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Wednesday 24 February 2021



The Morrisons: One of Scotland's Oldest Whisky Families

The Morrisons started out as grocers during the 18th century but have since grown into whisky brokers, blenders, bottlers and now, distillers. They have a colourful story and a selection of some of the finest Scotch whiskies and liqueurs in their inventory.


Morrison & Mackay rebranded to Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers in October 2020, ahead of the launch of a new range of whiskies. The company has undergone a transformation since transferring to the sole ownership of Brian and Jamie Morrison last year and its executive team, led by managing director Douglas Crawford, has ambitious plans for the future. The distillery site has seen significant recent investment and the brand range has been overhauled. In the coming years Morrison plans to release Aberargie Single Malt Scotch Whisky, distilled in their purpose-built facility in Aberargie, just outside Perth.

Bowmore Distillery: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

There are claims that Bowmore’s distillery started operation in 1779, but there’s no evidence of whisky being made until a certain John Simpson took out a licence in 1816. It wouldn’t be until 1837 when the Glasgow blending firm, Wm & Jas. Mutter took over that it began to gain traction and reputation. In 1841, Windsor Castle requested a cask of Bowmore – this being a time when the English palate was considered too delicate (or Scotch too bold). As often happens, the distillery passed through a number of hands before in this case it was bought, in 1963, by broker Stanley P. Morrison. The Morrison era saw the start of what is recognised as a legendary period in Bowmore’s history – its mid-1960s bottlings are legendary.

The distillery was substantially modernised with an innovative heat recovery system not only cutting down on fuel bills but creating sufficient excess hot water to heat the town’s swimming pool. In 1989 the Japanese distiller Suntory bought a stake in the distillery and took full control in 1994, the year after the ground-breaking Black Bowmore was launched.

In 2014 Suntory bought Jim Beam which, from an Islay perspective, sees two of Islay’s most iconic single malts (Bowmore and Laphroaig) under the same ownership. Morrison reclaimed dealing rights under Beam Suntory and launched a new saga of Islay peated whisky.

Glen Garioch Distillery: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Although the date of Glen Garioch is officially given as 1797, there are substantiated claims yet of it producing legally at an even earlier date, a claim which if proved true would make this Oldmeldrum plant the oldest distillery in Scotland. It would make sense that there was whisky being distilled in The Garioch – a fertile part of Aberdeenshire long given over to arable farming.

Whatever the date of its formation, Glen Garioch survived when other eastern distilleries foundered. The layout inside Glen Garioch is typical of a centuries-old site, with small rooms being added on and converted into use as production increased, but it contains relatively modern kit. The mash tun, squeezed into a tiny chamber, has a lauter system; the washbacks, in another tight room nearby, are stainless steel. The stillhouse with a panoramic window facing the road has three stills, but only one pair is used. Ferments are short, giving a deep cereal and spice note to the new spirit which also has a distinctive waxy, tallow-like, character. When mature, the heaviness changes into a thick, fat texture, allowing honeyed fruits and heather to emerge.

Glen Garioch had always struggled for water and it was felt that this would impact on an increase in production. Owner DCL’s response to this in 1968 was to close Glen Garioch, and re-open Brora. Two years later, Glasgow broker Stanley P. Morrison [Bowmore, Auchentoshan] bought it. A new source of water was found and production not only restarted, but increased. Morrison’s brought in the same design of heat recovery system it had installed at Bowmore and heated two acres of greenhouses where tomatoes were grown.

Heavily peated malt was produced until 1995 when the distillery closed once more. It reopened two years later, though by now the peat had gone (as had the distillery’s own maltings) since a different style was being made. Even so, in recent years small batches of smoky barley have once again been run.

Auchentoshan Distillery: Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Legal whisky-making started here on the banks of the Clyde in 1817 when the Duntocher distillery was built by John Bulloch. Like many early start-ups it had a chequered early history, it went bust and changed hands regularly, being renamed Auchintoshan (sic). It was one of a number of distilleries purchased by brewers in the 1960s and the Auchentoshan upgraded distillery was bought by Stanley P Morrison in 1984. It is now part of Beam Suntory. Unusually, all of its production is used for single malt.

Auchentoshan’s claim to fame is that it is the only distillery in Scotland which exclusively uses triple distillation. The wash still operates as per normal, while the spirit coming from the intermediate still is split into two, with only the high-strength ‘heads’ being carried forward for the final distillation. The low-strength ‘tails’ are mixed with the next distillation from the wash still.

The ‘heads’ are then mixed with the ‘feints’ from the previous spirit still distillation and a cut with an average strength of 81% is taken. A short fermentation gives Auchentoshan a cereal note which acts as a grounding flavour during maturation as well as balancing the high-toned citric notes. Its high strength means that it can easily be overpowered by oak. Consequently, the older the expression, the more ‘relaxed’ the wood influence is.

McClelland's Profile: Single Malt Scotch Whisky


McClelland’s is a truly enduring brand from the days of the old Stanley P. Morrison whisky dynasty. It now rests in the Beam Suntory fold having been launched in 1986 as a range of unidentified single malt expressions based on four of Scotland’s distilling regions: Islay, Highland, Lowland and Speyside. Each expression is bottled at 40% ABV. McClelland's key export markets include the US, Canada, France, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, South America, and Sweden.

Stanley P. Morrison Ltd acquired the blending and exporting business of fellow Glasgow company T & A McClelland in 1970, the history of which stretches back to the establishment of Bladnoch distillery in 1817. With the acquisition came the McClelland’s brand name, and in 1986 the first of McClelland’s single malt range was launched.

Highland, Islay, and Lowland bottlings were the first to be introduced with a Speyside edition added in 1999. A 12-year-old Speyside followed in 2008. A major repackaging exercise took place in 2007 as the portfolio was relaunched.

Morrison Bowmore Distillers Profile

Morrison Bowmore Distillers operates three Scotch malt whisky distilleries and offers four brands. The firm’s three distilleries are the Lowland Auchentoshan, close to Glasgow, the Highland Glen Garioch in Aberdeenshire and Bowmore on the Isle of Islay. As well as marketing a range of single malts from these distilleries, Morrison Bowmore also uses the McClelland’s name for unspecified single malt bottlings. McClelland’s is one of the most enduring brands from the days of the old Stanley P. Morrison whisky dynasty. It now rests in the Beam Suntory fold having been launched in 1986 as a range of unidentified single malt expressions based on four of Scotland’s distilling regions: Islay, Highland, Lowland and Speyside. Each expression is bottled at 40% ABV. The list of all their products is placed infra. Only the Single and Blended Malts survive. The standard blends did not make much of a noise and died gracefully.

BOWMORE: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (1953 and 2014)
GLEN GARIOCH: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (1970)
AUCHENTOSHAN: Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (1984)
McCLELLAND'S: Single Malt Scotch Whisky (1986)
OLD PERTH: Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (1979 onwards)
QE2: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
15 PARA BLEND: Blended Scotch Whisky
ARGYLL: Blended Scotch Whisky
BRAE DEW: Blended Scotch Whisky
CLANROY: Blended Scotch Whisky
CLYDEBANK: Blended Scotch Whisky
I.D.S.: Blended Scotch Whisky
ISLAY HALLMARK: Blended Scotch Whisky
ISLAY LEGEND: Blended Scotch Whisky
PREMIERS: Blended Scotch Whisky
ROB ROY: Blended Scotch Whisky
WOLF LEGEND: Blended Scotch Whisky



Old Perth was historically a blend of Speyside, Highland and Islay malts along with North British grain, aged up to 12 years. Blender Peter Thomson had a strong relationship with Macallan distillery, so the Speyside’s malt was included as well. The Old Perth brand is a tribute to the city of Perth in Scotland. The label disappeared in the 1970s only to be resurrected in 2013 by independent bottlers, Morrison & Mackay. This sherried variant allegedly includes malts from Glenfarclas, Blair Athol and Glentauchers, all matured in the three main sherry cask types: butts, puncheons and the smaller hogsheads. A cask strength bottling is also available, at 58.6% ABV.

Morrison & Mackay’s core bottling was the Old Perth Original Blended Malt (Release No 4) – built around ex-Bourbon matured Aultmore. All the constituents are aged between four to six years to create an approachable, sweet and ‘moreish’ dram bottled at 43% ABV.

They also marketed various expressions of the Old Perth, basing it on a proven malt from a specific distillery and then blending it with other single malts to create aged Blended malt. This 23 YO expression is a blend of Sherried butts including  Macallan, Tamdhu, Bunnahabhain, Highland Park and Glenrothes.

Old Perth Peaty Blended Malt: Released in late 2015, this peated blended malt whisky is comprised of malt whiskies from 4 different distilleries on the Western islands of Scotland. Old Perth Peaty is bottled at 43% ABV.


Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers have other products in place of the lost blends. They showcase this unique balancing act of old meeting new through a diverse whisky portfolio. They keep whisky making traditions at the heart of their process, while embracing innovation. Their range currently includes a selection of rare and limited single cask bottlings alongside a single malt whisky liqueur. They have planned two more releases of single malts a couple of months from now, which will further strength the variety of their offerings.

The existing products are grouped under three headings:


The Strictly Limited Collection: Each of the three collections exist to reflect different age, strengths and batch sizes. Firstly, “Strictly Limited” batches come from 17 separate distilleries with their names prominently displayed as well as the bottler’s. All brands, from Inchgower to Teaninich to Longmorn to Mortlach, etc. are aged between 9-13 years and bottled at 47.5% ABV.


The Celebration of the Cask Collection: The second collection “Celebration of The Cask" houses whiskies from single casks and bottled at cask strength. There are 17 brands in this collection too, from Glenrothes to Fettercairn to Clynelish to Imperial, and aged between 20-30 years.

The Family Reserve Collection:

The third and most rare collection, “Family Reserve” is the jewel in the crown. Extremely limited and rare single casks, each one is hand selected individually by either Brian or Jamie Morrison. Displayed in wooden boxes, each one shall come with the family’s connection to this cask and their personal memories of the cask displayed inside the box. Family Reserve is the only series in the Càrn Mòr range to carry the signature of a family member. The first is a Macallan 27 YO.


                                            Mac-Talla Terra and Mara 

The two new Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskies

The Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers company has just introduced the hitherto mystery Islay whisky brand planned for Spring 2021, viz. the Mac-Talla Single Malt Whiskies. It consists of two separate peated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky expressions that are neither chill filtered nor do they sport E150A colour.

Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers are known for their new Carn Mor whiskies and the Old Perth. The name Morrison has been synonymous with whisky in Scotland for five generations and is also well known on Islay. It is closely linked to a distillery there. However, it is not yet known which distillery is producing the Mac-Talla Single Malt Whiskies.

Mac-Talla stands for “echo” in Gaelic and is intended to reflect the close connection between the Morrison family and Islay, the press release reports. The names Terra (earth) and Mara (sea) refer to the formative elements of the island. The whisky for both bottlings was matured in ex-Bourbon barrels. Terra is bottled at 46% ABV, Mara at 58.2% ABV. Both do not display age statements.

Official tasting notes of the Ma-Talla Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskies

Terra Classic Islay

A lot of peat on the nose, freshly burned campfire, with light citrus notes, the sweetness of quince and a bit of pepper. A lot of smoke and peat on the palate, then a nice malty sweetness and some fresh oak notes. Alcohol hardly noticeable. Medium finish, peat, malt candy and oak.

Mara Cask Strength

Heavy peat and the smell of campfire embers fill your nose. Fresh notes of citrus and freshly ground black pepper. On the palate a flood of peat and salty smoke, which meets a malty sweetness. The alcohol is very well integrated, the finish is clearly long with a strong peaty note and spicy oak.

Due Any Moment: The Mac-Talla Strata is the third of the three whiskies in the Mac-Talla launch range: a 15 YO age stated expression. Using the signature Morrison bottle in a rich olive colour to convey cues of peated Islay whiskies and a touch of smoke, passport-style etched illustrations capture scenes and stories from the island as a finishing touch. A range of whiskies that, like the island they came from, echo in the memory for evermore.

Borrowing from the visual language of travel, Thirst Craft Packaging Designers created for Morrison a ticket inspired layout that tells a story of the liquid inside and encourages the drinker to start their journey to the world of Islay whisky. Each label is layered with the texture of foils and embosses reminiscent of stamps and finishes on old travel tickets, with three cuts taken from the top label to symbolise the three generations of the Morrison Family who have been involved with whisky from Islay.