Andy Gem­mell’s Drinks Cabi­net

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Gor­don & MacPhail 58-60 South Street El­gin, Mo­ray What is it?

I won­der if James Gor­don and John Alexan­der MacPhail thought that this iconic shop would still be trad­ing to­day when they set it up more than 130 years ago. The broth­ers an­nounced the open­ing of their “cen­tri­cal and com­modi­ous premises” on South Street, El­gin, on May 24, 1895. One of their first em­ploy­ees was a young man named John Urquhart, who be­came a part­ner in 1915 when MacPhail re­tired. When Gor­don died in 1917, the Urquhart fam­ily took over the busi­ness and still run it to­day. This in­de­pen­dent fam­ily busi­ness gained a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion as the go-to place for great-qual­ity whisky from a wide range of dis­til­leries. As well as the shop, which the com­pany ex­panded into a mul­ti­fac­eted in­ter­na­tional busi­ness, they pur­chased Ben­ro­mach Dis­tillery in 1993.

What’s on sale?

The shop it­self is a cel­e­bra­tion of Scot­tish pro­duce with a del­i­catessen of­fer­ing the largest se­lec­tion of the finest cheeses avail­able in north­east Scot­land. The shelves are stacked full of high-qual­ity gro­cery prod­ucts, wines, and spir­its. Of course I spent my time in the Whisky Room, which holds around 1000 dif­fer­ent sin­gle malt whiskies.

In­ter­est­ing fact:

With their knowl­edge and pas­sion for Scotch whisky, the Urquhart fam­ily al­ways held a long-stand­ing am­bi­tion to own a dis­tillery. This dream be­came re­al­ity in 1993 with the pur­chase of the Ben­ro­mach Dis­tillery, sit­u­ated 12 miles from their shop in El­gin. Af­ter five years of lov­ing restora­tion, Ben­ro­mach was of­fi­cially re­opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998.

Ver­dict:

This is a must-see for any­one vis­it­ing the area. They take great care and at­ten­tion over what they sell, and not only with the whisky. The Whisky Room is im­pres­sive but it wouldn’t be as suc­cess­ful with­out the knowl­edge­able staff who en­sure that you find your per­fect bot­tle ev­ery time.

There is also some­thing quite re­as­sur­ing about know­ing your well-earned cash is go­ing back into a lo­cal fam­ily busi­ness.

Andy’s choice:

As well as whiskies from around Scot­land and all over the world they ob­vi­ously sell their own prod­ucts. The com­pany sell brands un­der the names of Con­nois­seurs Choice, Cask Strength, Rare Old and Spey­malt. Th­ese brands are whiskies bought by the com­pany and sold as Gor­don & MacPhail bot­tlings. One I love from their dis­tillery is the Ben­ro­mach 15-Year Old, which has a com­bi­na­tion of bour­bon and sherry casks in its mat­u­ra­tion and can be picked up for around £50.

Prices:

Some of the prices may seem steep if you are used to buy­ing your salmon and whisky at the su­per­mar­ket but, rest as­sured, you are pur­chas­ing qual­ity here.

Per­fect for:

Tak­ing a dis­tillery tour with friends from abroad and stop­ping in to buy some de­li­cious Scot­tish pro­duce be­fore set­tling down for the night.

Avoid if:

You only ever ven­ture as far as your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket in search of some­thing spe­cial.

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