If you follow our WhiskyWorship and LovingWhisky tasting note blogs and social media accounts, you probably have noticed the hashtag #WoodMTW linking to reviews of several Gordon & MacPhail samples in their the Wood Makes the Whisky campaign. Not a series of bottles you will find in the stores, but a campaign to emphasize the importance of wood during the maturation of the whiskies in their many different ranges. Another surprise Gordon & MacPhail package was recently delivered at WhiskySpeller HQ, containing samples from their Connoisseurs Choice and the Distillery Labels ranges. Great to be able to have a closer look at them, but what is this the Wood Makes the Whisky campaign exactly?

Gordon & MacPhail always have been very good at cask selection and maturation and are keeping a close eye on vast amounts of great stock in their warehouses – a true custodian of liquid history. Over 120 years of building their experience, they have mastered the art of combining cask and spirit types very well, knowing exactly when the impact of the cask type, charring level and distillery character are in perfect harmony.

Since 1895 they have been bottling for many of Scotland’s distilleries and since then have been building a reputation and portfolio that resonates quality and craftsmanship. This presented the opportunity to build a liquid library of spirits from different ages, characters and distilleries throughout Scotland. While building this library they have created a skill passed down from generation to generation, which they are now sharing in this campaign, opening their doors to the world.

Their the Wood Makes the Whisky website explains the basics about the workings of wood, how it has an impact on a spirit, emphasizing that every detail is important, from the species of tree it came from, the drying of the staves, the manufacturing of the cask, up to its initial fill and the level of toasting or charring – every details counts. The samples we regularly receive all reflect another type of cask or maturation time, so we can discover the broad range of their portfolio and see, smell and taste for ourselves how wood influences the final product.

Depending on who you ask, proper wood maturation gives anywhere from 60 to 90% of the flavour of any whisky.  Everyone will agree that it is one of the most important parts of the character to be found in your dram in front of you. For that matter, the wood and cask type can be called a key ingredient of any type of whisky, but with only wood, there is no whisky. Each distillery builds its own spirit character on a certain combination of processes and ingredients, starting with the type of grain and the water source, which co-determine what yeast strains would work best during fermentation. From there, the shapes and sizes of the stills, combined with all-important speed, timing and even the way the spirit is cooled and condensed into a liquid all contribute to certain spirit personalities before it is put to rest into quality casks. These personalities – although often quite drinkable in small quantities, has a certain edge to it that needs to be toned down or enhanced by an oak cask, where a previous tenant of the cask also adds to the decision which spirit type it will be best suitable for.

With their enormous amounts of knowledge and generations of passed down experience, Gordon & MacPhail know exactly what location in whichever of their warehouse works best for certain combinations of spirit and wood, and they have the capability (and nerve!) to let the casks rest for anywhere between 3 and 70 years – whenever the whisky is ready, closely monitoring the subtraction, addition and evaporation processes of each cask during this time to make sure it does what is expected, since every cask has a different result and follows its own timing.

While you are checking the the Wood Makes the Whisky website and get to know every important detail about the many different characteristics wood has, we will be looking at the latest shipment of some of their expressions and post our notes at WhiskyWorship and LovingWhisky in due time.

Thomas & Ansgar

Photos by Gordon & MacPhail

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