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Glen Mhor 1979 Gordon & MacPhail

Glen Mhor 1979

It was a surreal moment. There this humble writer was, sitting centrally amongst a field of bottles as far as the eye could see and unable to move without fear of creating a domino ripple effect. The rays of sunshine struck a chord with several of these ancient vessels, creating an ethereal spectrum of colours. Ok, we embellish a little here, but stick with me. This was the rare occasion where we tried to ascertain what closed distillery bottles had collected over the years and just as importantly what distilleries or lost styles of distillate had evaded the collection so far.

The assortment was as impressive as it was sizeable. Bottles from lost distilleries, styles of whisky no longer produced from eras when it wasn’t just about yield efficiency and wood aggression. Various colours of glass, distinctive bottle shapes relegated to oddity status and a tapestry of labelling styles. These were whiskies to be savoured, enjoyed and shared. The realisation that Malt would be forever chasing ghostly apparitions in the form of Kinclaith or Killyloch was not a prospect we relished.

The nature of collecting and to possess seems fraught with danger and temptation. The underlying truth is that you’ll never be satisfied and the end goal of completion will always remain frustratingly out of reach. This has been underlined with various discussions we’ve had with fellow collectors. Regardless of their passion, universally all were still chasing legends, ghosts and when these spectres did materialise, financial limitations would step in for the kill.

Shortly after all of this Malt decided upon a momentous decision. To clear the decks and show a little more focus. We’ve been extremely fortunate to experience many fine and rare whiskies over the years and will continue to seek these out. However it was time to move on and open some of these delicacies and give in to pressure from other collectors who asked about XYZ over the years. Regulars will note earlier in 2017, we provided the content for the Closed and lost distillate tasting in Edinburgh. The piece sums the liberating experience better than letters can just now, but the lasting legacy is shaking hands with many attendees who were visually thrilled by the experience of tasting these lost styles.

What distillery to focus upon and hopefully satisfy any enduring collecting urges? Pittyvaich would be an easy choice to stockpile – given its dust gathering status at retail – but you’d run the risk of falling foul of the United Nations Weapons inspector’s programme. Other options however tempting were financially ridiculous such as the enduring majesty of Brora. A factor in the final choice was also availability as well as price. There’s no point picking out an oddity of a distillery to complete your collection after 4 or 5 bottles! No, the thrill of the hunt had to remain a central premise and that of discovery.

Based upon my experiences there was an obvious candidate. At times a perplexing malt, subtle and yet full of complexity and Highland tradition. Yes, Glen Mhor.

We’ll talk about this distillery in future articles as we continue our own personal journeys. For the purposes of this review, Malt found myself in the bar at Cameron House, which is situated on the banks of Loch Lomond. For readers who ask me about travel plans occasionally, it is a lovely spot, but the hotel itself is rather tired and geared up for the international crowd.

The bar itself is furnished in the fashionable Highland lodge tweed style with private bottle lockers acting as a central piece on the rear wall. For a fee you can have your own bottle stored here for any future visits and to display your wealth and greatness. Disappointingly money doesn’t translate into taste, as the assortment of bog standard bottles or the odd slightly older age statements left an onlooker such as myself disappointed. The staff were youthful and polite but clearly lacking in any detailed whisky knowledge. A standard menu of whiskies was available on each table and this offered a standard selection but the true interest lay within the leather bound encyclopaedia of choice that had to be requested. The beacon amongst the bottles laid out in meticulous detail along the central divide was the blue bombshell; an early 1990’s Tormore. Good to see this example in such a location however my familiarity ensured we moved deeper into the leather clad listing. Target acquired. A Gordon & MacPhail bottling of Glen Mhor. Malt has had the pleasure of several of these releases over the years and they’re always entertaining. The complexity of the label may have reduced as time clocked onwards – originally the drawing of Inverness dominated the main label – only to minimise and then eventually vanish in a puff of smoke.

 

1979 Glen Mhor

This example was distilled in 1979 before being bottled in 2000 at a strength of 40%, which is often a disappointment given just that little bit more would allow greater expression and therefore appreciation. However, distillates of the 1970’s or prior, often harbour wonderful orchestral flavours somewhat missing in today’s digital whisky age. Armed with the target, we set about trying to locate the said bottle across this broad spectrum of Scottish whiskies. The atmosphere was dominated by a handful of American tourists – loudly – proclaiming their love of Scotch and the fine malt they were drinking out of tumblers. My selective wife-hearing mode had already been engaged – thereby reducing any distractions – from memory it was the Glengoyne 15 year that was causing the commotion. The Glen Mhor was finally sighted and almost empty. Catching the attention of a bar worker, asking for a Glen vor – Mh is a silent v, so next time you see someone called Mhairi its actually pronounced Vairi. A moment of utter bewilderment swept across the bartender’s face, we’re sure he wasn’t taking in my stunning good looks, but rather what whisky is this gorgeous man asking for?

Eventually we directed him to the Glen Mhor and he started the ritual of pouring a dram. Only to be interrupted with a sudden thrust of a hand across the counter. No tumbler please, we’d prefer a vessel more conducive to appreciate the whisky itself. After much searching a small Glencairn was produced. Really? A hotel such as this that prides itself on offering a fine experience is lacking the appropriate glassware? What does this say about its management and the customer base that lets them away with such nonsense? Fortunately there was some luck amongst the glass-gate situation. The bottle was almost dry so the dregs were emptied into my dram and we retreated to the comfort of a tweed encrusted gents chair for the experience.

Glen Mhor 1979 Gordon & MacPhail Review

Colour: a light honey
On the nose: the lightness delves into the aromas itself with slightly ripened red apples assisted by tinned peaches. The fruit levels are high with pear drops, a twist of lime and the familiarity of barley sweets moving into icing sugar. The gentle addition of water reveals an oily aspect.
In the mouth: a lovely oozing texture that is gentle and lingers beautifully. Far from forceful with many of today’s whiskies, there’s a delicate majesty at work here. A gentle vanilla presence unfolds followed by liquorice, then camomile and forest fruits. Towards the end of this voyage a touch of bitterness steps forth before a dry finish takes us into the score.

Conclusions

The laid back and refined atmosphere of the bar was a perfect setting for this Glen Mhor. Being taken down to 40% may on paper be a step too far but these older styles of whiskies can take the hit. This 1979 expression isn’t the best example from this distillery or even a Glen Mhor from Gordon & MacPhail however there remains plenty to saviour.

Score: 7/10

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Jason
Jason

JJ was originally the man known as Whisky Rover. He comes from a family well versed in whisky, particularly Bushmills. Being based in Scotland means that he’s able to reach out and enjoy a wealth of distillery trips and whiskies, although it’s more than likely you’ll find him in the Edinburgh Cadenhead's shop.

  1. James says:

    Hi Jason,
    The vexing issue of collecting something, and especially whisky. Glen Mhor is a very suitable selection, I would say. Are you not worried, though, that if Malt becomes anymore influential you may alert the secondary market and do yourself out of some bargains! I think enthusiasts of particular distillates need to keep their cards close to their chests for the time being.
    Best of luck satisfying that collecting urge: I’ve decided that, as long as companies continue to release appealing liquid, and as long as my salary remains static, collecting isn’t for me. Too much anguish. Rather, I will try to seek rarer spirits out as you have done here: in bars or sample swaps. Collecting experiences which are stored in the mind rather than something more contained by glass. Less permanent but very portable and with less pressure about when to actually open the stuff.
    I’m sorry to hear about your time at Cameron House. I used to push whisky in a hotel bar in St Andrews and we at least had full size Glencairns! I think being managed by Regis Lemaitre for a time probably had something to do with it. Can’t remember selling a Glen Mhor at any point but I would at least have known how to pronounce it.

  2. Jason
    Jason says:

    Hi James thanks for the comment. I’m already seeing something similar with Tormore. Its cropping up in discussions more and some bottles growing in popularity. Its all our own fault I suppose!

    I do like to have something to collect even on an adhoc basis. I find myself picking up occasional bottles of Glen Mhor, Glen Garioch and Tormore. Even then I have some good ideas for tasting themes and slowly pick up releases that fit the criteria. All good fun.

    My Closed Malts and Lost Distillate tasting earlier this year (on Malt somewhere) underlined I’m fortunate to have access to some of these bottles but the pure joy and excitement many had at the tasting from experiencing these rare whiskies. Its something I’d do again easily, very rewarding.

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