The future is shaped by what we do today.
Today reveals what we did in the past.
Over 123 years in the making
Our story begins
Established as a grocery business in 1895 in the heart of Scotland’s Speyside region, we originally curated all manner of groceries from around the world such as teas, coffees, wines and whisky. Their appreciation of the rich tapestry of flavours they encountered led the founders, James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail, to seek out and complement this varied stock with equally fine produce in the form of Speyside’s many and varied single malt Scotch whiskies.
First generation, establishing principles
It was in these early years that a young John Urquhart joined the business to serve as an apprentice under the two founding partners. Urquhart quickly established himself as a valuable associate for James Gordon in selecting, purchasing, and maturing whiskies from local distilleries. John also assisted with the creation of house blends for the shop’s customers across the Speyside area. Over his long career dedicated to sourcing flavour both from home and abroad, John Urquhart developed his skills as a master of malt whisky maturation, building an impressive portfolio of maturing whisky casks. He was able to pass on this deep knowledge and passion for single malt Scotch whisky to his family.
Second generation, a pioneer
Under the expert tutorage of his father, George Urquhart joined the business in 1933. Like his father before him, young George began at the very bottom: cleaning, sweeping, and stacking. Through carefully nurtured relationships with local single malt distillers and a deep understanding of the spirit that they produced, John and George Urquhart were able to focus on the importance of maturation. They matched spirit to the highest quality oak casks, before lovingly maturing the whisky, often over many decades.
On the 3rd of February 1940, to the instruction of John Urquhart, 15 First Fill Sherry Butts were filled at Glenlivet and left to mature in warehouse number 6 at the distillery. Over the years some of the casks were used and on the 10th January 1980, the remaining 8 casks, including cask 339, were moved to Gordon & MacPhail’s own bonded warehouse in Elgin.
Second World War
With excellent stocks of whisky, our business survived the ravages of the Second World War. In fact, we released large quantities of our stocks of mature whiskies for shipment to the United States. These whiskies brought in needed funds that were applied towards the war effort. During those bleak years, when barley rationing reduced distilling almost to a standstill, we continued to fill our casks. Owing to the prudent stewardship of John and George, our future was secured during these turbulent times. Indeed their foresight in filling large amounts of whisky in the late 1930s and early 1940s meant we had healthy stocks when peace was finally declared in 1945.
Just as his father had introduced him to the firm, so George brought in his own children. His eldest son, Ian, joined in 1967, after having been trained in the wine and spirit trade in London and France. He became Managing Director at Gordon & MacPhail in 1990 and retired in August 2007.
Connoisseurs Choice Launches
In the late 1960s, George Urquhart took the unprecedented step of launching a range of single malts from across Scotland distilleries bottling them under the banner of 'Connoisseurs Choice'. Aimed at the emerging markets of France, USA, Italy, and The Netherlands, all having developed a love for well-matured single malt Scotch whisky, this range set the trend for single malts around the world.
In 1972, Ian’s younger brother David joins the family business. A graduate of business in Aberdeen, David worked in various areas of the company before becoming UK Sales Director. Upon Ian Urquhart's retirement in 2007, David and his brother Michael took the reigns as Joint Managing Directors. David retired in October 2012. Following a period of ill health, David sadly passed away on November 30th 2015 at his home in Findhorn aged 63.
Michael Urquhart & Rosemary Rankin
The year 1981 sees two more family members joining the business; Michael and Rosemary. A chartered accountant, Michael started as Finance Director. Over the next 30 years he took on the additional responsibilities of Export Director and Whisky Supply. Michael became Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail in October 2012. Rosemary joined after raising her family. She became a Company Director in 1990.
Move to George House
In the 1970s and ‘80s the business expanded significantly. Led by UK Sales Director at the time David Urquhart, the company grew its wholesale business throughout Scotland, then further afield in the United Kingdom. To support this rapid growth, operations were shifted from the offices above the South Street shop, to custom-built offices and duty paid warehouses – named George House – at Boroughbriggs Road in 1991.
Family dream realised
Alongside an unrivalled knowledge of Scottish single malts and passion for matching spirit with oak, the Urquhart family held a long-standing ambition to own a distillery. This desire became a reality in 1993 with the purchase of the Benromach Distillery on the outskirts of Forres, just twelve miles from the steps of the shop in Elgin. Five years of careful and deliberate re-equipping, Benromach Distillery was officially reopened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998.
Celebrating 100 years
The year is 1995 and we celebrate our centenary anniversary. One hundred years has seen witness to three generations of the Urquhart family learn and grow the business. Since our humble beginnings as a family grocers, tea, wine and spirit merchant, we have diversified business with a number of different interests; expanding from retailer and bottler of single malt Scotch whisky into specialist wholesalers and cask maturation experts whose whiskies are bought and sold internationally.
With the dawn of the new millennium welcomed the first member of the fourth generation into the family business, Stephen Rankin. John Urquhart’s great grandson started his career as a quantity surveyor and, in 2000, joined us full time. In 2010, Stephen became UK Sales Director.
Neil Urquhart joined Gordon & MacPhail in 2002. Son of Ian Urquhart, Neil worked in various areas of the business including international sales and the retail shop before he was appointed HR & Compliance Director in 2010.
Brothers become Joint Managing Directors
Upon Ian Urquhart's retirement in 2007, brothers David and Michael take the reigns as Joint Managing Directors.
In 2008, John Urquhart’s great grandson, Stuart Urquhart joined Gordon & MacPhail. In 2017, Stuart was promoted to the role of Associate Director - Whisky Supply.
Stuart was followed in 2009 by his brother Richard Urquhart. In 2017, Richard was promoted to the role of International Sales Manager - Asia & Americas.
Generations Mortlach 70 Years Old
On 11th March 2010, Gordon & MacPhail made history by launching Generations Mortlach 70 Years Old, the world’s oldest bottled Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Unveiled at an exclusive event at Edinburgh Castle, the release sparked international media interest, and all large decanters were either sold or reserved within two weeks by collectors and whisky enthusiasts worldwide.
Generations Glenlivet 70 Years Old
On the 8th March 2011 Gordon & MacPhail released the 2nd in the Generations series Glenlivet 1940 70 Years Old. This is a single Speyside malt of unique provenance and outstanding quality. Resonating with aged character – and, indeed, characteristics from another era – it retains vitality, both on the nose and palate. A stupendous whisky! It also epitomises our family values, built on generations of expertise in single malts.
Generations Glenlivet 70 Years Old (Release 2)
On the 20th September 2012 Gordon & MacPhail released Generations Glenlivet 1940 70 Years Old (Release 2). This second, and final, release from cask 339 is expected to create worldwide interest as it offers one last chance for collectors and consumers to own a piece of Scotland’s liquid history. The product is exclusively available at Vancouver International Airport until its worldwide release on 1 November 2012. Vancouver International Airport is a gateway between the Far East, North America and Europe.
Ewen Mackintosh becomes Chief Operating Officer
Following Michael Urquhart's retirement, Ewen Mackintosh became Gordon and MacPhail's Chief Operating Officer in September 2014. Ewen, who has spent his entire working career at Gordon & MacPhail, joined the business after graduating from St Andrews University in 1991. Ewen was appointed Managing Director in 2017.
Generations Mortlach 75 Years Old
On the 2nd of September 2015 Gordon & MacPhail released the next in the Generations range, Mortlach 75 Years Old. The curtain was raised on what is believed to be the world’s most exclusive single malt Scotch whisky at a unique event at the Royal Opera House in London. Members of the third and fourth generation of the Urquhart family poured the single malt for the guests before Charles MacLean, whisky connoisseur, invited everyone to join them in tasting the whisky, describing it as “Smooth and highly sophisticated – elegant as a grande dame…the Ingrid Bergman of malts!”