Gordon & MacPhail Tasting
hosted by the “Whisky & More” shop
in Hasselt (Belgium)
Last weekend I attended a whisky tasting in my own hometown Hasselt, where only last year the first whisky shop opened its doors. As for now they haven’t got much to offer the seasoned whisky drinker. But it takes some time for an independent shop holder to acquire a decent stock of exclusive and rare bottles that sets them apart from the local supermarkets.
feel free to pay a visit to their site: whiskyandmore.be
To introduce the public to their newly acquired Gordon & MacPhail range, they invited the G&M ambassador over for a tasting. The participants were a mixed crowd of middle-aged to elderly men, both seasoned (at least going by their claims) and inexperienced. Therefore the ambassador did not go into too much detail about the distillery profiles, cask selection or even the tasting notes. A bit of a pity if you ask me, I’m a sucker for technical details and the little facts and figures of my whiskies keep it interesting
G&M Distillery Labels: Miltonduff 10yo
G&M Connaisseurs Choice: Glenlossie 17yo (1997/2014)
G&M Reserve: Ardmore 17yo (1997/2014)
G&M Distillery Labels: Miltonduff 30yo (1984/2014)
G&M Distillery Labels: Mortlach 30yo (1984/2014)
G&M Connoisseurs Choice: Caol Ila 13yo (2001/2014)
Every distillery on this list serves one main purpose: high quantity production of cheap whisky fit for the blended whisky market. That being said,that doesn’t mean they are all just the same blend fodder, there are differences that set these distilleries apart.
We can easily divide them into two groups:
On one hand we have Mortlach, Ardmore and Caol Ila, as well-respected producers of single malt whiskies by their own right, while the other two Miltonduff and Glenlossie remain a mystery to many whisky drinkers.
Another distinction we could make, is the different purpose that these whiskies serve in a blend: the former are used as flavorful top-dressers, while the later are mainly used as packers.
Venturing further into the underbelly of the Scottish whisky industry means I’ll encounter more and more of these packers along the way. And G&M offers quite a few of those through their semi-official distillery labels. So expect more G&M bottles in the near future. (as of this weekend, G&M is the most common independent bottler on my list, with 15 hits it surpassing Blackadder)
As I’ve reviewed this whisky before and still stand by my notes, it will not be included in this review.
My notes can be found here.
Glenlossie 17yo (1997/2014) Connoisseurs Choice
Second up was a dram from the Glenlossie distillery. I was very excited for this one, It would be my first introduction to Glenlossie (Distillery #69 everyone!) and according to my research gets quite a few decent reviews for being an intensely fruity treat. It bothered me a bit that when the ambassador tried to situate the distillery he actually referred to the Glen Ord distillery (but who am I to nitpick).
Nose: soft sherry notes and overall dry: a teaspoon of honey, subtle notes oak wood scrapings, some fruit: peaches and pears, with a whiff of cereal
Mouth: a light body with a fairly weak palate, more fruitiness: tangerine and pineapple with a touch of salt
Finish: medium long finish with tones of citrus and vanilla, with unexpected notes of gruyère cheese in the tail.
Beautiful nose, smooth and round whisky but a tad weak on the palate. My number 2 of the evening, well worth a try.
Ardmore 17yo (1997/2014) Reserve
From one of my favorite distilleries comes a G&M special release for the Belgian market: a single cask Ardmore handpicked by the ambassador himself.
Nose: with a whiff of smoke, a subtle layer of peat with a spicy edge, a bit of chocolate and fumes of smoked wood
Mouth: a high alcoholic burn on the tongue with notes of citrus and spicy oak
(with water added: sweet notes of peach and pine resin)
Finish: medium to long mouth drying finish with mainly notes of citrus and soft vanilla.
like many others I can appreciate the sting of alcohol once in a while, but when it dominates the flavours of my dram I’ll eradicate it without mercy with a dash of water. Don’t drink this one neat if you want to enjoy the palate! Not bad, but can’t say that I would pick this one over the cheaper OB “Traditional Cask”.
Miltonduff 30yo (1984/2014)
Nose: high sherried notes of red apples, peaches, with a touch of mint. Some lemon hidden underneath
Mouth: a waxy body but surprisingly fresh on the palate: notes of grapes and peach with a raw edge
Finish: very short and grassy, leaves a slightly sour taste, notes of chocolate in the tail.
Swimming against the stream here, I actually preferred the 10yo Miltonduff. And before you’ll all stone me to death, allow me to explain myself. The nose was excellent, the palate surprisingly fresh for a 30yo., but it was the somewhat sharp and raw edge of the palate and the lack of a finish that sunk this one for me. This whisky felt incomplete, something was missing.
Mortlach 30yo (1984/2014)
Nose: sherried notes, scents of chilly, red apples, a touch of cinnamon and eucalyptus
Mouth: a waxy and creamy body with meaty bold flavours on the palate: high sugary notes, orange peel, some cream cheese, spiced up with nutmeg and cinnamon
Finish: Long and satisfying with tones of citrus and a touch of chocolate
My number 3 for the evening and probably the most complex of them all. This bombastic round bodied whisky, has Mortlach written all over it. Properly aged in a sherry barrel this whisky feels so much better than the G&M 15yo. No more discusting layers of vanilla. A work of art, but I’m just no Mortlach kind of guy. Still not getting what all the fuzz is about.
Caol Ila 13yo (2001/2014) Connaisseurs Choice
Nose: notes of citrus, adhesive, bandages and cleaning alcohol. Underlying a layer of soot and soft medicinal peat
Mouth: a light and refreshing body with soft notes of citrus on the palate, some rough grind black pepper, a whiff of peat smoke and a notch of pine wood to finish it off.
Finish: Long and satisfying notes of pine rasin with a drying mouth feel
This evening’s winner, I don’t have bias for peat. But this Caol Ila is beautiful in its simplicity.
The Final Verdict
Overall a well organised tasting with a nice variation of different flavours. The Caol Ila was banned to the last place of the line-up because it was peat smoked. In my opinion a bit of an overreaction, seeing as it was only a mild-flavoured Caol Ila. It would not have ruined ruined my palate for the older drams.
But as it was my high note of the evening, I’m greatful that they did. To the kind folks of Whisky & More, keep up the good work and my apologies if the tone of my interview seems to be a bit on the negative side.
A posh critic, like me, can’t effort to sound overly positive. Keep up the good work and I’m really looking forward to the Blackadder tasting.