Tag Archives: Gordon & MacPhail

Kinclaith 1967 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Bought: Online Auction, 5th October 2017

85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
72/100 – Malt Maniacs (for 70cl 1993 version)

Kinclaith wasn’t a distillery in its own right as it was constructed in the grounds of the Strathclyde grain distillery in Glasgow, which makes it a Lowland whisky. Founded in 1957 Kinclaith was closed in 1975 and subsequently demolished. In its short 18-year life Kinclaith was used for blending (primarily in Long John) and never officially sold as single malt. Whiskybase only list 5 independent bottlers releasing Kinclaith as a single malt with Cadenhead starting in 1985 with a 20-year-old. If you have a spare €2,000 you can buy this bottle from a shop in Germany. Hmmm, perhaps not!

Whiskybase list the last independent bottling of Kinclaith by ‘The Whisky Talker’ in 2010, some 7 years ago. That’s hardly surprising since it’s over 40 years since Kinclaith ceased to be. Are there any casks left unopened I wonder? My 5cl by Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) was probably bottled in 1993 (as per the 70cl, making it 25/26yo) but there isn’t a code confirming this on the back of the bottle’s label. There was also a 70cl G&M bottle released in 1991. I’ve wanted a miniature Kinclaith by G&M for years but I’ve never see one with a good neck level. My bottle (pictured below) has liquid up to the shoulders, which is as good as it gets. At least it’s enough to provide a taste of this rare Lowland gem.

Tasting notes and comment from Whiskybase (translated from German):

Nose: Light oak, some water mint, hair spray, old copper coins, dried, tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya, apricot), Werther’s original, Grand Marnier, cotton candy and some burnt caramel. With time and air, the whiskey opens up and becomes more fruity and finer.
Taste: Sweetish and slightly creamy with lots of malt and light vanilla. In addition there are bright fruits and some lemon. Then becoming pepperier. Light tannins, a bit orange bitter and a hint of bitters. At the end, the bitter oak occupies the entire mouth.
Finish: Medium in the middle, woody, slightly bitter and with a fine malty sweetness. In between, the tropical fruits flash out of the nose. At the end some milk coffee.
Comments: Old-school Malt! I would have thought the Lowlander to be much easier because of its geographical origin. The tropical fruits are great, but cannot prevail over the bitter oak. This is also a bit too bitter and too dominant for me.

Speyside Cooperage 10-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

75.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

The Speyside Cooperage 10yo is a mystery malt from one of the many Speyside distilleries. Although I bought my miniature from an online auction I suspect the original place it was sold was the cooperage shop in Craigellachie, Banffshire. Apparently it’s the only cooperage in Scotland with a visitor centre. Speyside Cooperage is listed on Trip Advisor with a rating of 4.5/5 from 284 reviews so clearly a lot of people enjoy going there. The cooperage was founded in 1947 and has branches in Alloa, Kentucky and Ohio.

Looking through my miniature bottle to the back of the label I can see the code ‘AA/JIHH’. If this is a Gordon & MacPhail code (which I assume it is) then I know the ‘AA’ means it was bottled in 2011. A bottling from 2016 has the following tasting notes on Whiskybase:

Nose: spicy, mild, malty whisky with a touch of peat. Becomes richer with time.
Taste: Same as the nose. Creamier and sweeter into the finish
Finish: A touch of peat then leaning towards malty toasted-ness with some green-ish notes.

It receives the comment “a decent malt at a decent price”. Hopefully my miniature is similar but there’s no guarantee that Gordon & MacPhail have used the same Speyside distillery over the years. That’s all part of the mystery!


North Port-Brechin 1982-2008 (G&M)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 11th March 2016

87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (from one maniac score)

How important is a name? Would people remember the legend of Pelé so well if he’d been called Keith? Or Elvis if he’d been called Clive? North Port distillery is a case in point because you have to wonder if it would linger longer in the imagination with a more interesting name. It started life as ‘North Port’ in 1820 but changed to ‘Brechin’ in 1823. Then Glencaddam opened in Brechin in 1825, so to avoid confusion it’s likely that Brechin distillery reverted back to its old name of North Port. Whisky production ceased a few times in the 1900s before the distillery permanently closed in 1983 along with numerous other distilleries.

It seems independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) decided to cover both bases with this bottling and called it ‘North Port-Brechin’. Scoring 87/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and a review can be found here on ‘Alcohol and Aphorisms’. After two independent releases in 2008, Malt Madness stated that old stock from North Port was running out. According to Whiskybase only two new releases have appeared since then – one in 2010 by G&M and a second in 2015 by Cadenhead (a 38yo, which is still available from Whisky Barrel for £800!).

For tasting notes and comment here are the thoughts from Drinkwell off license, UK (where it originally retailed for £95):

Nose: Soft and finely balanced; almonds and mint and freshly cut grass. Fruit and wood. Cider apple, damson plums, honey. Dark chocolate.

Palate: Oily. Black chocolate. Bitter. Sour fruitiness. The spices and biting alcohol is even more enhanced with with water. Wood dominates maltiness. Reminiscent of a rye whiskey.

Finish: Robust, warm, biting. Lots of age; some cocoa notes. Toasty and dry. Lingers quite well.

Comment: Lovely calming oak influence. The nose is very impressive. Of interest to collectors, historians and the likes of me, but this Brechin brew, staunched in 1983 is as good as it gets.

North Port-Brechin 1982 NAS 70cl

Highland Park 8-year-old Gordon & MacPhail

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd March 2016

83.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

I confess I’ve been delaying getting this bottle of Highland Park for my HP collection because of its mixed reviews. Although my 35cl bottle gets a healthy 83.5/100 on Whiskybase it’s only from 2 member votes. The full 70cl (which is effectively the same stuff) scores a more modest 81.7/100 from 20 votes, which is good but not brilliant. Hardly surprising for a young single malt from an Orkney distillery where age really matters. Youthful Islay malts often get praised for their depth of flavour but with HP drams they seem to need time in the cask to become great. Just consider the distillery’s own 18yo, 25yo and 30yo. But, as someone mentions for this 8yo by Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) “fairly simple HP, but certainly value for money.” For the price you can hardly expect great things from this whisky.

Up until 2012 this bottling by G&M was 40% but then they sensibly increased it to 43%, giving it a bigger kick than the standard 12yo. One reviewer on Whiskybase says of my 35cl “great Nose! Slightly peaty, but very light and fruity at the same time. Exotic fruits like mango and peaches. On the palate, the light smokiness and the fruits remain, sweet like exotic fruit gums. Does not develop much, short to medium finish. Nothing sensational, but quite a juicy dram all the same.”

Reviews on Master of Malt are very good (4 out of 5 stars) but this review by Chemistry of the Cocktail is less favourable. The reality is it’s young, pleasant, slightly underwhelming but you can’t grumble at the price.

Highland Park 8yo 35cl

Glentauchers 1994-2013 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Bought: Auriol Wines, 29th February 2016

96.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
89.29/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

Wow, look at those ratings! This Glentauchers must be one of the most famous whiskies in the world! Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible and 9 members of Whiskybase score it higher than the Highland Park 18yo, most of the Ardbeg Supernova releases and even the Macallan 18yo (the ‘Rolls Royce’ of Speysiders). Surely everyone knows about this stuff! And the answer is….no. Even a lot of whisky drinkers aren’t aware of Glentauchers, which sounds more like a sneeze than a whisky distillery. The distillery isn’t exactly known for producing single malt as a lot of its output goes into blending but occasionally an independent bottler such as Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) get lucky and purchase a cask or two that are something special. This seems to be the case with this Glentauchers 1994-2013.

When this Glentauchers 19yo (possibly 18yo) first came out it was £29, which is astounding when you consider the price of the equivalent Macallan and Highland Park 18-year-olds (even if they are distillery releases). Jim Murray first mentions this Glentauchers in his Whisky Bible 2014 where he says of the taste “oh my word! The barley melts on the palate, yet at the same time has enough firmness to crash land into the taste buds…but with the aid of a parachute. Hard to imagine a barley where the flavours are so pronounced, the use of muscovado sugars so well judged.” He concludes with “one day someone else who matters in the industry will wake up to just how good this malt is…probably the finest of the G&M Distillery Label fleet.”

Comments on Whiskybase are also complimentary including “this is very fine whisky. The clarity of the malt is astonishing in a whisky of this age”, “beautiful ‘whisky’ classic flavour emerges with patience, fresh and subtle complexity”, “elegant Speyside malt” and “I can see why J Murray awarded this a gold star. Displaying wonderful balance, nothing is ever too overstated or underplayed. As Speyside malts go, this is a mature 19yo cracker.”

In March 2016 I tried the slightly older 1994-2014 version in a whisky bar and was very impressed. That c.20yo scores a respectable 85.5/100 on Whiskybase so not as illustrious as its younger brother but it gave me an idea as to what to expect. Although I wasn’t lucky enough to pay £29 for my bottle it was still less than £40 even in 2016, which is amazing consider how crazy the whisky market has gone in recent years. If you’re lucky enough to stumble across a bottle – buy it!

Glentauchers 1994-2013 NAS 70cl

Lochside 1991 Gordon & MacPhail

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 6th January 2016

81.9/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member votes)

Since the 1970s I’ve travelled through the town of Montrose many times on the train between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, on the east coast of Scotland. It became a family saying “hold your nose, here comes Montrose!” The town is situated between the north and south Esk rivers. If the tide is out then the bay of the south Esk is exposed and smells terrible as the train goes over the bridge. The Lochside distillery was situated in the town of Montrose but sadly closed in 1992. It was later demolished in 2005 and turned into apartments. Thankfully you can still find examples of the Lochside single malt (mostly at auctions) and it doesn’t smell anything like the south Esk bay!

Lochside only started life in 1957 so it’s not one of the historic distilleries of Scotland. It did have one of the more imposing buildings, perched on the edge of a roadway. Sadly this area of Scotland has seen the majority of its distilleries dwindle away. Glenesk, North Port and Glenury Royal all closed in the 1980s leaving only Glencadam and Old Fettercairn holding the whisky flag for the Montrose area of the North East.

Scoring nearly 82/100 from 12 votes is a very good rating for this bottle of Lochside on Whiskybase. One member leaves these tasting notes “sweet and herbs with a nice maltyness in the nose. Malty nice notes with a nutty background. A middle long finish brings some smoky and heather notes.” Bottled in 2006, this 15-year-old by Gordon & MacPhail is a good example of Lochside so well worth getting if you see it at auction.

‘A Dram A Day’ review on You Tube (August 2016):

Lochside 1991 70cl

Glen Albyn 1976-2012 Gordon & MacPhail

Bought: English Whisky Company, 6th November 2015

96/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
84/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 3 maniac votes)
85.45/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)

This vintage bottle of Glen Albyn was a new addition to the Whisky Bible in 2013 where it scored an amazing 96/100. This put it in the category of “superstar whiskies that give us all a reason to live”. The author, Jim Murray, says about the taste “I’m shaking my head in disbelief. Not through disappointment, but wonder! How can something of this antiquity still fill your month with so much juice? The barley still offers a degree of grassiness, though this is camouflaged by the softest bourbon characters I have seen in a long time. The honeycomb is in molten form, as is the vanilla which appears to carry with it a fabulous blend of avocado pear and ulmo honey.” He summaries with “wow!” and concludes with “the delivery really does take us to places where only the truly great whiskies go.”

85.45/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark, as is 84/100 on Malt Maniacs where one reviewer gives the tasting notes “Dry smokiness, in quite gentle doses however. Then a fruity berried style beneath. Taste gets that dry raspy smokiness, in a very interesting mix with the berries and fruit. This is a quite special whisky”.

Glen Albyn was sadly one of the distilleries that closed in 1983 so whisky casks for new bottlings are getting rarer and rarer. It’s certainly a good investment but it’s also nice to know that a lot of the remaining casks from the distillery are delicious, should the desire to drink it take over!

Glen Albyn 1976-2012 NAS 70cl

Banff 1976 – 2005

Bought: Whisky Mouse, 4th November 2015

76/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
86.9/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member votes)

Poor Banff distillery, if it wasn’t catching fire it was being blown up or bombed. The distillery had quite an eventful life from its beginnings in 1863 before finally closing in 1983. It has subsequently been demolished but single malt examples can still be procured from auctions and certain whisky shops. It makes a good investment as well as a tasty tipple.

My example, distilled in 1976, was bottled by the independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail in 2005 so it was a new addition to Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006. Sadly the author only has 4 words to say about it, which are “soft with chalky oak”. His score of 76/100 classifies this Banff as “average and usually pleasant but sometimes flawed”. Contrast this with nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase from 12 member votes, which is a fantastic score. Perhaps Mr Murray had a bad sample because the majority of tasters appear to love this dram.

Below is the end of a You Tube video by John “Whiskyman” Loftus, who is said to have the largest private whisky collection in the southern hemisphere. Here he discusses Banff and tastes a typical example from the distillery:

Banff 1976-2005 NAS 70cl

Rosebank 1990 24-year-old (G&M)

Bought: C Gar Ltd, 5th August 2015

89.19/100 – Whiskybase (average from 18 member votes)

In mid-September 2015 I was chatting with a member of staff at the ‘World of Whisky’ shop in Gatwick Airport about Rosebank. He said he’d spoken to somebody ‘in the know’ that was involved in the redevelopment of the distillery. Although it was mothballed in 1993 the Rosebank buildings still exist (you can see them on Google Street View with the postcode FK1 5BX). As a collector I’m not overly happy about spending good money on a closed distillery bottle only to find out it’s opening up again. Conversely, with my drinker’s hat on it would be great news! Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be true. Arran Brewery got involved in a redevelopment plan for the distillery site in 2012 but pulled out in 2014. Whether the resulting whisky could have been called ‘Rosebank’ is debatable since I believe Diageo still own the Rosebank trademark (according to Wikipedia).

Over 89/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score for this 24-year-old Rosebank by the independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail (G&M). The previous year’s release distilled in 1989 scores 87.56/100 from 11 member votes. This same bottle is reviewed by Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2015, which he scores 85.5/100. According to his classification that makes it a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’.

I’m posting this blog on the very same day that the Whisky Bible 2016 is due for release. If Jim Murray has included a review for this bottle I’ll come back to add an update. [Sadly he never did, and it’s not in the 2017 Bible either]

Rosebank 1990 24yo 70cl

Caperdonich 1998 12-year-old

Bought: English Whisky Company, 28th July 2015

7.5/10 – Whisky Wednesday (his You Tube video below)
87.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

Caperdonich distillery closed in 2002 so it’s certainly of interest to whisky collectors. Independent bottlings such as this one by Gordon & MacPhail aren’t all that common but the distillery’s demise is recent enough to keep the prices sensible. But for how long it’s hard to say. It was only a few years ago you could buy bottles of Littlemill for under £40 but they’re all over £100 now.

Caperdonich (which means ‘secret well’) opened in 1897 only to close 5 years later in 1902 after the demise of the Victorian whisky boom. It remained silent for over 60 years before opening again in 1965. It closed in 2002 along with the Braeval and Allt a Bhainne distilleries, which have both since reopened. Unfortunately that won’t happen to Caperdonich as the distillery buildings were demolished in 2010.

As Jo says in his ‘Whisky Wednesday’ review below, this Caperdonich 1998 has a classic Speyside smell. The house style for the distillery was tropical fruits, vanilla, sweet, spiced and light in body. 87.25/100 on Whiskybase is a high mark with voters’ comments of “smooth and well balanced” and “this is great fun. It lacks a little weight and is not flawless, but I could drink it all night.”

Caperdonich 1998 12yo 70cl