Monday 18 September 2023

Gordon & MacPhail Recollection Series #2: 1981 Port Ellen, 1973 Glen Mhor & 1976 Banff [Tasted #647 - 649]

It's been a few months since we tried an incredibly-aged release from Gordon & MacPhail (the Mr George Legacy 3rd Edition, if you're wondering) and thanks to the good folk at G&M, today we have not one, not two, but three more new releases - this time from "The Recollection Series #2".

As the name suggests, the annual Recollection series (first launched in 2022) celebrates closed distilleries, this time across both Private Collection and Conoisseurs Choice ranges. Consisting of 18 expressions from 15 distilleries, the full series includes:

  • Port Ellen 1981 – RRP £10,000
  • Glen Mhor 1973 – RRP £6,000
  • Banff 1976 – RRP £4,300
  • Caperdonich 1979 – RRP £3,500
  • Dallas Dhu 1979 – RRP £3,500
  • Glen Albyn 1979 – RRP £3,500
  • Glenlochy 1979 – RRP £3,500
  • Imperial 1979 – RRP £4,000
  • Lochside 1981 – RRP £3,750
  • Linlithgow 1982 – RRP £3,000
  • Glen Esk 1984 – RRP £2,200
  • Inverleven 1985 – RRP £2,000
  • Littlemill 1991 – RRP £1,600
  • Lochside 1991 – RRP £1,600
  • Rosebank 1991 – RRP £2,000
  • Pittyvaich 1992 – RRP £1,200
  • Imperial 1997 – RRP £380
  • Imperial 1998 – RRP £360

Tasting any of these would've been a treat, but luckily the first three (in bold) above are global releases, and it's those we're tasting today. It's not every day you get to try a 42 year old Port Ellen, so let's get into it...

Gordon & MacPhail "The Recollection Series #2" Port Ellen 1981 42yo (52.5% ABV, 42yo, Refill Sherry Butt #290, Islay, Scotland, One of 181 bottles, £10,000)

Distilled on 28 Jan 1981 and bottled 6 Feb 2023, and hailing from arguably the most famous closed Scotch malt whisky distillery, the whisky was distilled just two years before Port Ellen shut its doors in 1983. They won't stay shut forever though, as the distillery is set to re-open this year.

Colour: Copper-brown mahogany

Nose: Subtle bonfire notes with rum & raisin, BBQ'd pork, cherry smoke and hints of cinnamon. Already a lot going on (all of it good), right from the outset.

Palate: Red cherries, cigar box, with the faintest whiff of residual smoke. There's some oak (not too much), baked apple pie crust, some pepper spice, and some sweeter rich Christmas cake notes. Very complex, very clean, very robust.

Finish: Long, with poached pears, dried cherries and a dusty residual smoke. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100 (Martin).
There's a LOT going on here and it's all very well-integrated. An impeccable dram.

Gordon & MacPhail "The Recollection Series #2" Glen Mhor 1973 49yo (57.2% ABV, 49yo, Refill Sherry Hogshead #85026801, Highland, Scotland, One of 170 bottles, £6,000)

Distilled on 30 April 1973 and bottled 10 Jan 2023, this whisky hails from Glen Mhor which may not be well-known by the average whisky drinker, but certainly rewards those who come across it.

Colour: Golden copper-brown

Nose: Funky cola chews (I love finding this note in well-aged sherried whiskies, rare though it is), citrus zest, BBQ rub, then smoked paprika, za'atar, with an underlying juiciness. Very strong competitor for nose of 2023 so far. Just incredible.

Palate: Less zest and juiciness than the nose, more rounded and mature, with mature oak more noticeable. BBQ meat follows, with a slightly earthy / vegetal note (mint / Eucalyptus even?), some overripe oranges, pecan pie & rich toffee.

Finish: LONG, with a soft lingering oak spice and hints of chocolate mint slice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Martin).
Absolutely incredible nose (one of those drams I could happily nose for an hour), with a very strong palate and finish. Complex like few other drams - take your time with this one, you'll be rewarded.

Gordon & MacPhail "The Recollection Series #2" Banff 1976 46yo (50.4% ABV, 46yo, Refill Sherry Butt #2887, Highland, Scotland, One of 109 bottles, £4,300)

Distilled on 26 Oct 1976 and bottled 3 Feb 2023. Banff is sometimes called "Scotland's unluckiest distillery", having been destroyed in a fire (twice), and bombed by the Luftwaffe during WWII. Like Port Ellen, Banff closed in 1983, but unlike Port Ellen there are no plans to re-open it.

Colour: Yellow golden sunset

Nose: Immediately, one of those "incredibly old and complex light style sherry" noses. Not dissimilar to this G&M 70yo Glen Grant from 2019. There's a yellow / stone fruitiness - pears, grapefruit, peach, followed by wafts of light smoke (earthy, not peated) & dunnage warehouse. After a decent airing, some slightly funky notes (the pleasant kind) emerge.

Palate: Follows the nose well, adding a touch of oak, more peach and strawberry, vanilla cream, baked peach pie & ginger. An elegant, well-aged, balanced palate.

Finish: Long, with ginger and hints of residual grapefruit.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100 (Martin).
I had high hopes for this and it exceeded even them. For me, on par with the Port Ellen, yet a very different style of dram.

Thanks as always to G&M for the samples.


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