A Brief History of Connoisseurs Choice

Categories: New Products, whisky Shop

You might already be aware that independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail has just announced a revamp of their ranges, with their Connoisseurs Choice line getting a smart new facelift.  What better excuse for a quick trawl through some of the bottlings in this historic series?

The original Connoisseurs Choice range was the brainchild of George Urquhart and was first introduced in 1968, so 2018 is the fiftieth anniversary of the range. The first CC bottlings had a simple black label featuring a golden eagle or a barrel.  These whiskies, some of which are the first known bottlings from their distilleries, are very highly sought after now and command very high prices. We have several of these legendary bottlings, including this 1963 Glenugie and one of the most famous Gordon & Macphail bottlings, Mortlach 1936 43 year old.

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The fabulous Mortlach 1936 43 year old

The black Connoisseurs Choice labels were replaced around the turn of the 1980s by a short-lived label utilising various shades of brown.  These labels are less rare than the black ones but are still very desirable as they include some of the greatest ever bottlings under the Connoisseurs Choice name, with gems from many now-lost distilleries such as Lochside, St. Magdalene and one of the rarest single malts of all: Kinclaith.

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A true unicorn whisky: Kinclaith 1966

The brown labels were themselves replaced by what is known among collectors as the Map Label.  These bottlings began around 1988 with cream labels and a thumbnail map of the relevant region in the centre – good examples include a series of Ardbegs from the classic 1974 vintage.

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…And even older vintages such as this incredible Ardbeg 1964…

The Map Label was tweaked in 1996 with a colour-coded background label for each region, and redesigned again in 2008, with a return to cream labels with colour-coded banding and the map in the top right of the label.  The previous year, 2007, had seen the standard bottling strength for Connoisseurs Choice increased to 43% from its previous regulation 40%.

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The classic 1996-era map label on a famous Brora 1972 bottling

More changes were to follow: in 2012 the range got another revamp, with embossed G&M bottles, another label tweak and, most significantly of all, another bump in the standard bottling strength to 46% and the dropping of chill-filtration and caramel colouring, delighting the range’s millions of fans.

 

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The post-2012 version of the map label

This 50th Anniversary upgrade is a big new step in the evolution of Scotland’s most long-lived and iconic independent bottling series, with the final departure of the map from the label, a very handsome new bespoke short-necked bottle and the introduction of cask strength bottlings into the Connoisseurs Choice range.  You can check out all our G&M Connoisseurs Choice bottlings, past and present, including a great selection from the new out-turn here.

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Clynelish 2005 from the new Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength range

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