gavin smith

 home    about    forum    tasted    features    whisky A-Z    directory    books    links    sign-up    beer    wine

    stories news


Whisky News, April 2010

by Gavin D Smith

Mature Mortlach

Elgin-based independent retailers, distillers and bottlers Gordon & MacPhail recently staged a most stylish and impressive launch event in the Queen Anne Room of Edinburgh Castle. The grandeur of the surroundings and the standard of hospitality were only fitting, however, as the event was designed to celebrate the release of the oldest bottled single malt whisky in the world. The veteran dram in question was distilled in Dufftown's Mortlach distillery, and was filled into cask on 15th October 1938, to the order of John Urquhart, grandfather of present-day Gordon & MacPhail joint managing directors David and Michael Urquhart. Gordon & MacPhail was founded back in 1895, and has long been renowned for the 'strength in depth' it boasts in terms of very old
casks of whisky, and the 70-year-old Mortlach is intended to be the first in a new series of aged malts offered under the 'Generations' banner. In a joint statement, issued at the launch party, David and Michael Urquhart explained that "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." Each bottle is presented in a tear-shaped, hand-blown crystal decanter, complete with silver stopper. The decanter fits into a silver base and is framed in a handmade Brazilian Rosewood box. 70cl decanters cost 10,000, while 20cl decanters sell for 2,500. For more information visit, and to see what 'whisky-pages' thinks of the liquid itself, see this month's Recent Releases.

Colum Still

   Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland is at the centre of a unique venture which will see one lucky whiskey-lover share his life for a whole month with Master Distiller Colum Egan. According to a spokesperson for the Diageo-owned distillery, "If they can prove to Colum that they have captured the special Bushmills way of life and 'Make it at Bushmills,' then at the end of their 30 days, they will get to be the first ever person outside of the distillery to create their own blend of Bushmills Irish Whiskey." Colum Egan explains that "This is a fantastic opportunity for someone to come to the home of Bushmills and get a truly unique experience of what goes on here. It's a special place filled with special people - we want to show them the very best of what Bushmills and the north coast of Ireland has to offer. "Over the past 400 years we've learned a lot about making great
whiskey and a lot about enjoying it! That's something we want to share, from learning how to select the perfect mature whiskey, to learning the best way to catch a good salmon...or even one of our world-famous waves. It's all part of the Bushmills way of life. If someone can prove to us that they have what it takes to 'Make it at Bushmills' then we'd be delighted to let them be the first person outside of the distillery to work alongside me to create their own special blend of Bushmills Irish Whiskey - hopefully it's not too good, because I like my job too much!" The global search for someone to 'Make it at Bushmills' will give millions of people the chance to apply online through the Bushmills Facebook page. People in participating countries will compete to win a place at 'Bushcamp,' where each of the country winners will try to prove that they have what it takes to be the global winner of the 'Make it at Bushmills' challenge. For the winner of Bushcamp, there are the added attractions of a 30 day trip to Ireland for two people, luxury accommodation and 5,000 spending money. For further information see

Spey Fest

It is that time of year again when whisky fans from all over the world congregate in the north-east of Scotland for the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which runs from 29th April to 3rd May. Visitors to the five-day festival can tap into more than 230 different events, ranging from distillery tours, whisky master classes, guided whisky walks and Land Rover tours to ceilidhs, a musical, a canoe trip, cooperage tours, live music, poetry sessions and much more. Festival-goers can also enjoy a rare glimpse behind the scenes at well-known distilleries in the area which are usually closed to the public, including Mortlach, Benrinnes and Tomintoul. Additionally, whisky lovers and would-be gourmets can learn more about the spirit's role as an ingredient or accompaniment,
   ws (3K)
thanks to workshops looking at the relationship between whisky and chocolate and even whisky and sausages! Our own Gavin Smith will be undertaking book signings at Castle Brodie near Forres on Saturday 1st May and Historic Scotland's distillery 'museum' of Dallas Dhu on Monday 5th. He will also give a short talk at the latter venue about the historical circumstances and geographical factors that led to the explosion in Speyside distillery construction during the last decade of the 19th century, when Dallas Dhu itself was built. Among other titles, Gavin will be signing copies of the new and eagerly-awaited edition of Michael Jackson's seminal Malt Whisky Companion, revised, updated and augmented by him, in association with Dominic Roscrow and US-based Bill Meyers. See for information of events and on-line booking facilities.


   If you happen to be on Speyside for the Festival, or plan a visit to the area in future, it is worth bearing in mind that the GlenDronach distillery at Forgue, near Huntly, opened a new visitor centre at Easter, and is well worth a visit. Marketing Manager Kerry White says that "We've overcome numerous setbacks to open at Easter. We've had to cope with not one but two floods, which were immensely frustrating, but we're now open for
business after spending a considerable amount of time and money on the Visitor Centre and we're looking forward to a busy spring and summer. "GlenDronach is just 50 minutes north of Aberdeen. It's a fun and educational place to visit, where you can gain first-hand experience of the workings of a traditional Highland malt distillery. "We have a devoted following all over the world, and we're looking forward to welcoming people from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the USA. In addition, we are getting more and more bus tours as well as local Aberdeenshire people, so it's great to see the distillery site so busy." Guided tours of the distillery are conducted daily at 10.00am, 11.00am, 1.00pm, 2.00pm and 3.00pm. They cost 3 and visitors receive a dram of the GlenDronach twelve-year-old at the end of their tour. For more details visit

And finally...

Word reaches us from Asia that Pernod Ricard plans to release a commemorative whisky for South Korean and Manchester United footballer Park Ji-sung. Pernod Ricard Korea Co says it will invite Park to the blending process of the whisky in order to take his opinions on taste and bouquet into consideration, though it is yet to reveal details of the limited edition expression. The whisky bottle is to feature Park's signature and the contents will "...epitomise his indomitable spirit and leadership, based on trust and communication," A shame Park's first name isn't 'Highland,' or The Edrington Group would surely have been elbowing Pernod off the pitch to do a deal of its own...

 home    about    forum    tasted    features    whisky A-Z    directory    books    links    sign-up    beer    wine