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Gordon & MacPhail to Stop Buying Whisky After 128 Years

The momentous decision will see the independent bottler focus efforts on its own distilleries.

By Toby Louch and Alex Martin

The highly regarded Scotch whisky brand Gordon & MacPhail has taken the decision to cease filling spirit into casks from distilleries it does not own. From 2024 it will only use spirit garnered from its own distilleries.

For the past 128 years, Gordon & MacPhail has built its reputation as one of the finest independent bottlers, recognized for well-aged single malts. Over time, Gordon & MacPhail filled casks with spirit from over 100 Scotch whisky distilleries.

These casks were treated with patience and expertly matured, etching Gordon & MacPhail’s name in the history books as a bottler that produced exemplary aged single malts.

Cask warehouse at Gordon & MacPhail
Even with this change, Gordon & MacPhail will continue to release bottles from other distilleries for years to come / ©Gordon & MacPhail

By no longer procuring spirit from other distilleries, Gordon & MacPhail has decided to take control of its destiny and intends to focus all its efforts on the two distilleries it owns. In the future, the distilleries of Benromach and The Cairn will act as the cornerstone of the brand’s whisky production, securing the supply of high-quality single malt for years to come.

Still, the news will come as a huge surprise to an industry seemingly enjoying its golden era. Dozens of new distilleries have opened in recent years, with many more in construction or in the planning phase. There have also been a number of new independents, including Finn Thomson and Halcyon Spirits.

But buying in newmake (whisky before it’s aged in casks) has become significantly more difficult in recent years. With the whisky industry in full boom, distilleries have been less and less keen to offload their spirit to third parties. It has also been challenging to procure sufficient casks with the price of both American and Spanish oak rising significantly as demand from new and expanding distilleries has increased demand faster than supply adapt.

It’s important to remember that due to the aged nature of Gordon & MacPhail releases, this is not a change that will be immediately apparent. The Gordon & MacPhail warehouse is still full of aging spirit from dozens of distilleries. These releases remain commercially viable and will be released when they are ready, whether that be next year or many years from now.

The stillhouse at The Cairn distillery
The stillhouse at The Cairn Distillery / ©Gordon & MacPhail

Father of single malt

The Gordon & MacPhail story began in 1895 when a grocery business was established in Scotland’s Speyside region. This business offered a worldwide range of goods from teas, coffee, wine and, of course whisky.

Over time, the business developed a whisky focus, established key principles, and gained a reputation for the release of single malts at a time when the majority of whisky was used for blends. This family-owned business continued to grow throughout the 20th century, mainly due to the visionary leadership of George Urquhart, a member of the second generation of the company’s owning family and the proclaimed ‘father of single malt whisky’.

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Mr George’s legacy goes far beyond Gordon & MacPhail and spreads into the single malt industry as a whole. He defied the market and invested heavily in single malt whisky at a time when demand was slumping. His greatest success came in 1968 with the release of the Connoisseurs Choice range, which introduced the wonders of single malt to new markets.

He also believed in keeping whisky in the cask for much longer than industry norms, a decision Gordon & MacPhail continues to reap the fruit of. The company’s recent 80 Year Old, which sold for around $100,000 a bottle in 2020, was at the time the oldest Scotch whisky ever bottled.

Glenlivet 80 Year Old decanter
The Glenlivet 80 Year Old was the oldest whisky ever bottled when it was bottled in 2020 / ©Gordon & MacPhail

In 1993, it realized a long-held dream and procured its own distillery, Benromach, which was opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998. Benromach has already gained cult status among whisky drinkers and experts. In 2022, a 40 Year Old won the Best in Show award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, effectively making it the best Scotch whisky in the world.

The decision to focus all future attention on its own distilleries carves another mark in the lengthy history of Gordon & MacPhail, one that’s sure to see the continued release of exceptional single malt whisky, for many years to come.

Gordon & MacPhail's Benromach distillery
Benromach Distillery was purchased by the brand in 1993 / ©Gordon & MacPhail

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