A whisky distiller’s juice is an interesting thing. It speaks to the master distiller’s preferences, as well as using what he has around him. Yes, terroir is more so a set of beliefs in a region rather than the region’s inherent items affecting the taste too much (though it still affects it), but the people in charge have say in what they like.
But at the end of the day, you need to make a buck. And some malts, as we’ve seen, can be bottled at 46% with 5 years on them and still deliver a quality product. Kilchoman, I’m looking at you.
Still there are others that do well at cask strength, but not at lower strength. Bowmore, this is you. Or need a finish or peat to really amp up the dram (BenRiach).
Those are rough, especially on the bottom line, because at some point someone will bring up the fact they need to sell something less expensive to make, and a sad, 40%, non finished NAS will pop up, and it’ll push more people away.
Finally, in this it-is-what-it-is situation, there’s the drams that need a good amount of time in the barrel. The ones that just don’t taste right young. The ones that you assume stare daggers at the distilleries that luck out.
Mortlach, from what I’ve seen, seems to be one of those. The distilleries own IBs start at “Rare Old” and go from there. And again, I get that it’s most likely the distiller who enjoys the malt at an old age. However at some point someone has to say “are we making money”?
I think the reason they can do it is Mortlach is a staple in Johnnie Walker. Without that blend backbone coming in, some buggers from Diageo Finance and Accounting would be cracking down their door.
That lengthy verbal masturbation is my way of saying I recently did a side by side of two old Mortlachs. Both of these are from independent bottlers I like, both are 25-26 years old, and both were aged using different methods.
Both were distilled in the 80s, potentially by someone who was worried their job wouldn’t last.
Thank goodness that’s over.
Let’s drink away that last thought’s pain, shall we?
Mortlach SMWS 76.94 “Totally flavoursome”
Price: No longer available
Date Distilled: April 1986
Age: 26 years
Cask Type: Refill hogshead
Colour: 5Y 7/8
Nose: Lemon cake, cashew, cornbread, peanut brittle, pear, daisy, ginger, raspberry sorbet
Fruit forward from this one. Nutty, floral at times, and even a cornbread sorta flavour. That baking powder bread smell (no yeast, but bread… what will they think of next?)
Really nice nose. It’s quite complex.
Taste: Butter, ham, cloves, nectarine juice, rye bread, sorghum
I don’t know about you, but for Easter, the Christian celebration of a Jew coming back from the dead, we have ham. Because that’s what Jesus would have wanted.
This reminds me of having the leftovers the next day on some rye bread. It’s very distinct to me. Well, save for the nectarine juice. We weren’t that fancy.
Finish: Cinnamon, black pepper, peach syrup, cashew, almond, ham, ginger candy, lemon/lime soda, walnuts
Very spiciy finish. Lots of flavours, nuts are back, citrus is there, and hot. Like a spice cake with pork in it.
Which let’s not make, okay?
Conclusion: This is a consistently tasty dram, from start to finish. It’s hard to pick apart things I don’t like. There’s a stone fruit juice element that only somewhat works throughout, but that’s not a deal breaker.
I will say this: You may expect less spice and fruit from a non-sherry dram here, or you may not like how it goes from complex to a ton of notes. That may throw you off.
If so, I feel bad for you. Because I enjoyed this. It didn’t cause memories, but it kinda did at the taste and the finish. None the less, I’m scoring it high, I liked this one.
Mortlach 25 1988 Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection
Price: Not available at the LCBO
Cask Type: Sherry Cask
Outrun: 576 bottles
Year Distilled: 1988
Bottled: July 2014
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Persimmon, charcoal, sand, lemon, grassy, black pepper bacon, peach
Odd nose on this one. Floral and fruity. Takes awhile to pull each part out. Not unlike pull apart bread, though that’s not a note here, so forget I mentioned it.
You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you? Carbs are so tasty.
More of a earth/heat note on this one. Very earth forward.
Taste: Butterscotch, black pepper, peach drink, watermelon soda
Butterscotch is the main element at play here. It’s earthy as well. You need to give it some time, but eventually there’s the same fruit juice notes I had from the one above.
It is missing the “meat” element that Mortlach is known for. Or spice. It does the different flavours really well, but I want more complexity.
Finish: Dulce de leche, ginger, peach, jerky, peanut, cardamon
Finish is quite interesting. Again, that “caramel but different” side of flavour is there at first, then stone fruit.
That said the pepper element has grown up, there’s meat now, and the spice that I found lacking in the taste is now here.
Conclusion: Well this was a mean SBS. Honestly, it’s the first one over the second.
This Mortlach seems a little all over the place. It does some interesting things with butter/caramel type notes, but overall the taste drags it down, the overabundance of heat/black pepper is something I expect from a younger malt, and the nose isn’t inviting.
I want to like this more, but it’s just not for me. I’m giving it an inbetween mark as I feel that’s what it deserves.
Scotch reviews #580-581, Speyside reviews #178-179, Whisky Network reviews #971-972