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Gordon & MacPhail’s Ian Urquhart dies

The former managing director of Scotch whisky maker Gordon & MacPhail, Ian Urquhart, has died at the age of 76.

Ian Urquhart
Ian Urquhart was MD of Gordon & MacPhail

Following an illness, Elgin native Urquhart died on Friday 15 March surrounded by his family.

His career in the drinks sector began when he worked for a winery in Bordeaux, igniting his love of fine wine.

He later returned to Elgin where he joined his father, George Urquhart, and uncle at family firm Gordon & MacPhail in 1967, known for producing Scotch whisky.

His sister Rosemary Rankin, and brothers David and Michael Urquhart, took on roles at Gordon & MacPhail in the following years. Ian Urquhart later became managing director of Gordon & MacPhail in 1990 and retired in August 2007.

Ewen Mackintosh, outgoing managing director of Gordon & MacPhail, said: “From when he first joined the business in the late 1960s, he built an unparalleled knowledge for maturing Scotch whisky, which he subsequently passed onto the next generation working for the company.

“He was also a driving force behind the company’s decision to purchase and re-equip Benromach Distillery in 1993 and played the lead role in creating the whisky style and the principles for maturation at Benromach.”

More recently, Urquhart saw the first spirit being produced at the company’s second distillery, The Cairn, at Grantown-on-Spey in Scotland.

In addition, Urquhart was involved in another family business, Johnstons of Elgin, initially joining as a non-executive director in 1981. He became chairman of the cashmere brand in 2001.

Johnstons of Elgin managing director Chris Gaffney added: “Ian made an immense contribution to our company in the last 43 years. He always ensured we were thinking about, and investing for, the future. It is thanks to this long-term planning that, whilst the textiles industry in the UK was going through a period of decline, our business has grown from £4 million [US$5m] sales when he joined the board to £100m [US$125m] today, with a staff of more than 1,200.”

Urquhart, alongside his brother Michael Urquhart, were awarded a CBE in the 2022 Queen’s Platinum Jubilee honours list for their services to the Scotch sector. He was also a Keeper of the Quaich and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Urquhart was described as a “quiet, unassuming man who never sought the limelight and didn’t like a fuss”.

Among his passions were sailing, horse riding and pistol shooting, with his favourite sport being skiing. After retiring from Gordon & MacPhail, he signed up for a ski instructor course in France.

Urquhart is survived by his second wife Nichola, son Neil and daughter Jenny, sister Rosemary and brother Michael, and grandchildren Iona, Emma, Eilidh, Eddie, Kirsty and Chloe.

Earlier this year, Gordon & MacPhail named Phillip White as its new chief executive.

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