Gordon & MacPhail Release 67 YO Scotch Whisky: Mr George Legacy 1953 From Glen Grant Distillery
Scotch whisky is on a roll. Demand is soaring, consumer interest is rising and its global market footprint continues to get broader. Prices for rare expressions continue to set records, and investment professionals increasingly tout fine whisky as an investment category all its own.
According to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, for example, rare whiskies were the best performing category of luxury goods investment. Between 2010 and 2020, they soared in price by 564%; easily beating out the increase in Classic Cars, the next best performing category at 194%. By comparison, the S & P 500 had an average annual return of 13.6% from 2010 to 2020.
That’s a fitting backdrop to the latest release of single malt Scotch whisky by Scotland’s iconic whisky producers and specialty bottler Gordon & MacPhail. Mr George Legacy 1953 from Glen Grant Distillery, is an ultra-rare bottling of a 67 YO Sherry cask matured Glen Grant. It pays tribute to George Urquhart, often referred to as simply “Mr George,” the second generation of the family that has managed Gordon & MacPhail for more than a century.
Charlie MacLean, a whisky legend in his own right, dubbed George Urquhart “the father of single malt.” The noted whisky writer Michael Jackson echoed that praise, noting in George’s 2001 eulogy:
I believe that single-malt whisky would simply not be available today were it not for the work of George Urquhart. When others knew nothing of malt whisky, he was one of the handful of people who understood this great Scottish contribution to the pleasures of food and drink.
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Single malt Scotch whisky is the cutting edge of the Scotch whisky juggernaut. Although single malts represent just 20% of the industry’s volume, it represents almost one-third of its revenue. It is also the sector that is driving innovation within the industry: from new types of cask finishing to innovative production techniques and wood management.
It wasn’t always this way, however. In the 1980s, a generation ago, the industry bemoaned a “whisky loch” of surplus Scotch whisky that it was hard pressed to give away, much less sell. While single malts are the most exciting part of Scotch whisky today, it wasn’t all that long ago that they were considered a marginal curiosity, the domain of eccentrics, and the trainspotter ilk.
Scotch whisky distilleries had been bottling single malts since the 19th century, typically small quantities for their local market. As late as 1980, single malts were only 2% of the Scotch whisky industry’s revenues. That year there were only 27 distillery bottlings of single malts available, and many were hard to find.
Glenlivet has been available in the US since the 1930s, and has historically been America’s best-selling single malt. In 1963, sales only amounted to 800 cases and by 1970, worldwide sales were still only 11,000 cases. In 1968, US sales of single malt were approximately 3,000 cases, of which roughly half was Glenlivet.
Gordon & MacPhail’s release of “Mr George” is both the story of an extraordinary man and a living history of the rise of single malt Scotch whisky.
In the late 1960s, George Urquhart began bottling a range of single malt whiskies under the Connoisseurs Choice brand. The range would steadily grow, featuring whiskies from more than 80 distilleries in 2,000+ unique bottlings during the five decades to date.
According to Stephen Rankin, George’s grandson and the company’s Director of Prestige, during this period G & M was both a specialty bottler of Scotch whisky, as well as an importer and distributor of a range of fine wines and spirits from Europe. During his yearly summer trips to meet suppliers, notes Rankin, his grandfather began to carry samples of his own single malt bottlings to introduce to his suppliers.
Rankin describes fond memories of traveling, as a 12-year-old, with his grandfather in a Lancia Gamma across Europe, its trunk bursting with whisky samples. According to Rankin, G & M was the first whisky bottler to exhibit at European wine trade shows.
It was George Urquhart, claims Rankin, who was key to the recognition and the growth of single malts in Europe, in particular Italy. Glen Grant single malt was a favourite of Georges and it found an enthusiastic following in Italy. Today Glen Grant is not only the best-selling single malt in Italy, it beats the blended Scotch whiskies to be the best-selling Scotch whisky overall.
Between the 1960s and 1980s, in yearly summer excursions across Europe, George steadily built a following for his single malt Scotch bottlings, in the process laying the foundation for what would become Europe’s fascination with single malt Scotch whisky.
The industry was still very small, notes Rankin. In 1950, the entire Scotch whisky industry only employed 7,000 people, 3,000 of whom worked at the distilleries. Demand, due to wartime restrictions on distilling, exceeded supply. The rationing of barley to distilleries wasn’t lifted till 1954. There was little need for marketing. In 1960, the entire industry’s expenditure for advertising was 500 pounds, less than $3,000.
By 1975, however, the industry’s employment had risen three-fold, to 21,000. Single malts were still little more than an afterthought. With growing international demand for Connoisseur’s Choice however, G & M, under George Urquhart’s direction, steadily expanded, adding warehouses to mature its ever-growing inventory of fillings.
Almost a half century later, G &M is widely considered one of the leading specialty bottlers and whisky creators in Scotland. Thanks to Mr George’s foresight, and succeeding generations of the family who continued to build on George Urquhart’s legacy, it owns an unparalleled collection of Scotland’s liquid history; a fact that has allowed it to release more 50 YO+, ultra-aged expressions, than any other whisky maker in Scotland. The “Mr George” release is a fitting tribute to that legacy.
Gordon & MacPhail, Mr George Legacy 1953 from Glen Grant Distillery, 1953, 67 YO, 59.4% ABV, 700 ml, RRSP: $7500/£5000
The Mr George Legacy 1953 from Glen Grant Distillery bottling is the first release in what is slated to become a single yearly offering of new, ultra-aged, single malt Scotch whiskies. It’s dubbed the Legacy Series.
The Mr George expression was distilled on Christmas Eve 1953, according to Rankin, and “spent its whole life in Cask No 4209, a first fill Sherry butt”. It was bottled on Tuesday, 5 January 2021, at a cask strength of 59.4% ABV.
The alcoholic strength is remarkable for a 67 YO whisky, points out Rankin, and is one of the reasons “why the whisky is so powerfully aromatic on the nose with such distinctive floral and fruity notes.” He attributes the high alcoholic strength to optimal conditions in the maturation warehouse and the fact that the whisky was matured in a cask that had previously been used to ship Sherry from Williams & Humbert in Jerez.
During the 1950s, G & M was a bottler of Sherry, which we imported directly from Spain. The casks in which the Sherry was shipped were made from thicker than normal staves in order to better protect the Sherry butt from damage during shipping. The thicker staves and more robust construction meant that these casks exhibited less evaporation of alcohol during maturation.
Below are my tasting notes on the Mr George Legacy 1953 from a small sample that was generously supplied by G & M.
On the nose, there is an intense aroma of sweet dried fruit, as well as floral potpourri. There is a hint of almond, a touch of chili pepperiness, along with some tropical fruit, particularly mango, cinnamon and clove notes and a lingering creamy custard quality. There are also the rancio aromas of old leather and furniture wax typical of ultra-aged, Sherry matured whiskies.
On the palate, the whisky shows a mouth coating oily quality and a pronounced palate weight and creamy character. The high ABV is readily apparent on the palate, remarkable for a whisky that is 67 years old. There are notes of golden raisin, along with some fig, melon and dried mango. There is also some cinnamon and a pronounced pepperiness, along with oak notes, almond and milk chocolate.
The finish is long, with sweet dried fruit notes, accompanied by a lingering pepperiness and just a hint of bitterness at the end.
This is a powerfully aromatic whisky, nuanced and refined, offering up a range of dried fruit flavors while exhibiting a noticeable alcoholic kick. It would have been originally casked at an ABV of around 65%, so it’s extraordinary that over 67 years of maturation it lost less than 6% of its alcoholic strength.
It’s a tribute to an extraordinary man who played a critical role in the development of the single malt Scotch whisky industry and a metaphor of the history of the Scotch whisky industry. It’s also a damn good whisky!
Published at Sun, 02 May 2021 23:00:00 +0000
Article source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemicallef/2021/05/02/gordon–macphail-release-67-yo-scotch-whisky-mr-george-legacy-1953-from-glen-grant-distillery/