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Keepers of the Quaich

Single Malt Ambassadors
Brother Lakeview Brother Lakeview
Class of 00Q1


Ardbeg Provenance
Highland Park 18
Springbank 21
Macallan 25
Glen Scotia 17
Lagavulin 21 (Classic of Islay)
Glenfarclas 35
Auchentoshan 31
Talisker 18
Laphroaig 30

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Murray McDavid was formed by Gordon Wright, Mark Reynier, and Simon Coughlin in1996. Gordon’s family own Springbank Distillery and Cadenhead’s (another independent bottler). Gordon was the sales and marketing director for nine years before starting Murray McDavid. Mark and Simon own four fine wine stores in London and specialise in Burgundy. Nine generations in the whisky business between them. Murray McDavid is now owned by the Bruichladdich Distillery.

“Murray McDavid are Independent Bottlers with a difference. The tradition of independent bottling goes back 150 years and was, until fairly recently, the only source for many of Scotland’s finest malts. The practice of distilleries bottling their own malts started in the 60s, but only became a major event in the last few years. Independent bottlers offer the consumer many things. They offer the opportunity to taste some of the more esoteric malts not bottled by their owners. They offer the chance to try well known and widely available brands at a different age, a different strength, possibly even a different type of barrel than the distillery bottled product. ”

Murray McDavid prides itself with its cask selection. “The selection of casks is of prime importance and great care is taken to find the finest available. Murray McDavid only selects for bottling those casks that they feel represent the best the distillery can produce. All the Single Malt Scotches are bottled without chill filtering, which removes many of the oils that carry the flavour and complexity of the malt. They are not coloured with caramel like many other bottlings which gives the drinker the chance to sample the Scotch in its most natural form. The bottling strength is 46% Alc/Vol (92 proof) which is an ideal drinking strength, no complicated mathematical calculations to work out how much water to add! ”

The philosophy is largely inspired by the traditions from the top-of-the-range wine world. Mark Reynier a third generation wine merchant, uses several aspects from the wine world in the preparation of their bottlings, for example always tasting each cask, creating an assemblage of several casks from the same distillation for maximal complexity.

Murray McDavid represents a particular trend in the world of independent bottlers, due to the wine traditions inherited by its managers. Great respect for tradition and a constant search for quality. Unlike many others, they never bottle a “single cask”, arguing that these kind of bottlings never guarantee a constant quality, are unrepresentative, and often out of balance. There are many factors influencing the quality of a cask (poor quality wood, nails, poorly coopered casks, the proximity of the windows or ceilings, the humidity and temperature in the maturing warehouse, etc…)

Murray McDavid also does not alter the color of the whisky and all of the whiskys are chill filtered.

In the short run, based on the blog I read on The Scotch Blog, it doesn’t appear as though the wine industry’s move to screw caps will effect the whisky industry signficantly. In the long run, time will tell…

The whisky pundits agree that consumer perception plays a role in how they go about bottling their high end / older expression spirits, with blends and some entry level whiskys having screw caps, but narry a screw cap on a Macallan 50 or The Balvenie 30. While I wasn’t able to obtain any specific data on this, one would think that if there is significant overlap between wine and whisky connoissuers and the tasting/drinking experience of the wine connoissuer’s screw-capped wine bottle is a positive one, he or she may be more inclined to purchase their favorite whisky expression in a screw cap.

For distilleries with scale, screw caps provide a more cost effective means by which to bottle their casks. Perhaps, if the whisky distilleries were to overhype the TCA or cork taint effect of cork on a whisky bottling, they might be able to move their customers over to whisky with screw caps. But there isn’t agreement across all the whisky experts on cork taint. In fact, Jim McEwan, veteran distiller, blender, cooper and taster goes as far to say, “.. if cork was a problem surely, over the course of 300 years, someone would have spotted the problem. Or could it simply be that the distilleries and blenders of yester-year were not nearly as clever as today’s ‘experts’?”

Economics are not the only reason why a distillery might move to a screw cap, security, according to the blog, is another. Given that there are parts of the world where fradulent use and counterfeiting are prevalent, “it is preferable to use bottles with a non refillable closure”.

All in all, it didn’t appear as though some segments of the whisky industry (smaller distilleries / older expressions of any distillery) would be quick to move to screw caps, but given the move in wine, we may see more screw caps on “entry level” (my term) expressions from mass produced single malts or in more blends…


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a private membership club dedicated to the “discerning appreciation and consumption of the most rare and unique of single malt whiskies; unfiltered, single cask, single malt Scotch whisky”.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was formed in 1983 by a small group of Scottish connoisseurs who had discovered the “superiority” of whisky taken straight from the cask. In flavor and, of course, in strength these whiskies are markedly different from the commercially bottled versions, which have been chill-filtered and diluted. This group of Edinburgh whisky drinkers had access to malts of the very highest quality. They purchased for their onw use unusually fine casks which they then bottled without any intervening process of filtration or dilution (as usually happens with bottled spirit). Because the contents of each cask were bottled separately, the individuality of the cask became apparent in the taste of the whisky.

To join the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America, you must be at least 25 years of age upon payment of the initial membership fee of $179.00, which includes the purchase price of one 750ml bottle of “an extremely rare and unique malt whisky never to be avaliable again”. There is a $35.00 annual fee/subscription and membership is renewable annually on the anniversary of your enrollment.

Members receive regular newsletters listing the current bottlings available to the society. In addition members receive bottling lists and a gift catalog. Membership also entitles members to visit the three main venues of the Society, two in Edinburgh, Scotland (with their headquarters being The Vaults, in Leith, a port of Edinburgh) and one in London, England.

In addition, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society also hosts whisky tastings for members and guests worldwide. There actually was a tasting on 9/29 at the Union Club of Chicago.

I had the pleasure of sharing with Brother Ville a dram of a scotch that will make its way into my Top 10 malts, Glenfarclas 35. We shared such a wonderful malt experience in celebrating the acquisition of Brother Ville’s & Mrs. Ville’s (and the rest of the family’s) lake house in Wisconsin. Given that we tasted it nearly a month ago and I couldn’t post until the surprise announcement was made, I don’t remember all of the sweet sherry-like details. I do remember that the finish relates somewhat to how Brother Irving described HP 30. Given that Glenfarclas 35 is part of my collection, I look forward to sharing it with each and every one of you, maybe even at the lake house…. 🙂