The founders of the firm were James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail, and from the outset (as the newspaper reported) the stock was "personally selected", with a view to providing "a superior article at a popular price" and giving "the utmost satisfaction".Among the new shop's first employees was John Urquhart, a lad of fifteen who was to serve his apprenticeship under the partners. He was an able learner, and before long was helping James Gordon to select and buy casks of malt whisky from local distilleries, and assisting with the creation of house blends for the firm's customers around the north of Scotland. When J.A. MacPhail retired in March 1915, Urquhart became a partner in the business, and when James Gordon died suddenly only two weeks later, he became senior partner.In parallel with the grocery side of the enterprise, John Urquhart developed the whisky broking business begun by James Gordon, and in particular began to specialise in single malt whiskies - bottling under license for famous distilleries such as Macallan, Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Linkwood and Mortlach. As part of this business he began to select and fill his own casks - almost always Spanish oak, ex-sherry casks - at these and other distilleries, and to mature his whiskies for much longer than was customary at the time.