MacPhail’s 1951 (Gordon & MacPhail)

MacPhail’s 1951 (Gordon & MacPhail)

I planned to publish a new cognac session with seven recent bottlings today, but that will be postponed to Friday – stay tuned. It also turns out today is my birthday. Always a nice occasion to have something special, right?

I picked this MacPhail’s 1951, an undisclosed single malt which Gordon & MacPhail released around 1990-1991. All kinds of vintages exist with the same label: 1945, 1946, 1950, 1964, 1973 and so on, check Whiskybase. According to rumours, at least some of them are Macallan whisky in disguise.

Of course there’s also the MacPhail’s 1959/1960 Royal Wedding. Just 40% ABV – in those days only the Italians were used to cask strength bottlings.


MacPhail’s 39 yo 1951 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail +/- 1991)

Nose: a nice old sherry cask, starting on Havana cigars including a little smoke, before moving to Christmas cake, caramelized nuts and leather. Also herbal notes, whiffs of metal polish and a few drops of herbal liqueur (all of which can be an old bottle effect). What’s great is that there is a gorgeous fruitiness underneath, with dried apricots, nectarine, honeydew melon and bright orange peels. Very expressive with a great balance.

Mouth: a little delicate but not weak. Here again you get a nice (refill?) sherry style, on blackberry, marmalade, plum and raisin. It’s not overtaking the spirit though, leaving room for caramelized nuts and some oily herbal notes. The, there is still a hint of smoke with a nicely dusty oaky touch. Later some candied citrus and praline as it goes down.

Finish: medium long, balancing the herbal notes (cough drops) with sweeter caramelized notes and a hint of chocolate.

So there you have it, some distilleries have always preferred to stay anonymous when they sold casks to independent bottlers. Old Macallan? It certainly has that style, and while it comes at a modest ABV it has plenty of stories to tell. I’m hesitating between 91 and 92. I guess this was rather affordable when it hit the market, and my birthday is the perfect day to ask for a time machine. Pretty please?