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Murray McDavid are bottlers of scotch whisky, ranging from the very finest of single malts to specially selected grains and the most intriguing of blends. The company was founded in 1996 by Simon Coughlin, Gordon Wright and Mark Reynier, a twenty year veteran of the wine industry. As a result of the founders’ experience, Murray McDavid regularly ‘finish’ their spirit in ex-wine casks in a process which became known as ACE-ing (Additional Cask Enhancement).
Fueled by a love for the spirit of then-silent Bruichladdich, Reynier became determined to purchase this once proud Islay distillery and in the year 2000, the dream finally became a reality. Bruichladdich was soon back in production and the brand grew over the next twelve years to become one of the most adored on the global spirits market. A testament not only to the quality of the spirit and the skill of the distillery staff but also to the vision of the man who conceived of its rescue.
Whilst Bruichladdich arguably became the main focus of the company, Murray McDavid continued sourcing and bottling exceptional whisky from across the country. Over the years their selection had split into six colour coded categories… ‘Mission Gold‘ features the oldest and rarest of single malts whilst the ‘Benchmark‘ selection offers a more affordable yet no less appealing collection. There are the ‘Mystery Malts‘ from undisclosed distilleries and the self explanatory ‘Select Grain‘ whiskies whilst ‘The Vatting‘ and ‘Crafted Blend‘ offer blended malts and blended scotch respectively.
Though Murray McDavid was included in the sale of Bruichladdich to Remy Cointreau in July of 2012, it quickly became apparent that the independent bottler wasn’t really part of the plan. The business was sold in May of 2013 to Aceo Limited, a wine and spirits wholesaler based in Gloucester. In 2014, Aceo took out a lease on the closed Coleburn Distillery in Speyside. Originally founded in 1896, Coleburn was closed by Diageo in the mid-80’s and had lain dormant ever since, making it the perfect base and storage area for Murray McDavid.
In early 2019, it was announced (to the delight of this reviewer) that a selection of the companies ‘Benchmark’ range were to be made available as 5cl miniature bottlings which could be found in selected specialist retailers. Now, this is not a complaint because no-one forced me to write this blog, but reviewing one or two new whiskies every week is not the most affordable of hobbies. That is simply the reality of the situation but it is for this reason that I am grateful to the companies that offer miniatures of their range. These wee bottles are such a cost-effective way of trying out something new and they really help to keep things ticking over here at WhiskyReviews.net. So thanks Murray McDavid, please do keep ’em coming.
The first dram I picked up was an 8 year old single malt from Craigellachie distillery in Speyside. Designed and built in 1890 by famed architect Charles Doig, Craigellachie was the result of a partnership between Peter Mackie of White Horse and Alexander Edward, the 25 year old owner of Benrinnes. When Edward withdrew to concentrate on various other projects, White Horse remained in sole charge of the distillery until the company was absorbed by DCL. When DCL later merged with IDV in 1998 however, they were forced by the Monopolies Board to sell some of their estate. As a result, Bacardi stepped in to snap up the John Dewar & Sons brand and five distilleries, Craigellachie included.
Thus it remains today, with official releases of the Craigellachie malt bottled at peculiar, odd-numbered ages. This offering is a little younger however, matured first in a sherry butt, it was then finished in an ex-rum cask before being bottled un-chill-filtered at 46%. Retails at around £45 a bottle.
Smell: A touch of Sulphur on the nose – struck matches! Buttery malt and barley sugar. Heather honey and straw. Apple and grilled pineapple.
Taste: Sherry notes of raisins and sultanas. Honey, caramel & biscuit with vanilla fudge, apple and light prickly spice.
Thoughts: There’s a lot going on here for a malt of such relative youth. It must be said, this kind of complexity doesn’t often come at such an affordable price.
I fear that waft of sulphur may be enough to put some people off but personally I’ve always quite liked the smell of struck matches and in any case, there seems to be enough going on to keep everything in balance. Not for everyone perhaps, but a rewarding experience for those who can handle Craigellachie’s ‘ugly’ side.
For more on Murray McDavid click here.