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Issue 147 - A Liquid Legacy

Whisky Magazine Issue 147
November 2017


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A Liquid Legacy

Gordon & MacPhail may be the guardians of whisky’s history, but they’re safeguarding its future too

Ask a resident of Elgin, ‘who are Gordon & MacPhail?’ and they’ll likely tell you of the grocers, deli, and whisky shop on South Street central to town life for more than 120 years. They may speak highly of one of Moray’s key employers and how a family member or a neighbour works in the company’s offices, warehouses or bottling line.

In the whisky bars you’ll hear a different story. They’ll tell you of an independent bottler doing more than buying casks and selling contents. You’ll hear about a team that has relationships with Scotch distillers spanning generations; of warehouses with casks filled with distillate from more than 100 distilleries, of which more than 25 are closed; and a company that counts among its releases the oldest Scotch whisky ever sold to the public.

Founded in 1895 by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail, the business began as a grocer, importer of fortified wines and broker of Scotch famed for providing a ‘superior product at a popular price’. Many Speyside distillery companies would come to have their offices in the building above the South Street store, an arrangement that solidified relationships. The partners were joined by a young apprentice, John Urquhart, who demonstrated flair for whisky stock management. He became senior partner and, when the founders passed on, the company he helped to build became his alone. It was John who implemented the company’s strict wood policy, the legacy of which can be enjoyed today....

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