It’s only been a matter of days since Gordon & MacPhail announced it was winding down its independent bottling business, but with a warehouse full of whisky casks, the Elgin-based company is not going away anytime soon.
To underline that intention, Gordon & MacPhail has followed its industry-shaking news with the second release of its annual series called Recollection. This year’s collection features 18 Scotch whiskies from closed or silent distilleries including the oldest Port Ellen ever released by an independent bottler.
Stephen Rankin, director of prestige at Gordon & MacPhail, said: “The whiskies released in our Recollection series are some of the rarest single malts we have in our liquid library.
“This creates a unique opportunity for whisky enthusiasts to experience liquid from distilleries that haven’t operated for decades and are rarely seen in the market today; a true window into Scotland’s complex and colorful whisky history.”
Many of the distilleries featured in the series, such as Glen Mhor, have been demolished and will never produce whisky again. That makes single malt releases from those distilleries vanishingly rare and Gordon & MacPhail holds some of the final casks of liquid.
In the case of Rosebank and Port Ellen, the distilleries have or will shortly be brought back to life, due to their popularity. Port Ellen, for instance, is expected to restart production in 2023 following a 40-year hiatus. Diageo has invested significant sums to revive the lost distillery, specifically because it has become hugely coveted by collectors.
The Port Ellen featured in the Recollection series is taken from a cask filled in 1981, two years before its closure. Very few casks of Port Ellen are left and many of those are under the control of Diageo. It’s a testament to Gordon & MacPhail’s patience that it has held onto the cask until now.
Port Ellen 1981 is the jewel in the collection’s crown and naturally the most expensive at £10,000 ($12,760). That will get you one of 181 bottles, taken from a refill sherry butt and bottled at a cask strength of 52.5% ABV.
The oldest whisky in the collection comes from Glen Mhor, which was distilled in 1973 and bottled just short of its 50th birthday. It comes from a refill sherry hogshead and is limited to 170 bottles. It will be available worldwide for £6,000 ($7,650).
Another release of note comes from Scotland’s unluckiest distillery, Banff, named so because it was bombed and destroyed during World War II and then burnt to the ground shortly before it was due to be demolished in 1983. A small distillery even at its peak, very little of Banff whisky remains. This one, distilled in 1976, is among the oldest ever released.
Port Ellen 1981 – Tasting notes
Color: Mahogany – the cask has had a big impact on the liquid, which has a compelling dark color.
Nose: Sweet and nutty, freshly fried churros with a touch of burned sugar and cinnamon, morning-after bonfire, ginger cookies and a hint of dark chocolate.
Taste: Quite a lot of bonfire smoke initially, but some water opens up the sweeter qualities. Baked fruits, honey cashews and oak spice.
Finish: Even with a lot of water, the bonfire smoke returns at the end. A vintage peat-heavy whisky suited to lovers of Ardbeg and Laphroaig.
For more information on the Recollection series, visit gordonandmacphail.com