In June, Gordon & MacPhail revealed it would be releasing the world’s oldest single malt Scotch whisky, Generations 80-Years-Old from Glenlivet Distillery. Now the famed independent bottler has unveiled the unique jewel-like decanter and oak pavilion designed by world-renowned architect and designer Sir David Adjaye OBE.
“The design is a celebration of the artistry, craft and care that went into the single malt it encases,” says the brand. “Its unique form represents Gordon & MacPhail’s history of repeatedly pushing the boundaries in terms of long-term whisky maturation, where experimentation, patience, and quality have remained the foundations for progress since 1895.”
The creative theme for the release – ‘Artistry in Oak’ – bears tribute to both the precious and rare liquid, carefully nurtured in an oak cask by four generations of the family that owns Gordon & MacPhail, as well as its stunning presentation. Never before has oak and single malt spirit been combined for eight decades and the historic liquid has been described by renowned whisky writer Charlie MacLean as “truly, one of the finest I’ve ever encountered.”
“It is often quoted that the maturation of whisky over very long periods of time is more art than science,” commented Ewen Mackintosh, Managing Director at Gordon & MacPhail. “The decanter and oak pavilion that David has created for our historic release is a true reflection of this art; the presentation is itself a work of art. I’m sure George Urquhart and his father John, who had the extraordinary foresight to lay down spirit from the Glenlivet Distillery in a bespoke Gordon & MacPhail cask to be enjoyed after their lifetime, would love the design. It pays tribute to their craft and vision.”
“Oak is a primary material, produced from the planet,” explains David Adjaye. “I appreciate its preciousness as an integral part of the whisky-making process. I wanted to create a design that pays tribute to the role oak plays in transforming liquid into an elixir with almost magical properties.”
The jewel-like decanter contains lenses to provide focus on the richly coloured liquid. A generous volume of crystal balances both heft and delicacy, and provides a beguiling, tactile presence.
“The gentle combination of liquid, weight and form invokes a sense of care, responsibility and slowness. As you pour, a sense of time fades and all that is understood is the preciousness of each drop,” adds Adjaye.
Designed to appear as hewn from a single solid block of crystal, the decanter’s curving core needed to be individually hand-blown by experienced artisans overseen by the iconic Glencairn Crystal Studio..
“The ambition was to create a vessel in which Gordon & MacPhail’s unique experience and tradition is transmitted and incorporated,” remarks Adjaye. “The vertical struts of the outer pavilion are reflective of trees in an oak forest from which the staves of the original cask were hewn. A pivotal moment in the design narrative is the relationship between the light and shadow as the casing recreates the sunlight as it shines through oak trees within a natural forest setting. The act of opening the pavilion becomes a ceremonial and sensorial process.”
While similar, no two decanters are exactly the same, reflecting the complexity of the process and its organic nature.
The oak pavilion is constructed from sustainably sourced oaks grown less than five miles from makers, Wardour Workshops, another family-owned company, based in Dorset, South West England.
“Oak has this wondrously enduring quality that lasts forever,” commented Dom Parish, co-founder at Wardour,
Only 250 70cl decanters have been created. Decanter #1 is being auctioned by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on October 7, 2021 with a framed cask end from the original cask and a lithograph of the original concept drawings signed by Adjaye. Auction proceeds (minus costs) are being donated to local Scottish charity Trees for Life whose mission is to rewild the Caledonian forest.
“The donation will help the Trees for Life nursery which grows 100,000 rare and native trees, including oaks, from seed each year,” continues Mackintosh. “It’s fitting that this whisky will provide a legacy for all that will last for generations.”
Public showcases of the decanter and oak pavilion will be exhibited from early September 2021 in Sotheby’s London, New York, and Hong Kong galleries, in addition to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre as part of Sotheby’s 2021 Hong Kong Autumn Sales Series preview exhibition.
Gordon & Macphail Generations 80 Years Old From Glenlivet Distillery will be available beginning September 3, 2021. For more information, head over to the company’s official website.