Gordon & MacPhail Balblair 12 Year Old Discovery

Why do whisky companies seem intent on dividing this splendid liquid into an assortment of colour schemes? The Scotch Malt Whisky Society keep on trying and even the illustrious Macallan admitted defeat with its iPad inspired 1824 range built upon the natural colours of whisky. The majority of consumers don’t care about the colour categories; only what’s in the glass and this is where the 1824 range failed. A big fat F for failed.

Where others have failed, someone else is likely to try, and so it is the case with Gordon & MacPhail. Launching their Discovery range in 2018, this is being pitched as an introduction to whisky, highlighting the styles of ‘bourbon’, ‘sherry’ or a ‘smoky’ profile. Amazingly imaginative I’m sure you’ll agree. I’d like to give you more information but their line-up page right now is fairly inept and devoid of detail.

The Discovery range plugs a gap in the G&M portfolio after the promotion of the Connoisseurs Choice range to a more premium price point. After such a move there needed to be an entry level offering, under £50 for the whisky newbie, or those of us looking for potential value. As the Distillery label series continues, it does feel odd somewhat that G&M felt the need to include Balblair in this new range. Both are bottled at the same 43% strength, albeit the Discovery, gives G&M the opportunity to increase the admission price and ramp up the presentation – perhaps those are the reasons for its existence?

I do agree that we need to make whisky more inviting and have those initial whiskies – or ranges – that serve as stepping stones onto bigger and better things. Currently, this task is performed by many of the Diageo releases, the more safe and mundane whiskies such as Balvenie, Glenfiddich and gulp, the Glenlivet. As I touched up during my recent Cadenhead’s Club review, there are too many cliques in whisky and old pals’ networks. For the newbies, armed with only a credit card, and a bible written by a hat wearing for sale writer; the realm of whisky can be a daunting place.

You’ll recall those first days yourself, where the range of choice was almost suffocating. I wonder how I’d feel nowadays, faced with the onslaught of whisky releases we now see weekly in the midst of this current boom? I’d still say the 100-point scale is misleading and more so for the uninitiated. Scores in the high 80’s or beyond, for literally 90% or more of the whiskies on the shelves, it seems disproportionate. Throw in the added complication of the bible fella preferring .5 scores and everything grinds to a shuddering halt.

Such practises give false hope. That all whisky isn’t merely good, or even really good. Many are guilty of putting whisky on a pedestal, whether its in terms of status, reputation, social class or scoring. The reasons for this are numerous, including more unsavoury practises of saying positive or benign things to remain on mailing lists. There’s nothing truer or refreshing than an honest opinion. That’s one of the reasons why Mark and I started out many years ago, as well as others on the team.

Some may call MALT harsh when it comes to scores, but in reality we’re fair. We look harsh because everyone else is tossing positive and high scores around like confetti. I don’t see the logic in dismissing something as being fairly mundane and yet refusing to give a score that matches the opinion. There’s a disconnect and we’re 5G of the whisky world. Our message gets through and when it does, its as pure and honest, as our very 1st transmission.

Has G&M finally unlocked the Bermuda triangle of coloured whiskies? We’ll kick off with the green release, which symbolises the ‘bourbon’ category and comes from the reliable source of Balblair distillery. This release is available via Master of Malt for £48.95.

Gordon & MacPhail Balblair 12 Year Old Discovery – review

Colour: Chardonnay.

On the nose: apples, squeezed lemon, green mango, white pepper and pears. There’s some char, grapefruit, honey, clementines and dried reed.

In the mouth: very sweet indeed and inoffensive. Plenty of ripe meadow fruits with pears and apples. A watery sense on the palate followed by a freshly baked crossaint and of course vanilla.


A very approachable, but limited Balblair. You can see why its pitched as an entry style whisky. There’s little to be offended by, because it doesn’t take any chances. Nothing wrong with playing it safe whatsoever although for nearly £50, we’d expect a more thrilling ride. For that fundamental flaw a point is deducted.

Score: 4/10

There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement. Lead image kindly provided by Abbey Whisky. We purchased a sample of this whisky thanks to our Patreon supporters.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Seb says:

    Would be nice to nice to get a general round up article comparing independent bottlers generally and which gives you the most value for your money. I’ve been testing the water for a while now with indies, but yet to take the plunge. So hard to know what to pick and from where, especially given most reviews are for a particular bottling from a single cask.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Seb

      Good suggestion, we’ve been interviewing independent bottlers throughout 2019, including a few of their reviews. I’d suggest checking those out to get a feel of what each one offers. We’ve done several including Whiskybase Archives, Lady of the Glen, Dramfool, Chorlton and we’ll have another later this week…

      Cheers, Jason.

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