Gordon & MacPhail – An Introduction

From a humble grocer first opened on the streets of Elgin in 1895, Gordon & MacPhail has grown to become one of the most respected whisky companies in Scotland.  Starting out as independent bottlers, the company is now one of the country’s top spirits distributors, as well as turning its hand to actual distilling just as the millennium approached.

The History
The grocer was established on Elgin’s South Street by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail, with a 15 year old John Urquhart joining a year later. Gordon and MacPhail committed to creating whiskies that would be ‘a superior article at a popular price’.  But it was Urquhart who would go on to develop the company’s whisky broking business, as well as bottling single malts under licence from several famous distilleries.

Four generations later, it is the Urquhart family which runs Gordon & MacPhail. Employing 130 people in the Elgin area, the company’s grocer can still be found in the town, selling a range of whiskies, wines and other edible delicacies.

The Whisky
Right from the off, Gordon & MacPhail were ground breaking in what they were producing.  In the early twentieth century, very few distilleries bottled their own output as single malts, with almost all production going into blending. This meant that by 1950, the family firm held the largest range of bottled malt whiskies in the world.

The company has fantastic relationships with Scotland’s distilling community, which allows it to send casks to the majority of them to be filled with new make spirit, before returning to Elgin to silently mature. This unique approach means that Gordon & MacPhail bottles over 300 different expressions of single malt Scotch whisky from around 70 different distilleries.

The Ranges
To differentiate the different whiskies, they’re bottled under different brands, including:

  • Cask Strength
  • Connoisseurs Choice
  • Distillery Labels
  • Generations
  • Private Collection
  • MacPhail’s
  • Rare Old
  • Rare Vintage
  • Speymalt
  • The MacPhail’s Collection

On 11 March 2010, the company launched the Mortlach 70 Year Old – the world’s oldest bottled single malt whisky.  A 70 year old Glenlivet followed in 2011, with another in 2012.

The Distillery
In 1993, as the company approached its centenary, it moved into the distilling business with the purchase of Benromach Distillery. After a number of years bringing the distillery back to life, including a re-design which allows it to be operated by just one man, the distillery was officially reopened by Prince Charles in 1998, with the first bottle released in 2004.

I’ve written about plenty of Benromach releases before, but never anything else from Gordon & MacPhail.  I managed to remedy this situation by recently taking part in a Tweet Tasting of the Rare Vintage range, and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the expressions later this week.

You can find out more about Gordon & MacPhail on the company’s website.