Gordon & MacPhail releases ‘world’s oldest’ single malt Scotch

by Kate Malczewski

Whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail's 80-year-old expression, claimed to be the oldest single malt Scotch ever bottled, is now available for purchase.

The rare whisky hails from The Glenlivet Distillery, drawn from a single cask that was laid down in 1940 under the watch of George and John Urquhart, members of the family that founded Gordon & MacPhail. The independent bottler teased the release back in June, and has now made the expression available to buy through its website, with price on application. Just 250 bottles have been produced, complete with a decanter and oak case designed by architect Sir David Adjaye OBE. “The ambition was to create a vessel in which Gordon & MacPhail’s unique experience and tradition is transmitted and incorporated,” Adjaye explained. His design features a 'jewel-like' decanter that was developed to look like it was made from a single block of crystal. Each bottle was hand-blown by Scottish manufacturer Glencairn Crystal Studio. Meanwhile, the cases were produced by furniture maker Wardour Workshops, from sustainably sourced oak trees grown within five miles of the business. Ewen Mackintosh, managing director at Gordon & MacPhail, said: “It is often quoted that the maturation of whisky over very long periods of time is more art than science. The decanter and oak pavilion that David has created for our historic release is a true reflection of this art; the presentation is itself a work of art. "I’m sure George Urquhart and his father John, who had the extraordinary foresight to lay down spirit from the Glenlivet Distillery in a bespoke Gordon & MacPhail cask to be enjoyed after their lifetime, would love the design. It pays tribute to their craft and vision.”
Auctioning the world's oldest single malt
Decanter #1 will go under the hammer at Sotheby's Hong Kong on 7 October, complete with a framed cask end from the original barrel and a lithograph of Adjaye's design. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to Scottish charity Trees for Life, which aims to rewild the Caledonian forest. Jonny Fowl, Sotheby's spirits specialist, commented: “Joining forces with Gordon & MacPhail to auction the world’s first 80-year-old single malt whisky is a genuine thrill. To have expertly matured this whisky for eight decades and maintained the vibrancy of the exquisite liquid is remarkable. "Decanter #1 represents a landmark moment in Scotland’s liquid history and the cask end and signed 1-of-1 lithograph further elevate this unique and very special lot.” Keen to see the bottle yourself? The decanter and oak case will be on display from early September in Sotheby's New Bond Street galleries in London, as well as at Sotheby's headquarters in New York City and at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.