Gordon Motion is Highland Park’s innovative and highly-skilled Master Whisky Maker. He joined the distillery in 1998, working initially with John Ramsay, Master Whisky Maker Emeritus, who retired in 2009 after over 40 years.
Gordon explains his approach to creating our 2020 edition of Highland Park 50 Year Old from casks laid down before he was born. “Back in 2008, I sampled a number of refill casks and selected nine, originally laid down in February 1968. Even after such an extended period of maturation, the whisky was light, fragrant and delicate, without a hint of woodiness, making it ideal for an extended period of maturation to add depth of character and layers of flavour. I married all nine casks together and re-racked the combined whisky into first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks for a further 12 years. When I sampled the whisky from these re-racked casks early in 2020, I chose one first-fill sherry seasoned European oak butt. The whisky it contained – now aged for a little over 50 years – was spectacular. It had absorbed all the richly sherried flavours of dried fruit and sweet toffee from its final first-fill cask maturation, but still retained the delicate fragrance and sophisticated flavours driven by the original refill casks.”
Gordon’s approach to creating our oldest whisky also relies on the traditional ‘solera system’ – perhaps best known as the method of maturing sherry (extremely fitting given our distillery’s commitment to using the finest sherry seasoned oak casks). He explains how this works: “I introduced some of the first-fill sherry seasoned European oak butt I’d selected to some of our earlier 2018 batch of 50 Year Old, which I’d held back specifically for this purpose. As the 2018 batch of 50 Year Old also contains some of our 2010 batch of 50 Year Old, this not only creates a further layer of depth and complexity but also allows me to maintain the core DNA of our oldest Highland Park whisky from batch to batch.”
Gordon’s journey to Kirkwall
Following a summer spent touring Scotland and visiting various distilleries while he was a computer science undergraduate, Gordon decided that rather than sitting behind a computer for the rest of his life, he wanted to work in a distillery. After finishing his computer science degree, he took a postgraduate degree in Malting, Brewing and Distilling and spent several years working in small breweries across Scotland and England. Gordon joined Edrington in 1998 as Assistant to the Master Whisky Maker – at that time, the legendary John Ramsay. One of the first distilleries that Gordon visited was Highland Park and it left him with a great impression of Orkney, the distillery and the people who work here. Ten years later, following John Ramsay’s retirement, Gordon took over the mantle as our Master Whisky Maker and the rest, as they say, is history. You can find out more about Gordon in Getting to know our Master Whisky Maker.