Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Best Buy Whisky of the Year”: The MacPhail’s Collection

February 1st, 2010

Best Buy Whisk(e)y of the Year:

The MacPhail’s Collection (Tamdhu 8 year old, Glenrothes 8 year old, Highland Park 8 year old), 43%, $30-$35

If you’re a single malt scotch drinker, you know that prices have really shot up over the past decade—much more than inflation. Now it’s becoming a challenge to find a good tasting, mature single malt for around $30.

Given the current economy, along with the rise in whisky prices, consumers are looking for good values. You’re going to be seeing more companies putting young whiskies on the market (without age statements) at attractive prices. But be careful: some of these whiskies will taste too youthful and immature.

The MacPhail’s Collection is a range of single malt whiskies which have been distilled at selected distilleries and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. As part of this collection, we now have three very nice new releases for around $30, all eight years old and nicely matured. All are aged in refill sherry casks, for just the right amount of sherry influence without dominating the flavor profile.

These aren’t just nice-tasting whiskies. I also like the variety in the flavor profiles—the fresh, appetizing Highland Park; the mouth-coating, stylish Glenrothes; and the nutty, toffee-enriched Tamdhu. And you can have all three for about $100.

A fourth MacPhail’s Collection expression, a Bunnahabhain , also 8 years old and from a refill sherry cask, is about to be released. More whiskies like this, please!

Tomorrow’s Malt Advocate Whisky Award announcement: Artisan Whiskey of the Year.

65 Responses to “Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Best Buy Whisky of the Year”: The MacPhail’s Collection”

  1. BigMac says:

    I can recommend the Highland Park – excellent value for money!
    Classic honeyed and sherried HP sweetness wrapped in a little smoke – very good everyday-dram!

  2. Neil Fusillo says:

    Some days, I feel like I live in the redheaded stepchild of the US whisky market. We never seem to get any of these things here in Atlanta.

  3. Red_Arremer says:

    These are all really good. I think the HP is definetly the most accessible, but it’s not necessarily better. Try that Rothes with some water!

  4. Alex says:

    They have the most amazing selection and the prices cannot be beat – wish I could find them locally!

  5. Ralph Biscuits says:

    I’ve had all three of these whiskies and they’re all very good and outstanding values. The Glenrothes, I think is the best of the three. Takes water nicely but is just fine without.

  6. Brian says:

    Anyone know where these can be ordered online? We don’t have them locally, and I didn’t see them at Binny’s.

    • John Hansell says:

      Brian (and Neil), I’ll see if I can get the importer to chime in here and tell us more about the the availability of these whiskies.

      • Scott says:

        @ Brian / Neil / John

        I just got the new MacPhail’s Collection 8 yr. Highland Park and Tamdhu on the shelf as of this morning. $34.99 . Not sure how long stock will last….


  7. Alex says:

    Interesting that the 4 mentioned are all from Edrington’s stable – at least as it was 8 years ago – and now that Tamdhu is going silent maybe I’ll pick up a bottle along with the Bunna, which I always enjoy.

  8. Matt Chivian says:


    As the US importer for Gorgon & MacPhail and on behalf of the Urquhart family I want to thank you for this award and all your kind words. We have current distribution in 23 States but please feel free to email me at and I could help direct you a retailer near you.

    Thanks again John for all you do for the industry.

    • B.J. Reed says:

      Its nice to see G&M get the nod here – they have consistenly produced very high quality bottlings and very competitive prices – I will have to give Derek Hancock a poke and congratulate him as well!

      • WHISKYhost says:

        I agree with you, BJ.

        Whenever I see G&M’s name on a product I firmly believe that I’m about to taste something good (if not wonderful). Their Connoisseur’s Choice range hit some incredibly high notes in the 90s.

        Jason @WHISKYhost

        • Red_Arremer says:

          I’m a big supporter of G&M, but I have to say that I’ve had my fair shair of weird and lousy experiences with them too. I’m sure that many other would corroborate this. Still, I’ve had some awesome stuff from them and from an industry standpoint there’s no replacing them.

          • B.J. Reed says:


            I have had a lot more hits than misses – Have this 30 YO Pultney that is pitch black – Wonderful – Also have the 1967 Glen Keith – Wonderful! – Yes, there can be some off notes on some but nobody has made so much whisky available of high quality at reasonable prices as G&M (my view anyway).

          • MrTH says:

            It’s to be expected, given that they buy newly-filled barrels and mature them themselves, rather than cherry-picking already-matured barrels. Speaking of Pulteney, I had a first-fill sherry one from the Cask label that has apparently put me off sherry-matured whiskies forever. But yes, there’s no one else like G&M, and notwithstanding the occasional clunker, they are eminently worthy of our support.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            G&M is a great institution, I won’t dispute that.

  9. thomas mckenzie says:

    Wow, those are great deals, I would like to see where I can get them as well.

  10. brian bradley (brian47126) says:

    I gotta hunt down a online store to buy these three bottles from.

  11. bgulien says:

    Sounds like a perfect bunch for an affordable price! I feel a hunt for these bottles coming up.
    An easy search revealed, that none of the usual suspects in the UK/Scotland have these bottles in stock.

    • BigMac says:


      Don’t know where you’ve looked, but Royalmilewhiskies stock all but the Bunnahabhain…

      • bgulien says:

        You are right, spoke too soon. Looked at TWE and LFW.
        Will wait to order, maybe there are more revelations in the next weeks.

  12. Brian says:

    K&L Wines appears to carry the HP8. I haven’t stumbled upon the other two yet.

  13. chef! says:

    D&M has all but the Tamdhu

  14. Michael Urquhart says:

    Thank you very much for this great award John and your kind words.
    At Gordon & MacPhail we are delighted to see these whiskies under our MacPhails Collection range being recognised in the first of your annual awards. Being the World’s Leading Malt Whisky Specialist we aim to offer the consumer a wide range of bottled Single Malt Whiskies from all areas of Scotland and over many ages and vintages at reasonable prices.
    I hope your readers manage to buy a bottle or two (or three!) from the range and enjoy them!
    Kind regards

    • B.J. Reed says:

      Michael – Our thanks go to you and your family for doing such a wonderful job all these years – You were there first when no one was bottling single malts and you have continued to maintain that tradition. The Dundee Dell here in Omaha has hundreds of G&M bottlings and I have the pleasure of being able to sample them anytime I want! 🙂

      • Michael Urquhart says:

        Thanks for your kind comments BJ. As you know my family has been doing this for a year or two (well actually 115) and we have no intentions of changing with four members of the fourth generation of Urquhart’s now working in the business. Say Hi to everyone in Dundee Dell for me and thanks for supporting our whiskies!
        Kind regards

  15. Sean says:

    Total Wine in AZ just got the Glenrothes in but I don’t remember the price right now. I feel a trip back might be in order.

  16. brian mac gregor says:

    Hoooray for independant bottlers

    • Mark says:

      Agreed, Brian!

      And John, what a fine selection you made to start off the awards. It’s an unsurprisingly thoughtful choice, with the drinker of whisky in mind. Thanks.

  17. joe hyman says:

    Thanks, John…

    Now, everyone will buy these up and our little secret will be gone! haha

    Congrats, Michael (and Matt)!

    The ‘Bunny’ sounds interesting… looking forward to trying it.

    • Michael Urquhart says:

      Thanks Joe!
      You know its good to sssshare the secret! (now where have I heard that before?)

  18. Henry H. says:

    I remember Joe Howell at Federal in Boston, who’s a tireless G&M champion, talking up this line before it hit this past year. I was a bit skeptical about how high he was on 8 year old malts, even though I was the guy asking him for good values. I’ll try not to cringe as I now seek these out. Needless to say, they won’t be in the state stores here in whisky purgatory, the otherwise lovely Washington state.
    By the way, word is that our legislature may finally privatize spirit sales this year. The transition would take a couple of years, but my oh my will we be celebrating if it happens. Please pray for us…

    • MrTH says:

      What, you want Beer Heaven _and_ good whisky selection? Some people are never satisfied. (You remind me that I haven’t seen Joe in some little while…guess I have a good excuse now.)

      • Henry H. says:

        You are so right. The beer selection is marvelous. I can keep trying more and more nasty west coast double IPA’s to drown my whisky sorrows. Never shall I complain again! (And if you believe that…)

  19. I love the Highland Park & Tamdhu. Great value. I was talking with a friend today about this category and really thought that you would have chose the Evan Williams Single Barrel that released this year. Thanks John, and looking forward to the rest of the awards. I already like this better than last nights Grammys!

  20. JWC says:

    your review makes me want to try all three – esp. at the price you’ve quoted. now, the question is, can i actually FIND them at those PRICES? since spirits cannot be shipped to texas, i’m making a run to the usual suspects here in houston and keep my fingers crossed.

    john, you are going to single handedly make me break my new year’s resolution re: whiskies – i.e., buy less. i’ll tell my wife it’s all YOUR fault. 😉

    • H.Diaz says:

      JWC, did this not shipping to Texas rule change in the last couple of years? Several years back I ordered online from Binny’s and a couple others. Last month I tried to order online again and was denied. Thanks.

      • JWC says:

        H.Diaz, it is illegal to purchase/have shipped to Texas malt beverages or distilled spirits (ARGGGH!). You can purchase wine over the internet, etc., from a winery that has a Texas permit or from a retailer that has a out of state wine only permit. Limit for the purchaser/importer is 3 gallons of wine every 30 days. In short, NO WHISK(E)Y from retailers.

    • Holysinner says:

      JWC, Spec’s has all three listed on their website, each priced at $31.57. I only recall seeing the Glenrothes in Austin, though they can probably get the others upon request. They all sound good, I’d be most interested in the Tamdhu though. Never having bought a bottle of Glenrothes (I did taste one at an event, found it underwhelming), I should probably give that a try.

      John, I wonder, were the Battlehill offerings in the running for this award? The Ben Nevis 10 has rather a funky nose but I find it delicious – honeyed and peppery – and the Imperial 13 is quite elegant.

      • JWC says:

        Holysinner, thanks. The problem with the Spec’s website is that it is usually way out of date. I’ll have to drop by tomorrow and check it out.

  21. John Hansell says:

    JWC, feel free to tell her it’s my fault. It won’t be the first–or last–time I’ve been blamed. 🙂

  22. H.Diaz says:

    I’ve always felt better about buying official bottlings. Now, with MacPhail’s Collection, I can give the indie’s a shot. That is, if I can get my hands on them.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Resist the impulse to keep things “good and simple.” As great as these three G&M’s are they hardly hint at what G&M and the other indies are capable of.
      For many, the variety in the of the Classic Malts alone is intimidating. Add on top of that a bunch of other distillery bottled single malts with less aggressive PR and the picture gets even more overwhelming. Then throw in an endless succession of way less expensively packaged, but often more expensively priced, completely unadvertised bottlings by different, companies, where for 1/2-1/3 of the things you haven’t even heard of the distillery– Yeah, you might feel a need to narrow things down a little 😉

      But independent bottlings are indispensable to the appreciation of scotch:
      -closed distillieries
      -unique maturations
      -single cask/ cask strength stuff from distilleries that might do it on their own
      What it’s really about is a whole segment of the industry aiming to capitilize on genuine scotch-passion rather than the more common passions for image and sipability.

  23. Maybe Michael can answer that question : this collection so far is aged in refill sherry casks, are those butts or hogshead ? Moreover, is it now American oak or still Spanish (and for how long ?) ?

    • John Hansell says:

      Alexandre, that’s a good question. Michael, can you shed any light on this?

      • Michael Urquhart says:

        For these special bottlings for the US in 75cl bottles we have been using a mixture of first and refill casks. Some of these casks will be european oak and some american.
        Apologies for the delay in responding but I’m currently travelling abroad.

  24. MARS says:

    I am looking to buy these bottles for some months. Look like I have to hurry now before they are all gone.
    In the same collection they are also much older malt. I really like the highland park 30 years old(so much in fact that I buy 3 bottles).

  25. Texas says:

    JWC, I have seen the HP from this collection at DT Spec’s there with the rest of the HP (just past the glass case on the Scotch shelf..haven’t looked for the others. I will likely try these at some point. Kudos to G&M for producing these for the more income challenged guy (or gal). I will certainly be looking for more G&M products to purchase as well…really enjoying the G&M Highland Park 11 year Cask Strength

  26. lawschooldrunk says:

    Can’t wait to see these on shelves!

  27. I’d sure love to try any one of these whiskies. Anyone know if or where they can be had in Madison, WI before I traipse all over town looking for them?

  28. […] for Artisan Whiskey of the Year.  Congrats to a great American craft distillery.  Meanwhile, the MacPhail’s Collection wins best buy of the […]

  29. Shaun Farrier says:


    I recently purchased the 8 year old Glenrothes based on your kind words. Good call!!!! It’s nice to have some trustworthy advice out there.

  30. […] Advocate magazine Buyer’s Guide. I’ll be posting those up this week, beginning with our “Best Buy” award winner, so that these whiskies will be searchable in our Buyer’s Guide database. They’ll be […]

  31. jeff nelson says:

    coming soon to Connecticut….

  32. […] With a slighly rusty color and texture, this dram was a surprise starter with lots of character and depth for an “entry level” malt. As with all of the GM bottlings I’ve sampled, it was well balanced and relatively dry. A bit of something herbal on the nose, and a smooth, clean finish was all to the good. To be honest, there wasn’t anything to dislike about this dram- a good bottle to keep the cabinet well stocked with an accessible whiskey yet with enough unique “terroir” to raise it above the level on any blend (that means you Johnny Black) and most similarly priced single malts. That is, if memory serves correctly- it has been over a week since tasting it, and my liberal attitude towards single malts (they are all good) may cloud the critical thinking a bit. Regardless of that, this bottle has also been well received by the professional scotch cognoscenti- check out THIS REVIEW for more background on the bottling process and another opinion of how the whi… […]

  33. […] Collection as their “Best Buy Whisky of the Year”. You can check out the review here. The Collection includes, Tamdhu 8yr, Highland Park 8yr, Bunnahabhain 8yr, and Glenrothes 8yr. I […]

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