'Father' of whisky industry to be honoured by £5,000 single malt

A centenary whisky priced at £5,000 has been created to honour a man who has been dubbed the “father” of today’s booming whisky industry.

There will only be 235 bottles of the whisky on sale.

Whisky creator Gordon & MacPhail has released a single malt to honour George Urquhart, member of the second generation of the company’s owning family, in what would have been his 100th year.

He has been described by whisky experts as the “father, the originator, of the current success and appreciation of Scotch malt whiskies”.

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Joining the Elgin-based business in 1933, George Urquhart began his career working alongside his father, John, who had become sole owner of the company in 1915 after John Alexander MacPhail’s retirement and James Gordon’s passing.

George Urquhart died in 2001, aged 83.

‘Mr George’ went on to develop a deep understanding of Scotch whisky, especially the unique interaction that occurs over time between spirit and cask. He was instrumental to the success of single malt, championing it at a time when the vast majority of whisky went towards the production of blends. In 1968, he created the Connoisseurs Choice range giving little-known distilleries a platform to have their whisky enjoyed in its simplest form, as aged single malt.

His grandson, Stephen Rankin, Gordon & MacPhail’s director of prestige, said: “My grandfather’s drive, commitment and foresight helped to ensure that single malt Scotch whisky grew in popularity. His introduction of the Connoisseurs Choice range in 1968 was a landmark moment for the sector, launched as several new export markets opened and growth in demand for single malts came from countries including Italy.

“Our specially selected Mr George Centenary Edition embodies the qualities that made Mr George a master of his craft; patience, depth of character and exquisite taste.”

Over many decades, Mr Urquhart forged relationships with many of Scotland’s distillers and became arguably one of the world’s foremost experts in how to create single malt whiskies.

He passed away in 2001 and was chairman of the company until the year before his death, aged 83. He was also named a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’, a prestigious honour which recognises outstanding achievement in those who work, write or evangelise about Scotch Whisky.

Whisky writer Charles MacLean said: “It is no exaggeration to say that George Urquhart was the father, the originator, of the current success and appreciation of Scotch malt whiskies.”

He added: “It would be true to say that during the ‘dark days’ for Scotch malt whisky in the 1940’s to 1970’s, when all malt went into blends, Gordon & MacPhail kept the amber light burning. Indeed, when times were really tough, some distilleries survived on orders from that company.”

The Mr George Centenary Edition 1956 from Glen Grant Distillery - laid down by Mr Urquhart himself in a hand-selected sherry butt on 13 December 1956, the year he became partner at the firm after the death of his father - has been selected for bottling by George Urquhart’s grandson, Stuart, operations director at Gordon & MacPhail.

Only 235 bottles of Gordon & MacPhail Mr George Centenary Edition 1956 from Glen Grant Distillery will be available for purchase from selected specialist whisky retailers internationally for £5000