In a world where single malt was just becoming fashionable and climbing the charts, George Urquhart launched the Connoisseurs Choice brand, showcasing single malts from across Scotland. The range was initially devised for Edoardo Giaccone in Italy, but became part of the main Gordon & MacPhail portfolio in 1979. The first Connoisseurs Choice bottlings featured whiskies from distilleries such as Port Ellen, Strathisla, and Rosebank. These original bottlings under the distinctive black and red label are highly sought-after by whisky enthusiasts on the secondary market due to their liquid reverence. The most sought-after expressions under this original label at auction are more often than not several spectacular vintages from the Talisker distillery.
In 1980 the Connoisseurs Choice range was produced using the gradient brown label. Some of the greatest ever bottlings under the Connoisseurs Choice name were bottled in the 1980s, including many from distilleries that are now lost such as from Lochside, St. Magdalene, and Kinclaith.
The Connoisseurs Choice ‘Brown Labels’ were updated in 1988 by the next stage of labels, known among collectors as the ‘Map Labels’. These were cream and featured a thumbnail map of the spirit’s origin in the centre of the label alongside a scalloped orange border. The most desirable of these 'Map' labels include the 1967 Kinclaith and a string of 1970s Ardbeg.
In 1996 the original Map Labels were superseded with the introduction of a colour-coded background for each region. The colour system was as follows: Islay – Pink, Lowlands – Blue, Highland – Peach, Speyside – Green, Islands – Orange
Redesigned again in 2008, with a return to cream labels the Map labels now featured a colour-coded banding and the map was moved to the top right of the label .
In 2012, the Connoisseurs Choice range underwent another revamp. Most significantly, they bumped the standard bottling strength to 46% and dropped chill-filtration and colouring. The bottles now featured Gordon & MacPhail embossing and of course there were further stylistic tweaks to the label.
2018 saw the rejuvenation of the brand, which saw it reimagined as a premium single casks range. With this came the introduction of today’s modern bottles and further information on provenance and maturation. The most recent launch in August 2018 saw the range enhanced by a collection of older single cask whiskies, 30 years or older, presented in decanter-style bottles.