Gordon & MacPhail and Talisker's storied history

Gordon & MacPhail and Talisker's storied history

In this month's column, Whisky Auctioneer's Joe Wilson takes a look at the relationship between Gordon & MacPhail and Isle of Skye distillery Talisker

Auction News with Joe Wilson | 26 Apr 2024 | By Joe Wilson

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This promotional feature was created by the Whisky Magazine team in partnership with Whisky Auctioneer

Founded back in 1895, Gordon & MacPhail is one of the most historic and prestigious whisky companies in Scotland. For more than 100 years it has made a name for itself through its pioneering approach to independent bottling, sending its own casks directly to distillers to be filled with new make spirit and in the 20th century often licensing the official distillery branding in order to market it. However, the company recently announced that as of this year, it will stop buying in spirit from other companies and focus entirely on the production at its own Benromach and the Cairn distilleries in Speyside.


As tectonic plate shifts in the Scotch whisky landscape go, this is one of the biggest in recent times and will see the eventual cessation of Gordon & MacPhail as the independent bottler they have built their reputation upon. With the company’s warehouses still fully stocked, that moment is still thankfully far off in the future. Its back catalogue of bottlings is so vast, however, that there are always other fitting occasions for a retrospective look into the many themes and narrative threads that have been spun through it over the years.


One such occasion is our April 2024 sale at Whisky Auctioneer, which features an incredible selection of some of the most revered Gordon & MacPhail bottlings: its Talisker single malts. While the Elgin-based bottler may be allowing its filling contracts to lapse on its own terms this year, Talisker forced its hand in this respect back in the 1970s. As such, not only are bottlings of the famous Skye single malt by Gordon & MacPhail exceedingly rare, but they are almost all sought-after vintages from the 1950s and 1960s.


As with Linkwood and Mortlach, Gordon & MacPhail were permitted by the Distillers Company (DCL) to bottle Talisker using an official label. All were hallmarked with same eagle motif, however Talisker was distinct from the rest in the use of a now iconic black and red colour scheme. We are delighted to offer more than 15 different examples of these in our auction this month, with vintages ranging from 1952 through 1967. Despite using official branding, Gordon & MacPhail were, however, free to bottle the whiskies as they pleased. The result is a rich and varied selection of interpretations of Talisker at its very best, including ages ranging from around 8- to 35-year-old, at a variety of standard and cask strengths. There are examples of each to explored within the collection we have showcased this month.


The disappearance of Talisker from the Gordon & MacPhail catalogue, and its scarcity on the independent bottling scene generally, are likely due to both its importance to the Johnnie Walker blends and the decision of DCL subsidiary, the Distillers Agency, to launch its own Talisker brand while responsible for production at the distillery in the 1960s and 1970s. Examples of those bottles can also be found in our April sale and while excellent, their confinement to approachable 8- and 12-year-old expressions further highlights how fortunate Talisker fans are that Gordon & MacPhail offered such a detailed cross-section of a classic malt from a golden era of its production.

 

This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and was created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.

About Whisky Auctioneer

Whisky Auctioneer is one of the global market leaders and trusted authorities on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction. Founded in 2013 and located in Perth, Whisky Auctioneer utilises its expertise and knowledge combined with its auction platform, to increase interest and passion in the whisky and spirits community.

 

Whisky Auctioneer endeavours to make the market more accessible for buyers and sellers of any background and geography. Its monthly global auctions feature some of the most comprehensive selections of old, rare and collectible whiskies and spirits available online.

 

Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-pound bottle and outperformed the nearest traditional auction house by 200 per cent in value from spirits sales in 2020, showcasing the move that whisky collectors, investors and drinkers have already made online and firmly establishing their leading position within the modern secondary whisky market.

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