Gordon & MacPhail Glen Mhor 1979

I have pleasant memories of this 5cl bottle, which I took to Hawaii to share with Rose as our families explored the North Shore and beyond. It was a wonderful setting and part of the world. The journey was long, and whisky (or whiskey) was not a priority, but it felt good to be opening something from a distillery we both appreciate.

There is a risk that whisky becomes elitist and inaccessible to many. The involvement of investors, collectors and competition elements all contribute to the rising prices of whisky and a sense of where prices will end. I am fortunate to have grown up in a time when whisky was shared and part of the joy of whisky was not merely drinking it, but sharing with others and seeing their reaction. Times have changed somewhat. I cannot blame anyone for weighing up whether a bottle of liquid should be opened or utilised to pay for an incoming bill. However, there is a tendency to hoard for occasions that may never materialise or for special occasions that may never occur. This is a truth that many of us must face.

Recently, I was in Campbeltown and shared a bottle of 30-year-old Glen Mhor. This is something I have started doing in recent times because it is important to allow others to decide for themselves. It could be any closed distillery, but for me personally, it is more than likely that a bottle of Glen Mhor will be found on my person.

It is music to my ears to be able to share this liquid gold, as some would call it, and to hear that it is the first Glen Mhor that the individual has tried. This is what the distillery workers would want to see, as it keeps the flame burning. Their efforts and labour ensure that Glen Mhor (and indeed any other distillery) will never truly die. 

I am frequently queried regarding the best Glen Mhor bottle to look out for. While some may seek to conceal their most esteemed or valuable bottles, in the hope of acquiring more, I have always believed that transparency is the most prudent course of action. In general, I find the cask-strength variants of particular interest, with the majority of these produced by Gordon & MacPhail. If that's not enough of a statement then remember the whisky section on the site!

As is tradition, when sitting down with a historical whisky, I like to think about the context and timeline around the distillery at this time. The Timeline section that I've created is perfect for this and reminds us that the distillery was owned by D.C.L., using Golden Promise barley at this time and the Saladin Boxes, which would close the following year. 

Bottle info:

Distilled: 25th May 1979

Bottled: May 1994

Cask Number: 2376

Strength: 66.7% (natural cask strength)

On the nose: the classic Glen Mhor direct style is present and unleashed! Good old dusty concrete floors, old wood and a hint of wax. The blow is soften by some Highland heather honey and hints of citrus that never fully come through. Wood spice, an old chalkboard, buttery and underpinned by a touch of smoke. Decayed lemon, a bowl of bar nuts and black spices. 

In the mouth: you'd think this would be rocket fuel at 66.7% however you'd be wrong, a marvellous chunky and full blown example of the distillery. The rawness of the barley delivers and plenty of oils and a rich texture. More of the honey, nuttiness and heather honey. Old nutmeg, vanilla as you'd expect and red apples. That delicate smoke circles around and flashes of the citrus that never fully jumps on board.

My thoughts

The strength of the whisky is noteworthy, as it suggests that the cost-cutting measures that were beginning to be implemented across several distilleries may have been adopted by Glen Mhor. There was a shift away from diluting the distillate to reduce costs, although in this instance, it seems possibly that it was more of a request and agreement with Gordon & MacPhail. The independent bottler often had specific requests and was one of Glen Mhor's largest customers. Consequently, it is possible that they were able to insist on a purer distillate being placed into the casks, with the potential for the casks to mature on-site. This would be keeping in line with some of the distillery agreements that are still in place to this day, even with the company moving away from independent bottling.

Nevertheless, during my a day experience with Gordon & MacPhail for the purpose of writing an article for a magazine, I was afforded the opportunity to sample a cask of Glen Mhor and to observe a series of cask samples from the distillery, which were still undergoing maturation. The company places a high value on these casks and the long-term maturation potential of the distillate. It is encouraging to note that Glen Mhor will continue to be bottled for years to come, despite the fact that many of us cannot afford it. 

A rollercoaster of a whisky, and another entry in the cask strength logs that showcase just how good Glen Mhor can be in a more natural form.

Score: 8/10