For a long time, Speyside single malt distillery Mortlach only produced whisky for blending. It was only in the last decade or so when the first legal distillery in Dufftown really came into its own with the launch of their core single malt range.
What you’ll find available off the shelves today is the culmination of efforts in 2018, when the Mortlach 12, 16, and 20 Year Old whiskies, all part of their current permanent collection, was launched. There’s also a 14 Year Old travel retail exclusive.
This catapulted Mortlach into the spotlight for single malt appreciators, who are always on the hunt for a fine dram. And while there were many great whiskies out there, what made Mortlach stand out is their highly complex distillation method.
Simply called ‘The Way’, the process involves creating the new make spirit using six different copper pot stills of varying silhouettes, with the liquid inside criss crossing among them and resulting in a very specific 2.81 times distillation.
The end product is a whisky most described as bold, full-bodied, and gutsy, rightfully earning them the nickname, ‘The Beast of Dufftown’. It was precisely these strong characteristics that made their whiskies so good for blends in the first place, and which now stand on their own as expressed in the core range.
The Mortlach 12 Year Old, inscribed ‘The Wee Witchie’ as an ode to the name given to Mortlach distillery’s smallest still, is the best way to taste the magic the 2.81 times distillation process gives to its whiskies.
Aged in both sherry and bourbon casks, the Mortlach 12 bears the quintessential robust meatiness that so defines their single malts. Malty, with notes of dried fruit and marzipan, this bottling stands out from other spirits of similar age with its ample structure and body.
Then there’s the Mortlach 16 Year Old. Called the ‘Distiller’s Dram’ on account of a former 16 Year Old release in 1992 being the first bottle of Mortlach ever tasted by its own distillery workers (again, all the spirits that came off the stills last time went into blends), this bottling marks when ‘The Beast of Dufftown’ was unleashed.
Drawn from only sherry casks, find pronounced raisin and baking spice notes in this one. The Mortlach backbone gives this expression an alluring honeyed mouthfeel as well, which glides pleasantly on the tongue and palate.
The Mortlach 20 Year Old (aka Cowie’s Blue Seal) is the one perhaps Alexander Cowie, the creator of ‘The Way’, will be most proud of. It is fashioned after Cowie’s personal stash of Mortlach whisky dating back to 1909 discovered by his daughter during a renovation of the family home.
Matured exclusively in sherry casks once again, but this time for a minimum of 20 years, this penultimate expression gives new meaning to intensity of flavours. It is robust, rich, oily, with hints of citrus and wood spice, and carried poignantly in an almost viscous, malt-heavy whisky.
What we love most about the core range as well is that every bottling is distinct, rather than the older whisky necessarily being the better one. Some days we find ourselves enjoying the Mortlach 16 Year Old most, while the 20 Year Old really shines after giving it plenty of time in the glass.
For more information on Mortlach, head over to their website.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.