Whisky Advocate

Review: The MacPhail’s Collection (Highland Park, Glenrothes, Tamdhu)

March 8th, 2010

As you recall, I announced the 16th Annual Malt Advocate Whisky Award winners here back in February. Some of the award winners were never formally reviewed and rated for the Malt 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 published in the next issue of Malt Advocate.

Focus on “The MacPhail’s Collection”

Three whiskies. All 8 years old, and nicely matured. And all aged in refill sherry casks, for just the right amount of sherry influence without dominating the flavor profile. These days, it’s hard to find a nice single malt scotch for around $30-35. Here are three.

83 The MacPhail’s Collection (distilled at Highland Park), 43%, $30
The lightest and most appetizing of the three. Look for honeyed vanilla, mango, nectarine, pineapple in syrup, floral notes, and delicate brine. A fresh, easy drinking, “anytime” dram.

83 The MacPhail’s Collection (distilled at Glenrothes), 43%, $30
A pleasing, younger expression of this classic Speysider. Noticeably mouth-coating, with a malty foundation accentuated by toffee apple, chocolate covered nuts, and fresh grass. Very stylish.

82 The MacPhail’s Collection (distilled at Tamdhu), 43%, $30
This distillery is (sadly) mothballed at the moment, and not always easy to find. The most aggressive of the three. Notes of burnt toffee, roasted nuts, ripe barley, citrus, vanilla, honey, and toasted marshmallow.

As I mentioned in the awards write-up, a Bunnahabhain 8 year old will also be added to the MacPhail’s Collection shortly.

13 Responses to “Review: The MacPhail’s Collection (Highland Park, Glenrothes, Tamdhu)”

  1. B.J. Reed says:

    I have the Tamdhu – Excellent! Lets hope the reopen soon.

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks, John, for the formal reviews of these winners. I have the HP and Tamdhu and have opened the HP. These reviews are helpful examples of how low-to-mid 80s Hansell scores mean good whisky.

    It seems odd that in Chicago, I’m still waiting to see The Glenrothes. I’ll definitely keep an eye out, though!

    Oh, by the way, the MA arrived today. It was pleasant to see the Chicago whisky bars feature and see that Terry Sullivan has a humor column. It was a good mail day.

  3. Neil Fusillo says:

    I’ve all three of these, and I have to say I like the Tamdhu the best. It opens up incredibly well with a little water and has some fun toffee complexity I enjoy. The Glenrothes is my second favourite, followed by the HP (which tasted a lot like young HP to me — go figure).

  4. Ralph Biscuits says:

    I have had all three of these as well. I like the Glenrothes the best. The Highland Park a very close second and The Tamdhu a close third. I agree with Neil that The Tamdhu takes water very nicely. The Glenrothes does as well.

  5. […] Hansell finds good value in the “MacPhail’s Collection” – three eight year old whiskies for only $30 […]

  6. Gary says:

    Are these available at retail and where?

  7. […] On top of that, John Hansell of Malt Advocate gave this particular expression a nice little review.  I’ll pay $35 for an 83pt whisky (especially if it’s Highland Park)!! You can check out John Hansell’s review here. […]

  8. Ken says:

    John, I’ve compared my three bottles very carefully side-by-side three times over the past few months, and consistently find myself so at odds with your review that I wonder if something got mixed up. Of my samples:

    – the HIghland Park label is the peaty one, the deepest and most complex of the three, with live salt marsh, old leather, and good cigar in balance with the oak and sherry sweetness all the way through the finish. Light in color, but in the middle of the three; my second favorite, and the one I’d call “stylish”.

    – the Glenrothes label is the unfishished one, the harshest and most neutral of the three, with Elmer’s glue and mineral clay. It seems not to have yet developed something to cover the bitterness intrinsic to a raw finish, so I’d like to see it after at least a few more years on oak. The lightest in color of the three; my least favorite, and the one I’d call “aggressive”.

    – the Tamdhu label is the dessert one, the most luxurious and comforting of the three, with sweet smoky Bourbon and banana cream pie. Medium in color, the darkest of the three; my favorite, and the one I’d call “easy-drinking, anytime”.

    What do you think?

  9. […] Mr. John Hansell likes this “fresh, easy drinking, ‘anytime’ dram,” giving the “honeyed vanilla, mango, nectarine, pineapple in syrup, floral notes, and delicate brine” an 83/100.  The Macphails’ Collection bottlings received Malt Advocate’s Best Buy of the Year for 2009. […]

  10. Zeke Montro says:

    Thanks for the writeup – I’ve been looking for more info on these! Quick question: When you wrote: “And all aged in refill sherry casks,…” do you know if it’s EXCLUSIVELY aged in sherry casks, or is it only a small percentage? I’m always curious about the influence of sherry wood on scotch, and have debated the extent of it with friends for ages. Often times these are 2nd or 3rd refills, and at that, they are only with 5-10% of the casks used. So how do I get more info on this – or is it a closely guarded secret of the distilleries?
    Thanks again!

  11. Jason Debly says:

    John, why do you think Tamdhu has been closed?

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