 sets of twin decanters available worldwide, commanding a UK recommended sales price (RSP) of £30,000.

Gordon & MacPhail

Lucky owners of these twin decanters can continue the exploration of the ‘nature or nurture’ debate for themselves by sampling these two exquisite whiskies – born on the same day, containing the same DNA, and matured side by side for almost six decades – taking their time to examine the similarities and nuanced differences of the oldest Longmorn single malts ever bottled.

The twin decanters complete the release of four extremely rare single cask bottlings unveiled as part of the ‘Private Collection’ range. The first, Private Collection Glenlivet 1943 by Gordon & MacPhail, a rare wartime cask, was released in October 2017 and the second, Private Collection from Linkwood Distillery 1956 by Gordon & MacPhail, was released in February 2018.

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.

The twin Longmorn 1961 malts

Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige, fourth generation member of the Urquhart family and himself a father of twins commented: “This is a unique and exclusive opportunity to taste a remarkable piece of Scotland’s liquid history.”

Gordon & MacPhail

Richard (R) and Stuart (L) Urquhart

Richard Urquhart, the elder brother, selected the cask that was filled first (508)- its whisky stronger and more robust – whereas Stuart’s cask (512) like himself is drier with a more spicy sense of humour. Both brothers are keen yachtsmen so perhaps it’s no surprise both whiskies have great balance and go well with water!

  • Cask No : 512
  • Distilled : 2nd February 1961
  • Bottled : 2nd February 2018
  • Aged : 57 Years
  • Cask Type :  First fill Sherry American Oak hogshead
  • Strength : 40.8% ABV
  • Number Of Decanters : 97 to be released for sale worldwide

Commenting on his selection, Stuart Urquhart, Gordon & MacPhail’s Associate Director of Whisky Supply, said: “As someone whose day-job is applying the family’s knowledge of how to match spirit with the perfect cask, the nuances of our Longmorns, distilled 57 years ago, were especially intriguing. For example, the whisky I selected has a slightly spicier finish.”

Tasting notes by Stuart Urquhart

Colour  Rich mahogany.

Gordon & MacPhail

Aromas The nose on this intricate and well-aged Speysider is quite complex yet well balanced. Initially, notes of subtle vanilla come to the fore, underscored by distinctive charred oak. Fruity aromas, red cherry, raisin, and orange peel, develop – graceful highlights resulting from fifty-seven years of Sherry cask maturation. Towards the end, the base notes are sweet and lingering, hints of maple syrup and almonds, almost marzipan like, add depth.

Flavours Surprisingly fresh and lively initially for an ultra-aged Sherry-matured single malt. Bitter orange and lemon become more rounded, rich, as they combine and mature into tropical fruit flavours – ripe banana and kiwi included. The bitter decadence of dark chocolate adds a fascinating depth. This Longmorn is intricately layered, as the robust sweetness dissipates, a grounding earthiness comes to the fore with the lightest of touches of distinctive coriander and lingering hints of peat smoke in the background.

Finish Substantial! Charred oak, dark chocolate, and orange peel linger. A fascinating, smooth finish. One to be pondered and enjoyed before taking the next sip.

With Water The sweet almond aromas are now truly marzipan; burnt melting sugar combines with a touch of cooked apple. The palate is softer now; the vivid fruitiness has matured into ripe banana, summer peach, and plump and juicy raspberry. There is an underlying vanilla pod intricacy throughout.

Personal tasting notes

Opening the complimentary sample of Cask No. 512, I eagerly anticipated the unusually rare experience of tasting such a venerable aged Malt. I was not disappointed.

Gordon & MacPhail

The intense mahogany liquid offered a rich complexity of aromas. The sweetness from its years of slumber in its first-fill Sherry hogshead was evident but not overpowering. The oak notes gave a hint of char but these were balanced by a distinctive mixture of a good Dundee fruit cake: raisins, cherries orange peel and almonds which added depth. Most of the aromas were perceived to be more fruity than floral and with time, a mellow marzipan note developed.

With the initial taste I was taken by surprise by its citrus notes particularly the lemon and bitter orange, which later broadened and mellowed into a more well-rounded fruity taste of more exotic fruit. Depth was provided by a decadent bitterness, like that of a high percentage cocoa solid dark chocolate fashioned with the finest Arriba cocoa beans. Hints of peaty smoke and bitter herbs give an added layer of complexity.

As the initial robustness of the sweet sherry notes melt away, a lengthy satisfying smooth finish sets in offering a fusion of cocoa powder bitterness, orange oil with the tang of charred oak and residual spiciness.

By the addition of water, it softened the taste on the palate rendering it noticeably sweeter. The marzipan notes were more prominent, with a hint of toffee brittle. The fruitiness was more subdued morphing into hints of lychees, blond nectarines and summer fruits.

Three words: complex, masterful, elegant.

  • Cask No :  508
  • Distilled : 2nd February 1961
  • Bottled : 2nd February 2018
  • Aged : 57 Years
  • Cask Type :  First fill Sherry European Oak Hogshead
  • Strength : 45.0% ABV
  • Number Of Decanters :  97 to be released for sale worldwide

Commenting on his selection, Richard Urquhart, Gordon & MacPhail’s International Sales Manager for Asia & Americas, said: “For much of our lives, Stuart and I have shared similar environments, growing up together and sailing competitively as a team, as well as working under the same roof. However, as we’ve matured it’s intriguing to see how our individual characters, much like the whiskies, have differed.”

Tasting notes by Richard Urquhart

Colour  A beautiful mahogany with red highlights.

Gordon & MacPhail

Aromas Sweet aromas of heady rum and raisin intermingle with distinctive marzipan; hints of dark orange chocolate follow. Fresh and lingering notes of crushed mint in a pestle mix with notes reminiscent of our old wooden teak deck. The nose of this Longmorn has a lovely and delectably intense fruitiness, softened only slightly by hints of vanilla pods and thick sticky treacle.

Flavours The initial flavours of this ultra-aged Longmorn are quite captivating and comforting: dry-roasted coffee notes infuse with dark chocolate and hazelnuts balanced perfectly by delectably sweet marzipan. Zesty orange peel transforms into a mouth-coating creaminess; dry fruits and dates weave pleasantly with the smooth butter notes. Mouth-warming chilli spice prickles the palate evolving into lingering cracked black pepper notes.

Finish Smooth, creamy, and satisfying. The incredible Longmorn spirit has developed nicely in the European Oak Sherry cask; the marriage of the two stays with you, for a long time, with an enjoyably fruity finish.

With Water The warming spice is mellowed and the creaminess becomes more pronounced. The malt is sweeter, more defined fruit notes, really bringing out more of the Sherry hogshead’s influences. The orange peel notes have mellowed slightly, while milk chocolate and cocoa become more prominent, and then, to finish it off, hints of coffee.

Personal tasting notes

After the experience of the Cask No. 512 expression of the Longmorn 1961, I wondered just how different the European Oak matured Cask 508 could be? Would I be surprised or disappointed in some way? There was only one way to find out…

Gordon & MacPhail

The colour was different. Although mahogany it was a much deeper hue and yes it did have ‘red highlights’.

Breathing in its initial aromas, it was going to be different. Its layers of complexity were going to be different however. Initially I got raisin, cinnamon and dried fruits and a darker sweeter expression of sherry, reminiscent of a well-fed mature Christmas pudding. This was followed by a heady aroma of marzipan and orange oil infused premium dark chocolate, slightly lightened by fresh herbal notes, vanilla and sweet, chewy bonfire treacle toffee.

This expression cleverly captures fruit, marzipan, mocha and spicy notes against a backdrop of mellow buttery, creaminess in a smooth and soothing combination. Initially, a rich and beguiling taste of a thick, creamy and fruity oloroso sherry follows a punchy kick of chilli spice, which brilliantly mellows to a warming peppery afterglow. Mocha coffee overtones blend well with notes of freshly made marzipan, which together with dried fruits and a hint of zesty orange peel are evocative of a slightly overcooked Christmas cake.

The combination of soft fragrant buttery notes, with a whiff of peppery spice blends well with the dried fruitiness to create a well-rounded flavoursome creaminess on the palate.

The finish is lengthily satisfying and smooth-bodied reflecting the perfect coupling of the original spirit and the sherry flavours from the first-fill European hogshead cask, which creates a warming afterglow with a long lingering, enjoyable hint of creamy fruity sweetness.

The addition of a drop of water, dramatically alters the taste, moderating the burn of the spice notes and accentuating the creaminess on the palate. The fruit notes have also been emboldened, although the zesty edge of the orange peel is toned down. The hint of bitterness in the dark chocolate notes has also been modified by the creaminess to create the unctuous taste of a milky mocha coffee.

On its own intriguingly complex, with an added threat of water, deliciously satisfying.

So do I have a preference?

For my taste, the Cask No.512 expression is more layered in its complexity, but offered a dram of Cask No. 508, I wouldn’t refuse.

For lovers of full-bodied, sherry wood matured, complex single malts, the experiences offered by these twin expressions deserve to be regarded as true connoisseurs’ classics.



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 on:

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