Whisky Advocate

Gordon & MacPhail introduces world’s oldest whisky

March 11th, 2010

Gordon & MacPhail has broken the 70 year old barrier with a 70 year old Mortlach under the new “Generations”  label. I also have a very small sample of this whisky, so I’ll let you know my thoughts for those of you who are curious.

Here’s the press release I was also sent, which was enbargoed until today. It explains more about the whisky and the Generations concept.

The wait is over as the world’s oldest whisky sees the light of day

The world’s oldest bottled single malt whisky has been revealed today (Thursday 11 March) by whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail.

Released under Gordon & MacPhail’s ‘Generations’ brand, Mortlach 70 Years Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky was finally revealed – and tasted – by special guests at a launch in the atmospheric setting of Edinburgh Castle’s Queen Anne Room. One precious bottle of Mortlach was piped into the Castle, escorted by guards from The Highlanders (4th Battalion).

The new-make spirit from Speyside’s Mortlach Distillery was filled into the cask on 15th October 1938 by John Urquhart, the grandfather of Gordon & MacPhail Joint Managing Directors, David and Michael Urquhart. Exactly 70 years later, the decision was made to carefully empty the cask and bottle the contents.

Founded in 1895, Gordon & MacPhail is known the world over as the custodian of some of the oldest and rarest single malts available. Members of the third and fourth generations of the Urquhart family now own and manage the business.

David and Michael Urquhart, Joint Managing Directors of Gordon & MacPhail said:

“This is a very special day for us, one we’ve literally been anticipating for generations. Our family has been in the whisky business for a long time, with each generation building and handing on a lifetime’s expertise to the next.

“We believe Mortlach 70 Years Old is a malt without comparison. If the reaction of those lucky enough to enjoy a dram today is anything to go by, whisky fans and people wishing to own a unique piece of Scotland’s liquid history will be very excited about it.”

Charles MacLean, a well-known whisky writer and connoisseur, who was allowed a sneak preview of the single malt, described it as “a delicate, fresh, vital, fruity whisky, with unusual attributes of waxiness and smokiness.”

Each bottle will be beautifully presented in a tear-shaped hand-blown crystal decanter with an elegant silver stopper. The decanter nestles in a stylish silver base and is framed in a handmade Brazilian Rosewood box, created using wood from Forest Stewardship Council (FS C) Certified sources.

Mortlach 70 Years Old was matured in a Spanish oak, ex-bodega sherry hogshead cask, which yielded 54 full-size and 162 small decanters bottled at cask strength (46.1% ABV). The recommended retail price in the UK is £10,000 per 70cl decanter and £2,500 for the 20cl version.

This is the first in a series of extremely rare malt whiskies to be released by Gordon & MacPhail under its ‘Generations’ brand.

For more information visit www.gordonandmacphail.com

53 Responses to “Gordon & MacPhail introduces world’s oldest whisky”

  1. Gal says:

    this is indeed very nice rate etc.
    but how many of those bottles will get opened?
    really, isoteric.

  2. Jacob Halbrooks says:

    Sounds like an interesting whisky, but why are they putting it in perfume bottles?

    • JWC says:

      this has to be one of the best posts on this blog ever. perfume bottles! LOL! spot on – perhaps the same reason why it had to be “escorted by guards from The Highlanders (4th Battalion)”.

  3. Luke says:

    £10,000.00 a bottle? Ffffff! I’ll have to pass methinks…

    I’ll just have to be content with my (unopened) bottles of Dungourney ’64 and Duncan Taylor Bunnahabhain 1970 – both being opened for my 40th this year!

  4. JWC says:

    ” escorted by guards from The Highlanders (4th Battalion)” – all i need to know. just when i thought the marketing ploys used for scotch couldn’t get more ridiculous. i pray that american whiskey makers never get that nutty.

    • Luke says:

      JWC: Re ridiculous marketing:

      Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich (a stern opponent of bullshit in the Industry) tells the tale of a trade conference in Niagara a few years back where a certain Island distillery had a six-foot-plus actor dressed in a Kilt, Tam O’ Shanter and Peacocks feather (wearing three different tartans at once) as a spokesman.

      The “Christmas Tree” (Jim’s description) then asked the assembled buyers to lower their earlobes into their glass and listen – for the “Waves crashing against the Rocky Shore” of said island”

      Needless to say, Jim, and every other Scots rep, were on the floor in convulsions as a sizable number of the buyers dutifully held the glass to their ear to listen!

      At least The Highlanders 4th Battalion have their dignity!

      • JWC says:

        Luke, never heard that story before. If I’d been given those instructions, I would have had a “you’ve gotta be kidding me look” on my face and then the same expression x10 for anyone that actually did it.

    • Steffen Bräuner says:

      Well there’s a lot of “fake” exclusive bottlings out. These days its hard to find a bottle over 20yrs that doesnt come in a silly box and/or a funny bottle at a stupid price

      For once something special is out, that is really special and not just pretending to be

      If you aren’t allowed top celebrate releasing the oldest whisky you can never celebrate

      Macdeffe

  5. Duff says:

    It is nice to see a volume go to the more affordable 20cl bottles. At least that gives some hope a little bit of it will be tasted.

  6. Mark says:

    I don’t mind the piping in for this one – from a cask filled by their grandfather in 1938! The packaging may be over the top, but I suppose you have to do something to set apart the oldest bottling.

    Cask strength at 46.1% in ex-sherry, and look at that color. Congrats for having some, John. Looking forward to your thoughts!

    “delicate, fresh, vital”…”waxiness”?

    • John Hansell says:

      Yeah, a 70 year old whisky is pretty special. That’s twice as old a some of us.

      • Seth Nadel says:

        I’m sure I should know this, but are 70 year old barrels uncommon? I’ve heard in the past that distilleries can have very old barrels, but they are either empty or undrinkable. I went to Buffalo Trace a few years ago and they said they don’t have a complete inventory of all their barrels. I would assume the same holds true for Scotch.

      • Justin says:

        Two and a half times as old as some of us as well. :-) Yup, I’m a youngin’. The Dell has spoiled me so far, but I doubt I’ll ever see this.

  7. Red_Arremer says:

    You know honestly, I think they could have priced this a lot higher. Not that I’m congratulating them or that I’m planning on picking up a bottle or anything ;)

  8. Mark says:

    Red, I agree, though I don’t know the dynamics of figuring out what the price could reasonably be. The point, I take it, is that this luxury bottling is not just a marketing gimmick. That’s on the presumption that making this move with unworthy whisky would damage their rep far too much to make it worthwhile. 54 full-size bottles at CS, and making the choice to have the smaller bottles available — they seem to have chosen pretty well.

  9. Mark Davis says:

    I didn’t even know I was waiting for this, but it’s nice to know that 70 year phase of my life is over.

  10. two-bit cowboy says:

    Congratulations to the Urquharts.

    Thanks for sharing this, John. I love the piping ceremony. Lots of tradition (not just marketing) that too often gets lost on us on this side of the Atlantic. I’m thrilled to see this from a family business.

    For me, though, I simply look forward to my first dram of their Benromach 10 year old. Soon.

    • John Hansell says:

      I think congrats are in order. If I were in their shoes and had a 70 year old whisky to bottle that was laid down by my grandfather, I would be getting a little emotional. And I would make a big deal out of it.

      • Texas says:

        I think this is really cool. I have no issue with it..totally different than the Diageo nonsense.

  11. Steffen Bräuner says:

    well isn’t it the same price as Glenfiddich charges for their standard OB 50yr old :-)

    I wouldn’t say the price is outragous, when compared to other old whiskies out there. Wasnt the old Dalmore 64yr (62yr? can’t remember) the previous oldest whisky sold for 26000£ ?

    Well approx 70liters in the cask and a high ABV of 46% makes this remarkable cask.

    Well this is still out of my range :-), but last year I attended a vertical Mortlach at the shop of G and M in Elgin at the SoS 2009 festival. They had the 1938 60yr old on the agenda, which was one of the best whiskies I ever tried. If this is anything near it John is a lucky guy

    Macdeffe

    PS I find the bottleshape silly :-)

  12. Chris Riesbeck says:

    Very interesting and extremely unique but altogether a non issue as a result of the price for a strong majority of us on the boards.

  13. I’m very glad to see they’re offering smaller bottles for sale. Perhaps because of that move alone 1 or 2 of those bottles will actually be consumed instead of sitting on a shelf for the next 70 years.

  14. Peter Spyr says:

    I have just seen this for sale on Master of Malt’s website at http://www.masterofmalt.com/

    I can’t wait to taste the – the Oldest Bottled Whisky in the world! ..

  15. Steffen Bräuner says:

    If you buy 4 20cl bottles you get 80cl for 10000£ :-)

    Macdeffe

  16. Seth Nadel says:

    It’s cool, but looks like a marketing ploy, which I have no problem with. There seems to be a trend to release very young Scotch or very old Scotch. At least they are keeping things interesting. I like the bottle, actually. It should be in a unique bottle.

    • Willie says:

      I suppose it is a little bit of a marketing ploy, but G&M are regularly bottling very old casks. This is very much at the heart of their business and once again they have bottled a unique old whisky at a relatively reasonable price. If it wasn’t for G&M few of us could have afforded to try whiskies over 50 years old and although I can’t afford to try this one I live in hope that my wife will win the lottery and buy me one (or two).

  17. I would actually hope a good number of these would be opened and consumed. If you can swing that price for a bottle, drinking it shouldn’t be a problem. Everything is relative, and I don’t think you’d buy this in anticipation of price appreciation.

  18. Neil Fusillo says:

    Wow. I cannot even BEGIN to imagine the patience that goes into waiting 70 years for a bottle of whisky to mature. You can just picture those watching over this cask who died before getting to see it bottled.

  19. I_SPEY says:

    I realy would like to try this70 yo whisky; very, very curious! And look at that bottle, beautifully designed.C’est magnifique!

  20. JC Skinner says:

    I’ve had a 63 year old Kilbeggan from the old distillery before it was mothballed (and obviously before Cooley fired up the stills again recently).
    It was shockingly woody, and the alcohol level had fallen below what could legally be called whiskey.
    While I admire the patience of those involved in creating this particular bottling, I can’t for the life of me see how it would have peaked at 70 years in the wood.
    It’s a splendid publicity stunt, and fair play to them for that. But I suspect that whisky would have been better if bottled quite some years ago, if not decades.
    But if they’d done that, they wouldn’t be able to claim this record, I guess.

    • If you haven’t tasted it, you can’t really tell. Can one really generalize from a one-off tasting of a 63yo Irish to all old whiskies? I dunno.

  21. MrTH says:

    Can we put aside our cynicism and our distaste for ultra-expensive bottlings for once, and just marvel at something unique? The mind boggles at how this could possibly have come to be. I can’t imagine someone nosing this at, say, 64 years old and saying, “Nope…not ready yet.” Nor can I imagine a cask being forgotten for decades, and then turning out to be “delicate, fresh, vital, fruity whisky”, rather than a mouthful of sawdust. As for it being a “marketing ploy”…well, I suspect if you had something like this in your cellar, you’d sing about it, too. Amazing.

  22. [...] Master of Malt has notes on Mortlach 70 – officially the oldest whisky in the world.  John Hansell has more information about the release, from independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail. [...]

  23. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    yesterday R. Patterson has been seen entering one of the warehouses at Dalmore distillery with a huge picknick basket and plenty of spare batteries for his torch.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    • Sure there wasn’t a sleeping bag there as well? or does he have a bunk bed set up somewhere deep in the catacombs?

      Anyway, I would like a taste of this, but I think I would have to spend 2-years worth of whisky budget on dram… I’ll pass.

  24. John Hansell says:

    Okay, the temptation was too great. I decided to pour a little more than half my 30ml sample last night after coming home from taking my wife out for her birthday. And I decided that I am not going to review this formally, but to rather enjoy it as much as I can and savor the moment of tasting a whisky that’s 70 years old.

    My informal impressions? I really liked the nose. I never would have suspected it would be this old. Very complex and impressive. Its age shows more on the palate. Past its prime? In all honesty, yes. There’s definintely some resinous oak notes in there. Still, it’s an entertaining and intriguing dram with redeeming qualities. I enjoyed drinking it. A rare treat.

    • Mark says:

      Great. Thanks for the notes, which seem in accord with reasonable expectations. So much of the beauty in this is its history and the meaning it has as a G&M bottling. That it still has such life in the nose is quite a testament. Good karma, maybe. ;)

  25. Chris Riesbeck says:

    John-
    As much as it kills me to never have a taste of the stuff. Your review will suffice and thankfully its great. Its a real testament to the way you review a product that I can almost sense what the product would taste and smell like. Kudos to you!

  26. Michael Urquhart says:

    We have received a terrific response throughout the world to the launch of Gordon & MacPhail Generations – Mortlach 70yo. The launch of this product heralded a very important moment for the company – my grandfather had this cask filled in 1938 and we have waited generations for it to be unveiled. We believe this launch also be to be a significant moment in the history of Scotch whisky. To mark such a moment we felt is fitting to launch the product at an iconic location, hence Edinburgh Castle. The pipers and guards from The Highlanders were chosen because of a family connection – my father, George Urquhart, served in this regiment.

    We take the pricing of our whiskies very seriously and we believe the price of Gordon & MacPhail Generations – Mortlach 70yo is in line with market expectations. That said Gordon & MacPhail has a diverse and extensive portfolio of single malt whiskies – from 8 years old up to 70 years old with prices to fit every budget. Our whiskies at the younger end of the range was endorsed by winning the “Best Buy Whisky of the Year” award in the 2010 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards for whiskies with our MacPhail’s Collection range.

    If you buy one of the G&M Generations Mortlach decanters I hope you enjoy it. Likewise, if you opt for one of other whiskies in our extensive range I hope you enjoy that as well.

    Kind regards
    Michael

    • John Hansell says:

      Thank you Michael for taking the time to add your thoughts here. We always appreciate when an key figure in the industry joins in on the discussion. I also appreciate the sample–half of which I enjoyed last night on your special day. The other half I might just wait until my special day: June 7th, when I turn 50!

    • Tim M says:

      Micheal,

      Echo Johns comments. Especially appreciate your thoughts on your grandfather’s legacy. I seem to be taking an ever increasing interest in family genealogy (most fun claim to fame is that my grandfather around age 10 was present for the funeral procession of the last Hawaiian monarch, the late great Queen Liliokalani – a fact I learned only at his funeral, which to this day pains me, what a converasation we could have had).

      Keep bringing out granddads wares, someday maybe I can afford to try them.

    • MrTH says:

      Thank you for checking in, Mr Urquhart. A visit to your shop in Elgin is a must for me on my annual trip to Scotland, or any whisky lover visiting the area. (Anyone who hasn’t seen it might be interested in the 360-degree panorama at Serge Valentin’s Whisky Fun: http://www.whiskyfun.com/Virtual-GordonMacPhail.html The fellow in the green jacket is my friend Ron–if that bottle in the little grandfather clock is still missing, I’d check his closet!)

    • Neil Fusillo says:

      I, for one, think the price is a steal. I mean sure, it’s more than I could ever spend on whisky…. but it’s so amazingly, impossibly, and astonishingly rare, it’s no longer JUST whisky. One doesn’t just grab a bottle of 70 year old whisky off the shelf and down it in an evening while watching the tele. This is 70 years of patience and perseverance, watching the cask in the cellar and thinking, “Is it time yet? Is it time yet? How about now? Maybe today?” This is world wars and coronations and presidents long past and forgotten. This is moon landings and communist revolutions and the birth and death of countries great and small. This is history. This is legend.

      You can’t look at a trip back in time like this and balk at a 2500 quid price. This is not a ‘sign of inflated whisky pricing.’ I don’t think we’ll see 70 year old whiskies popping up more often at the local shops. This is an opportunity that comes maybe once in a lifetime if you’re LUCKY.

  27. Tim M says:

    Damn John you’re old… lol. I hit 48 in 7 days. Havent yet figured out what my treat will be, but the anticipation grows within.

    I didnt see this above, apologies if I missed it. What was the ABV of this bottling? And I think not doing a formal tasting/review is the appropriate avenue, unless your 15+ cl had said “OMG I’m seeing stars” (to parapharase Dom P.), in which case you would have said “OMG….”

    Thanks for a great post, John.

  28. Michael Urquhart says:

    Thank you all for all your kind comments.

    For Tim M the G&M Generations from Mortlach was bottled at cask strength of 46.1% and don’t worry we’ll keep on bottling a wide range of whiskies, both in distillery of origin and age. Its what we do best!

    Michael

  29. [...] Por “apenas” R$ 26 mil você pode adquirir uma garrafa com um litro do Mortlach Speyside, o whisky de malte mais velho do mundo. A bebida, colocada à venda na Escócia, foi depositada em um barril feito de carvalho espanhol no dia 15 de outubro de 1938, por ordem de John Urquhart, avô dos diretores da firma Gordon & MacPhail’s Generations. [...]

  30. Once again Gordon & MacPhail have wowed the whisky world with another bottling from their treasure trove of very old casks. If this one is on a par with the 65 year old Macallan which we have here on the gantry in The Grill, Aberdeen, then you are not going to be disappointed. The Macallan, which was also filled into cask in 1938, is described by Jim Murray as a “nature-defying whisky”.

  31. [...] squirreled away some older whisky, which are now being released. This one’s not as old as Gordon & MacPhail’s 70 year old Mortlach, but it’s not too far behind. Details below in the press [...]

  32. [...] Luxist, What Does John Know Related Posts: Monopoly gets the gold treatmentTim and Danny celebrate 25 years of whimsy and [...]

© Copyright 2014. Whisky Advocate. All rights reserved.