Lots of times I witnessed situations where an ‘old’ bottle from Gordon & MacPhail was opened and we all started guessing how old the whisky was, since only a distillation year was printed i.e. “1970”. I fondly remember the discussions when a particular bottle was bottled because the bottle had a ‘nipple’. Another situation could be when a particular bottle was distilled and/or bottled, because only the age of the whisky was printed i.e. “30yo”. Very annoying when you taste a Strathisla 25yo by Gordon & MacPhail that was made for several decades with the same label and different batches are very different. Lots of those ‘old’ bottles don’t have such information, or do they?
Luckily for us there are some hints to be found. I’ll tell you about two of them.
- Laser Code
- Code on the bottom of the bottle
In the case of Gordon & MacPhail, since 1988 a laser Code can be found somewhere on the bottle. Usually printed on the back of the front label, or on the back of the bottle, near the bottom, for newer releases. As can be seen on the picture to the left. Here an enlarged view through the back of the bottle, through the whisky. The code is IB/ABD.
Of interest are the first two letters. IB in this case. The code used is like this: A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6, G=7, H=8, I=9 and J=0. IB therefore is 92. The bottle is very probably from 1992! The second series of letters are probably a batch code. On the right is a picture of the same bottle from the front, and indeed it is bottled in 1992.
So continuing on from this code, here above is a complete list of codes that are used up untill now.
Like with any system there are of course a few exceptions.
- There are cases known where the laser code states a particular year, but the bottling actually happened the following year (january or february). An example of this is a Longmorn 14yo that according to the label was distilled on the 30th of may 1975 and bottled on the 14th of february 1990. Code IJ would be expected, but the code on the bottle turned out to be HI/DCB, which is the code for 1989.
- Sometimes the first part of the code comprises of three letters instead of two. This is very rare and when this happens two of the three letters match the table given here.
- It seems 1991 was a year where Gordon & MacPhail were a bit inconsistent with the codes used. I’ve come across examples where the labels clearly state a year of bottling, but the laser code used on the back of the label is wrong. I’ll give three examples from the Connoisseurs Choice range:
- Convalmore 1969/1991 with the following code: HB/AJB. HB would have been 1982, but that was a year no laser codes were used. The correct code would have been IA.
- Coleburn 1972/1991 with code HG/ACD. HG would have been 1987, but that was also a year that laser codes were not used. In this case too there is a neck label with 1991.
- Tomatin 1964/1991 with code HI/AAF. HI is 1989, but here there is also a neck label with 1991.
On the bottom of the bottle, in the glass are a lot of codes. I’ll take two of my older G&M bottles as an example.
- Strathisla 25yo: Liquor Bottle Scotland, 750ml, 79 08*, 66 mm, SC 999.
- Strathisla 15yo: 750ml, 66mm, 49, SD 133, also some signs I can’t reproduce here.
* 79 08 doesn’t seem to mean that the bottle was produced in (August) 1979. I’ve come across SC 999 bottles that had 90 08 or even 99 08 on the bottom.
The important stuffs are the ‘model numbers’ for the bottle. Here they are SC 999 and SD 133.
Doing some research in the invaluable archives of Whiskyauction, I comprised a list of codes and the years the bottle was used for bottling. All years stated here are confirmed by a year stated on the label of the bottle:
- SC 96 (75cl): 1972, 1973, 1974 & 1975.
- SC 803 (75cl): 1975, 1976 & 1977.
- SC 99 (75cl): 1977.
- SC 999 (75cl): 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 & 1988.
- SC 247 (75cl): 1983, 1984 & 1985.
- 4699 (75cl): 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991.
- SD 522 (75cl): 1989.
- 6436 (75cl): 1989.
- SD 133 (75cl): 1990 & 1991.
- SD 686 (70cl): 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 & 1996.
This information is far from complete and hopefully correct. Up to this point no contact was made with Gordon & MacPhail. There is probably a lot more information to be found, so if new things do pop up, I’ll add them to this article.