Murray McDavid are an independent bottler founded in 1996 by Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin and Gordon Wright, the same team that would go on to revive the floundering Bruichladdich distillery on the isle of Islay. When French spirits giant Remy Cointreau came calling however, the two businesses were separated, with Murray McDavid sold off to Aceo Limited.
The bottler’s extensive output is separated into easily understood categories. Mission Gold comprises of rare premium single malts whilst more affordable offerings are bottled under the Benchmark label. Spirit from undisclosed distilleries is released as ‘Mystery Malts’, a blend of malts from two or more distilleries is known as ‘The Vatting’ and grain whisky is released as ‘Select Grain’. Finally, high quality blended scotch is labelled the ‘Crafted Blend’.
MacDuff distillery stands in the fishing port of the same name on the banks of the river Deveron. Founded in 1960 by a group of Glasgow brokers led by Brodie Hepburn, who had previously worked with famed distillery architect and designer, William Delmé Evans at Tullibardine.
Delmé Evans was the mastermind behind Tullibardine, Jura and GlenAllachie and his services were once again secured to design MacDuff. At a fairly early stage in the development however, there was a disagreement in direction between designer and owner and Delmé Evans, his legacy already secured, walked away from the project and never spoke of it again.
Despite the split however, MacDuff would retain many traits of the great mans work. His modern approach was most apparent in the fitting of a stainless steel mash tun and steam coil fired pot stills who’s spirit cooled in shell and tube condensers, novelties at the time that have since become commonplace in Scotland’s distilleries.
Production began in 1963 and the sites capacity was expanded two years later with the addition of a third still. The distillery was bought in 1972 by Martini & Rossi before they were taken over by Bacardi in 1993 and added to their Dewar’s stable. For much of its time, the MacDuff spirit has supplied the William Lawson’s blend though today, official bottlings of the malt are sold as Glen Deveron.
Smell: Fruit cake and winter spices. Apple, pear, shortbread, heather honey and vanilla fudge.
Taste: Sherried fruits, fudge, honey, apple juice, pear. Some light spice and a touch of oak before a malty finish.
Value for Money: There is undoubted quality on offer here and at a price of around £40 – £45 a bottle, it is a great opportunity to try out a lesser known single malt bottled at a satisfying strength of 46%.
Score: 42.5 / 50.
Murray McDavid’s Benchmark range offers some of the best value in the independent bottling scene. The distilleries may not always be the most renowned but the liquid itself is consistently of high quality, with good balance between spirit character and active wood influence. A single malt may not always require the added boost of ‘additional cask enhancement’ but there is no doubt that it can create new layers of flavour when deployed correctly and Murray McDavid seem to have rather perfected the process whilst simultaneously keeping their prices commendably realistic. A most appealing combination, it must be said.
To visit the Murray McDavid website click here.
For more information on MacDuff distillery, click here.
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