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Murray McDavid are one of the more interesting independent bottlers. Their style might not appeal to to everyone, what with their tendency to rely on boisterous cask finishes, but they are at least offering something a bit different in an independent bottling scene that has become all too predictable. There’s an inspiring level of creativity in their output – take their blends for example. Under the label of “The Vatting” they have bottled some fascinating blended malts, then combined the same liquid with grain whisky to create a follow-up blended scotch. In short, Murray McDavid are doing things no-one else is and for that reason I singled them out as my favourite independent bottler of 2020 in The Quaich Podcast’s summary of the year (listen here).
The company was originally founded by Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin prior to their acquisition of Bruichladdich Distillery on the isle of Islay. When Bruichladdich was later sold to Remy Cointreau in 2012 it quickly became apparent that they had no interest in retaining the Murray McDavid arm of the business. It was sold to scotch whisky broker ACEO Ltd who moved the operation to the silent Coleburn Distillery in Speyside, where they continue to mature and bottle their unique whiskies today.
The Murray McDavid range is broken into six categories. Mission Gold covers the premium end of single malt whilst Benchmark covers the more affordable stuff. Mystery Malt features single malts from undisclosed distilleries. Select Grain is single grain whisky. The Crafted Blend is blends of malt and grain and, as already mentioned, The Vatting covers blended malts.
One such creation is Coinnich*, a blend of single malts from eight different distilleries. The Murray McDavid team blended a selection of Speyside malts and allowed them to marry over a number of years before combining with malt whisky from from Laphroaig distillery in Islay and Highland Park in Orkney. Aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, the resultant dram is bottled at 46% and retailed at £85.
*Coinnich in Scottish Gaelic means to meet, gather or congregate, an appropriate name for a blend of eight malts.
Smell: As you’d expect from a blend of such interesting components, there’s a lot going on. There’s heathery honey and smoke, vanilla, green fruits, dried fruits too. There’s also Danish pastries with cinnamon and paprika and a wee drop of caramel sauce.
Taste: Honey, orange and Werther’s originals. Caramel. Barley sugars. Peppery spice. Oak, smoke and ash linger on the finish.
Value for money: Credit to Murray McDavid for the transparency they’ve shown over the components of this blend. That at least gives the consumer some idea of what they’re buying. A 22 year age statement is also an enticing selling point. As is the higher strength, un-chill filtered presentation. Of course, none of that would matter if the whisky wasn’t actually any good but I’m pleased to say that is not the case. It is in fact a really interesting dram that offers a lot of layers without ever becoming confused.
I really appreciate what Murray McDavid do. They put things together in a unique way and that appeals to me. Whisky, after all, is supposed to be fun and it feels to me like Murray McDavid are having fun. They bring a splash of colour to a scene that can all too often descend into stuffiness. Coinnich is by no means the wildest example of the Murray McDavid style but it manages to combine malts of individual character into something new and interesting, whilst remaining balanced. No easy feat. Laphroaig in particular can so easily overpower but here its smoke and bluster is kept in check, merely one aspect of a multi-faceted dram. A lovely whisky and reasonably priced given its age.
For more on Murray McDavid visit here