Tag Archive: Gordon and MacPhail


Glentauchers 1991

Gordon and MacPhail: Glentauchers: 1991 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 16 Years: 43% Abv)

Visual: Yellowed grain.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Floral. Pencil shavings. Heather. Vanilla. Toffee. Water adds sulphur.

Body: Toffee and custard. Some oak. Very noticeable alcohol. Grain. Water lightens adding red fruit and cinnamon. Apple strudel and raisins. Spotted dick.

Finish: Alcohol. Uncooked rice. Oak. Heather. Again water soothes. Some toffee cinnamon, apples and raisins. Sugared almonds. Nutmeg.

Conclusion: Water. The clear lifeblood of the planet. We don’t appreciate you anywhere near as much as we should.

Ok, most you will probably have guessed where this is going already.

Neat this is a bit shit. That is a technical term by the way. I seriously couldn’t believe it was a sixteen year old whisky, there was noticeable alcohol, quite simple flavours and an overly oaken expression. So, I was disappointed, and not really looking forwards to the rest of the whisky as I started adding that clear lifeblood of the planet.

Boom. Headshot. Whisky changed.

A kind of stodgy spotted dick rises to form a new base, and comes out with a lot of sherry influence. There’s lots of red fruit, spice and raisins. It is half way between a bread and butter pudding and a high class strudel. In case you are wondering, I mean that as a good thing.

So, do I like it overall? Presuming I have access to water I say yes, very much so. I know my description probably made it sound very sweet, and does have a mass of sweet notes, but the spice gives it a lot more depth than that, making it a far more balanced whisky than I have indicated so far.

So very stodgy, solid and sherry influenced whisky, with a strong base to back. All it needs it water. So use water. It deserves it.

Background: Bottled 2007, or so my web research tells me. they never put these details on the miniatures it seems. Part of my ongoing attempt to try whisky from the distilleries I have yet to try, I’ve grabbed a few minis and I am working my way through them. Drunk while listening to Arch Enemy: War Eternal – the new singer is stepping into the shoes nicely.

CC Balmenach 2004

Gordon and Macphail : Connoisseurs Choice: Balmenach: 2004 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 9 years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Slightly brackish grain.

Visual: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and pungent. Heather. Lime. Pencil shavings. Light smoke and sulphur. Peppered beef. Water makes more grassy and toffee.

Body: Soft vanilla. Moss and greenery. Toffee. heather. Malt chocolate. Beefy back. With water becomes treacle and honey. Grassy and slightly soured.

Finish: Light medicinal. Salt. Vanilla and toffee. Malt chocolate. Peppered beef. Water adds sour dough touch.

Conclusion: It’s always an exciting and mildly nerve inducing experience going for one of the lesser known distilleries. Excitement comes in blazing a trail little travelled, nerve inducing comes as you are worried that you may just have brought back 70cl of alcoholic piss. Or Tamdhu.

This is an interesting find, pungent on opening, and it doesn’t seem to neatly fit into any one whisky area’s expectations. It is grassy, almost mossy in fact, thick textured but with a sweet toffee back , and yet also with light medicinal touches and salt in the finish. Very light but there. If I may be excused one of my horrifyingly bad analogies – it kind of tastes like a sweet toffee swamp. Ok, that sounded really bad, let’s try that again, bear with me .. Hmm, it is like a big ball of salted toffee that has fallen through a moss pit.

I may give up on analogies. New years thingy. Given up. Completely. Honest.

While this is not one of the all time greats it is a robust whisky, and without a lot of the harsh extreme flavours that come with a lot of the big whiskys. It has mellow grassiness, heather flavour, sweet easy going base, but thick and with medicinal hints. Kind of the easy going whisky for someone who only has the barest grasp on what easy going means.

Any which way, while it is not a world shaker, I have no regrets to having a bottle. A very solid general drinking whisky.

Background: Bottled 2013, so I am guessing 9 years, may be 8. This is part of my effort to try more distilleries I have yet to try, so I grabbed a bunch – mainly miniatures with this one being the exception. This one is a distillery used mainly as producing elements for blended whisky, but good old Gordon and Macphail have some independently bottled expressions.

Gordon and Macphail: Connoisseurs Choice: Port Ellen 1982 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 27 Year: 43%)

(Bottled 2009)

Visual: Clear grain to yellow.

Viscosity: Very fast middle sized streaks.

Nose: Brine. Salt. Fish oil. Seaweed. Slightly antiseptic. Slightly sour white grapes. Little sign of the alcohol presence for the aroma. Water changes little but for making it more salty.

Body: Smooth. Brine. Seaweed. Medicinal. Grapes. Mild chocolate back. White wine. Water brings out the contrast between salt and grapes. More water adds meaty broth.

Finish: Peat, grapes and salt. Caramel after a while. Wet rocks. Milky chocolate.. Water actually makes saltier, like anchovies.

Conclusion: So I finally break open this whisky time capsule from the legendary Port Ellen. 150 Whisky reviews with this as the capstone.

And it is…drum roll please.

Actually (and thankfully) pretty darn nice. First impression are very Islay. Medicinal, salt, brine and seaweeds. The first few moments made me remember my first ever impression of Laphroig all those years back, but as if it had been smoothed by many years in the cask.

What surprised me was for all the salt and medicinal touches, the usual meaty peaty body was very restrained. You only got hints of it late on and when water was added. The base whisky is quite clean as a flavour delivery system.

Instead there is this grape sweetness that rises up over time, and a caramel like finish. Sweetness against medicinal bite makes for an effective combo, and combined with the cleanness of the spirit is very easy to drink. As mentioned it is very smooth, the age has done well to hide the alcohol and let it be the Islay character that is challenging, not the alcohol fire.

Oddly, early on in adding water the whisky becomes more polarised, more salt and more gapes clashing to create a new intensity rather than smoothing it.  More water still settles it once more, so it’s worth having a quick play with water for effect if not flavour.

So is it worth the high, and ever rising, asking price? Considering the age of the whisky the asking price for an independent bottling is high, but not insane. The quality is high, like an easy going Laphroaig if that contradiction is not too much to bear. I think at this point you are paying for the experience more than the whisky.  It does have it’s own unique niche though, nestled between the heavy and light Islays, a bridge between the two. This particular expression furthermore is very smooth yet with good expression of it’s harsh elements.

Admittedly for the cost of this you could get a whole lot of Islay. Lagavulin distillers edition and Laphroaig Quarter cask and 18 year Bowmore.  It isn’t better than having those three bottles, but as a dose of history it is also a very nice whisky.

Background: The 150th Whisky review, and 800th review. A double celebration, and for that only one thing could do. Port Ellen. A distillery that closed back in the early 1980’s and the only Islay whisky I had yet to try. (The second to last for me to review, I’ve still not reviewed the newest Islay’s distillery’s product). I’m a huge Islay fan and this bottling was picked up a year ago.  I knew I wasn’t going to be drinking it for a while, but with Port Ellens legendary status, and the lack of stock, I knew price would only go up. So I bought it while I could rather than pay more later.  My review was based on the price I paid for it a year ago, it’s jumped about a third again since then so take that into account please. Technically I could have kept this unopened and sold in a few years for a nice profit, but sod that, whisky is for drinking.

Gordon and MacPhail : Inverleven: 1991 (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years: 40% ABV)

Visual: A light golden hue.

Viscosity: Very slow in initial puckering, then after a while medium speed streaks break out.

Nose: Floral. Vanilla yogurt, Hay fields. Crushed white grapes. Freshly baked cakes. Fudge. The same notes but more open with water.

Body: Light. Alcohol feels stronger than it should. Lime cordial. Vanilla toffee and oatmeal cakes. A slight orange zest. Water alters to Chinese stir fry like elements, even more water makes lightly nutty and Madeira.

Finish: Oak and charring. Malt chocolate. Nuts. Water adds an unusual broccoli taste. More water adds walnut cake and Madeira.

Conclusion: This one took a bit of time to investigate. Neat it had more burn than I would expect but not heavily so. It also leaned a bit too heavily on the oak and charring in the finish, but for the most part the main body played with a light floral and sweet style that I would expect from a lowland.

So imperfect but promising so far. A lot of whisky’s don’t really show their stuff until you add a drop of the water to it, and it has a firm enough base to add to. So add a bit of water is what I did. Aaaand…

Disaster.

An odd broccoli element, and Chinese stir fry like bits. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Chinese stir fry, but not in my whisky. So somewhat disappointed I continued on, adding a drop of water here or there as I progressed.

Here’s where it got interesting, after a while the extra water caused the stir fry elements to wane and become interspersed with light nuttiness and a moderate Madeira sweetness backing it up.  It was still a tad too charred, and I would not call it great, but it brought it back to being a whisky worth drinking.

So, no I can’t recommend it, it is never a great whisky, but if you do try it remember, no water or a reasonable chunk. In between those two poles just doesn’t work.  At best it is a passable whisky, not smooth, not balanced, but ok.

Background: So a few days after I get a link from wordpress’ Daily Post for my work on Craft Beer Reviews and what do I review? A whisky. Sometimes I wonder if I’m deliberately trying to make sure this blog never becomes popular.
Anyway. This is whisky from a closed distillery, found in miniature in a whisky/wine shop is Soho. Pretty cool find.  Don’t think this whisky ever got official bottles, being used mainly in blends, so it’s up to the independent bottlers to leak it out to us. This thing was actually bottled in the year 2005 but was born 1991, the year the distillery 5closed. I’m not the hugest lowland fan, but do find it nice to try them for something a bit different, and they do have a few gems in the mix.

Oh and for beers fans, got a NZ beer review coming up next so don’t worry.

Gordon and MacPhail: Connoisseurs Choice: Royal Brackla 1991 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 20 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Thick gold.

Viscosity: Only a few streaks. Medium sized and slow.

Nose: Toffee. Planed wood. Mild lime influence. Shortbread. Heather. Slight sulphur. Water makes the heather more emphasised.

Body: Moderate oak that grows quickly. Slight alcohol is noticeable. Custard. Walnuts.  Water makes smoother. Adds lime and chestnut honey.

Finish: Quite dry and oaken. Acorns? Light nuts and moss. Water makes sweeter, adding chestnut honey again.

Conclusion: A whisky that has escaped review for a while based on the misapprehension that I had already reviewed it.  Thankfully the old green tree nearly always has a bottle in. So I dropped by to correct my mistake.

Let’s talk about the whisky as it is with water added, as without that it is an overly oak dominated and touch fiery whisky. So not at its best to say the least. Water allows it to show its best elements, that of a more mellow nutty style which mingles with a light sweetness to give a kind of chestnut honey element which is quite soothing.

Now it does always keep that oak dryness around the edges. When you finish a sip the mix of alcohol and the oak leaves you quite dry and parches. It is soothing, but one that leaves you thirsty.

It doesn’t vary much from what I’ve just described. It is quite single note, pretty much a nut cluster of a whisky. Despite that it is quite reasonable. Straightforward but with a finish that just doesn’t, well, finish. You can take your time with this one, let the flavour just hand there without needing to sip again. It is one that I would imagine would suit a distinguished evening party. You do not concentrate on it, but allow the flavour to hang there as you converse with others, possibly with a wood fire beside you to add to the aromas you experience.

So not a favourite whisky, but I can see its place in the whisky world.

Background: Bottled in 2011, this Royal Brackla whisky was drunk as part of a relaxing day, wandering the whisky pubs of Bath and sampling a few spirits in a leisurely fashion. Taking a photo of this bottle resulted in a few jokes from the locals, resulting in a quick explanation of doing the reviews. It’s odd how rarely I need to do that. Royal Brackla is one I’ve had a few times, but only independent bottlings. I will have to seek out an official bottling at some point to compare. This was a brand new bottled, opened before my eyes.

Connoisseurs Choice: Littlemill 1991 (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 19 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Slightly banana hued gold.

Viscosity: Medium quite thick streaks.

Nose: Planed wood. Banana skin and vanilla. Toffee. Slight alcohol air. Lime. Grain fields. Cream. Dry roasted peanuts.

Body: Wood. Chestnut honey. Light custard slice influence. Nutmeg. Chestnuts. With water becomes more nutty and even more water brings out malt loaf.

Finish: Honey. Perfume that has been breathed in. Light oak. Roasted nuts. Milk chocolate. Light alcohol burn. The nuts really last. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: So, another closed distilleries spirit hunted down and sampled. This one is a very light whisky, as is oft expected from the lowlands. What isn’t as expected is the flavour being predominantly dedicated to exploration of rounded nuttiness. It seems like a smooth lowland take on the Strathisla spirits. In fact the nuttiness last impressively on the finish. For such a light whisky it manages to hold the flavour for an age after you have finished sipping.

It is a whisky that works better on larger mouthfuls than smaller, and enjoys just a drop or two of water to get it set right. Taken like that the sweetness and nuttiness seem to have much more room to grow.

Not the most complex whisky, but it does have a few notes of chocolate and lime to round it out. Overall very easy to drink, and while straightforward in style it is very much a whisky that knows what impression it wants to give and delivers it well. In its ideal few drops of water state the flavour just floats through the air of your mouth perfectly.

A dead distillery that will be missed on the basis of this whisky.

Background: Bottled 2010 and aged in refill bourbon casks.  Littlemill is a closed distillery. I had seen this at the Rummer Hotel a while back and kept meaning to give it a try as it’s a new distillery on me. It was a friend’s birthday recently and we decided to enjoy some whisky there; it seemed a perfect time to give it a try. Connoisseurs choice has always been a hit with me for bringing good priced bottles of rare and closed distilleries to the market which gives me a chance to try a lot of distilleries that would otherwise pass me by.

Gordon And Macphail: Imperial 1991(Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Light yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Takes a moment for streaks to pucker from the spirit, then they come down fast.

Nose: Floral and potpourri. Custard sweetness. Butterscotch. Lightly oaked. Orange peel and pomegranate. Very little alcohol feel. Water makes shortbread biscuit come out.

Body: Thick and tarry with a big oak back initially. Lazy aged beef and stew styling come out. Dried apricot. Custard. Very sweet with water, more dried fruit and maybe some kiwi and lime.

Finish:  Cured beef slices. Oxo cubes. Maybe some peat.  Water adds a hint of lime jelly. Lightly cinnamon dusted.

Conclusion: Since trying a beer aged in this whisky’s casks I’ve been keeping an eye out for some of the original product, and here it is.

With whisky in hand I find a booming meaty product with sweet and fruit overtones. If I had to compare it I would say it was somewhat like a non island character Highland Park. Lots of power, little to no alcohol burn and lots of flavour.

Balances brilliantly between power and drinkability. It’s always there, but never so much that it gets annoying. That light lemon and kiwi surrounding the main body keeps it very fresh.  The body is defiant, especially in comparison to the aroma, which sees light and floral in contrast to the massive main body.

Overall very impressive. Powerful, drinkable, and flavoursome. Smooth texture and little burn makes it characterfull whisky. This is a good dram to sip through the day. I hope the new owners are turning out as high quality whisky.

Background: The Imperial Distillery has been up and down in recent years having been mothballed in 1985 and 1998 with a short run inbetween. It is now back, but this version I presume is from the short open period between the two mothballings. If tried a few Imperial influenced beers and found its influence very appreciateable, so was glad of the chance to grab a mini to try of it.

Gordon and Macphail: Old Pulteney: Cask Strength 1995 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years: 59.9% ABV)

(Bottled 2010)

Visual: Burnished gold with somewhat of a cherry red influence.

Viscosity: Deathly slow streaks for the most point with the occasional outburst.

Nose:  Brandy cream and raisins. Mild liquorice and a touch of shortbread. Light planed wood. Fruitcake. Water relaxes it slightly giving planed wood prominence and adds a slight tar.

Body: Treacle and alcohol burn. Fruitcake, plums and oak.  Water makes sweeter. Toffee style. Very slick. Somewhat of a charring touch, though this lightens to light coffee with more water.

Finish: Charring and alcohol at first. Tongue numbing. Bitter chocolate. Water makes much more chocolate and toffee and much more appealing. Slight salt and raisins here.

Conclusion:  It’s always fun having a cask strength whisky. Spending time adding water drop by drop trying to reduce the burn whilst keeping as much flavour as you can.   This keeps very close to the influence of its choice of casks and wears it proudly.  The sherry gives a huge amount of fruitcake and toffee, with raisins and alcohol punch to end it. This really punches home the difference using a first fill cask can make as the flavours are potent indeed.

Fun as that is, and boy is it fun, it does make it feel more of a display of the cask than of the spirit.  The spirit struggles to show its house character. There is that slight salt evident in the finish that is a Pulteney trademark, but apart from that it doesn’t manage to fight the sherry enough to stand out from the plethora of sherry heavy whiskies on the market.

So it is a nice whisky, but it isn’t that distinctive and thus doesn’t really get the full advantage of its cask strength.  A mixed blessing then.

Background: From a first fill sherry butt. Don’t know if it is single cask as that would indicate. I’d imagine so but wouldn’t want to say for sure.  Drunk at the Rummer hotel after the Ardbeg reviewed previously. Had a lot of water in-between to try and refresh the senses. I have had Old Pulteney official bottling before this independent bottling, but it has never been one of my favourite whiskies. Still it looked fun enough to give a try, and I do love playing with a cask strength. Oh, I got so caught up in doing the tasting notes I only got a photo of the bottle this time and forgot the glass. My bad. Oh and yes that is a ladder to reach the higher shelves of sprits you see there in the photo. There is quite the selection.

Connoisseurs Choice: Caol Ila 1997 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 12 Years:43% ABV) (Bottled 2009)

Visual: Reasonably dark toffee gold.

Viscosity: Initially quite solid, but forms into fast thick streaks.

Nose: Smoke, treacle and slightly tar like. Salt, vanilla and oak. Liquorice. Water opens it up heavily to a floral style, adds more vanilla along with raisins and orange peel.

Body: Salt and golden syrup mix with toffee. Light peat grows throughout, Meaty. Water again makes large changes. Custard sweet, more salt, yet still slightly tar influenced.

Finish: Milk chocolate, dry oak and again slight tar stylings. Water makes salty yet sweet with a good dose of peat.

Conclusion: Another Caol Ila! As a big fan of them, I love comparing the different bottlings to explore the range, so jumped on this one at a tidy 12 years of ageing or thereabouts.

This one is quite a heavy duty expression for the spirit, initially quite thick and tarry with a bit more peat than usual.  That said the extra weight does it good and doesn’t harm the spirit at all.  The difference may put off people who enjoy the normally more mellow restrained Islay character of Caol Ila, but for them there is still hope.  With water you get a large change, with massive sweetness coming out to counterpoint, resulting in a dulled, but not completely overpowered Islay character.

So a very nice take, with two competing styles when with or without water, a tale of two whiskies as it were. Tarry, peaty and sweet, it’s very distinctive and enjoyable.  A very interesting take on the spirit and a fine independent bottling for anyone who wanted just that touch more force to the spirit.

Background: I’m a big fan of Caol Ila and love the fact that Connoisseurs Choice make available a mix of their bottlings to sample quite cheaply.   Drunk at a local pub which has Michael Jackson’s whisky guide behind the bar, and an ever rotating stock of CC bottles.  Caol Ila is often viewed as one of the more subtle Islay whiskies, though I find it still has enough of the style to stand out, it only seems mellow compared to say Ardbeg and Laphroaig.  Note: If you look carefully, you can see my god awful handwriting in my current notebook in the photo.

The Macphails Collection: Highland Park 8 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 8 years: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear light straw to gold.

Viscosity: Quite fast streaks of medium thickness.

Nose:  Light peat smoke, vanilla and grain. Alcohol prickles. Beef stew. Slightly marshy.  Cooked onions.

Body: Sweet Dill pickles and gherkins.  Lime. Golden syrup. Banana. Water weakens the front but makes sweeter and adds custard. A broth like back is also added.

Finish:  Charring. Smoke, cigars and a tongue tingling feel.  Custard sweetness with water into malt chocolate and fudge.

Conclusion: Dill pickles and gherkins in a whisky tasting note? Never thought I’d see the day.   Highland Park is a fine spirit and this youthful version comes in with the expected light smoke and sweet touch.  Then you get the aforementioned pickles, which is oddly actually quite cool, giving a tingle instead of a full on alcohol burn.

I find myself preferring this without water. The water does make it smoother and into an absolutely lovely finish, but that manic middle is lost, and it is that quirkiness that I find so fun.  That said, the finish with water is very much welcome, so it is a bottle that’s worth a good experiment with.

Lively and joyous, Highland Park can do no wrong by me it seems.

Background:  Highland Park from Orkney is one of the spirits that seems to be able to pull off many styles well and I have had a grand history with its products so far.  Similarly Gordon and Macphail do a wonderful range of odd whisky’s, closed distilleries and own the Benromach distillery which has found favour with me. All in all I go into this tasting with high hopes.

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