Gordon & MacPhail (Elgin, Scotland)

Our time in Elgin began with a visit to the evocative ruins of Elgin Cathedral; but as far as I was concerned, the most important cathedral in Elgin was the legendary Gordon & MacPhail store—the place that many say is essentially the birthplace of single malt whisky as we know it. It is this store that began the consistent practice of bottling and selling whiskies from distilleries when their owners were not yet doing so. Their stocks are legendary and some of the oldest single malts ever released have either come directly from them or from casks bought back from them by the distilleries (G&M have their own bonded warehouse in Elgin and are highly unusual among independent bottlers for having filling contracts that let them mature their casks themselves). In the modern era, they have released a large number of excellent whiskies in a number of different lines, and until recently were one of the bottlers who could be most relied upon for providing value to middle-class drinkers. For all these reasons, as well as the possibility of finding some recent lauded releases still sitting on their shelves, I was very excited to visit. Indeed the visit was at the very top of the list of whisky things I was excited to do while in the Speyside. Alas, the experience turned out to be quite disappointing. Continue reading

Edinburgh Whisky: Cadenhead’s

As you probably do not remember, my experience at the London branch of Cadenhead’s was not very positive. This is partly because the selection on the occasion of my visits was not very inspiring, and largely because the staff were not inclined to be very helpful—one gent, in particular, almost eccentrically so. I am happy to say that, as expected, the experience at the Edinburgh location—down the hill on the Royal Mile—was as different as could be imagined. I’m also happy to say that the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s turned out to be a 2-3 minute walk from our Airbnb. As a result, I went a couple of times. I’ll have reviews of the things I bought in the coming weeks (or next month, more likely); here, for now, is a brief write-up of the shop along with far too many photographs—if such a thing is possible.  Continue reading