Member of the Week | Gordon & MacPhail

Maturation Experts for Four Generations

In 1895, a humble grocery shop opened in the Speyside town of Elgin. A young John Urquhart joined founders James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail and together they curated groceries from around the world. Their appreciation of the rich tapestry of flavours they encountered led them to seek out and complement their varied stock with spirits from Speyside’s many distilleries, which they matured and blended to create their whisky portfolio.

John Urquhart quickly established himself as a valuable associate in the selection, purchase and maturation of whiskies and, by 1915, he was the sole owner. Over a long career, he developed his skills as a master of malt whisky maturation, which he passed on to his son, George, who also dedicated his life to progressing his knowledge and, in turn, shared his deep passion with subsequent generations of the family.

George Urquhart was described by many as a pioneer. It was George’s vision to mature Scotch whisky for long periods of time and bottle it as single malt during a time when the industry had turned its hand to producing blended whiskies. As a result, Gordon & MacPhail bottles the greatest selection of aged single malts Scotch whiskies in the world today.

Since the business was founded, the Urquharts have continued to build relationships with Scottish distilleries, purchasing new-make spirit and growing their understanding of how the varied styles of spirit mature in different casks. It is the understanding of this interaction, where oak gently cradles spirit until it is ready to be released, that makes Gordon & MacPhail one of the world’s most respected maturation experts.

Managing a portfolio of casks is complex. The company has honed its expertise over four generations to fully understand how the different styles of spirit mature in each type of oak. Today, Gordon & MacPhail matures and bottles award-winning single malt Scotch whiskies from many of Scotland’s distilleries, including several that would otherwise have been resigned to the history books following closure.

The foresight of previous generations and the patience and skills of the current generation mean Gordon & MacPhail has an unrivalled inventory of aged casks and expressions from which to innovate.

In 2015, the company raised the curtain at the Royal Opera House in London to unveil the world’s oldest and most exclusive single malt whisky, Generations Mortlach 75 Years Old by Gordon & MacPhail. Laid down in 1939 as the world teetered on the brink of war, this historic whisky has become a benchmark for rare spirits. The release of rare whiskies continued in 2017 with Private Collection Glenlivet 1943 by Gordon & MacPhail, an exceptionally rare single malt whisky that was laid down by George and his father John at the height of rationing. Distilled on a crucial date in World War Two when most distilleries lay silent, only 40 beautifully presented decanters were released for worldwide sale.

Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Prestige and fourth generation member of the Urquhart family, explains: “Our extraordinary whiskies offer consumers a delicious and unique taste of history, with luxurious and complex flavour profiles that are guaranteed to enchant and surprise. Offering more than 300 expressions that we mature and bottle from distilleries across Scotland, we take our consumers on an exciting journey of discovery.  This year, we look forward to adding a small number of extremely limited edition and rare casks to intrigue connoisseurs and collectors alike.”