A few years ago I tried a Mortlach for the first time. And while I didn’t love it, I was intrigued. Here was a whisky that wasn’t sticking around. No one was talking about it. It was before the relaunch of the OBs, when only Gordon & Macphail was bringing them out regularly.
I added one to a tasting. It was alright, but I knew there could be more. Since then we’ve seen more and more hit the shelves, with the OBs commanding a high price. Since then I’ve had the thought that it’s a dram that needs the years to really, really shine.
Today I’m going to go over the Mortlachs I have had in the past four months. Different ages, cask types, and independent bottlers. They’ve become a standard at tastings both with people and with my cat (she’s such a lush).
So let’s see what else I’ve learned, shall we?
Thanks to /u/xile_ for sharing this dram
Mortlach 30 1987 Cadenhead Single Cask was the cherry on the top of a tasting that already had so much Epic that I’m pretty sure kids were showing up to rip off dance moves from it.
Not going to lie, a gold-labelled Cadenhead single cask is pretty much catnip to me at this point. And after I’m done chasing a piece of fluff and meowing randomly, I like to drink them. Also: Holy damn, it’s the second oldest Mortlach I’ve ever had.
With all that hype I’m ready to dive in. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Cask Type: Bourbon Hogshead
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Sunflower, lemon drop candy, sultana, papaya
Lighter notes. Kinda sad I left this one to the end. I grab some water, give it more time, and settle in. This is going to take some time to pick apart.
Floral, lemon and tropical fruit/raisins on the nose. There’re some well-developed flavours here, however it takes time to get to them.
Taste: Seeds/tahini, lemon, mineral, soap, black pepper
More seeds, more lemon and mineral and… no meat? Odd. The soap/black pepper notes are the biggest turn off for me.
Also no meat. I get it: Meat isn’t the be-all, end-all. Make more of your plate not meat. But this is Mortlach. It’s like our tastings: It ends with a ton of meat, mostly pork. This is lacking that. But perhaps the finish…
Finish: Peanuts, dry pear, caramel, hops (bitter, leafy/vegetal), honey
…nope, no luck. The floral element is stronger now, there are some dry aspects and some nuttiness.
I can’t say it’s my favourite.
Conclusion: Someone called this a vegan Mortlach. I 100% agree with that assessment and am not a fan of it. I’m missing parts of the things I like with Mortlach. Yes, the meat, but a stronger aspect that holds up well with the years.
Instead, we have a lighter, seed and lemon/mineral/floral dram. Which isn’t bad, it’s just not doing it for me this time. The floral wasn’t as developed and aspects seemed too bitter or dry. Perhaps I’m lucky in that aspect.
Thanks to /u/boyd86 for sharing this dram.
Mortlach SMWS 76.127 Funky Massage Whisky is up next. Back when you could still purchase older SMWS without being in the right part of the club, pay the right amount, or be the right nationality, we had fun picking up older drams for decent prices. It couldn’t last: Nothing rare lasts popularity, and thus I buy less SMWS bottles now.
This is a 28-year-old ex-bourbon Mortlach that we held onto. I ended up having it at a tasting and deciding I needed additional time with it. It seemed like a good time to pull it all out, so let’s see how it holds up to some other, older Mortlachs, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Vintage: September 22, 1987
Cask type: Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Number of bottles: 180
Colour: 7.5Y 7/8
Nose: Pineapple funk, toffee, orange, leather, coffee cake
Nice funk with good leather and sweet notes. Some tropical aspects takes over, acidity, and even some flour/cake notes with spice elements.
Takes a bit of time to pull it all out, but I am happier with what I get versus the above Cadenhead.
Taste: Pineapple juice, butterscotch, almond, heather
Ah, here’s the rub. Amazing leather and funk on the nose, and then no funk and no leather on the taste. Like a kinky guy at a vanilla orgy, I’m disappointed in the lack of leather and nasty funk.
Nutty, sweet, some floral. Not bad, but not living up to the nose.
Finish: Oak, vanilla floral, orange juice, cotton, violets
Finish tries to work with what it has. Developed floral notes, oak, a mixture of the two, some soft elements… and no meat.
I’m like an old lady in a 1980s commercial. Where’s the beef?
Conclusion: Floral, funky, tropical. Solid malt, just… well, again, I’m missing some aspects. This time I feel the nose bragged more than the taste or finish could do. The similarities between these two are showing the vegan Mortlachs. And if we can only use meat in Mortlach to avoid these, then get me to the abattoir.
I liked the nose more. The taste was simpler, and the finish worked on the floral better, but not enough.
Mortlach 13 Gordon & MacPhail Co-op Exclusive is a bit of an awkward dram for me to discuss.
As I said before, I would always say that you don’t buy a young Mortlach. And what was a young Mortlach? Based on the ones I’d had, anything under 19-years-old.
Yes, the joke was tongue-in-cheek, as are most things I say. However, I wasn’t kidding. I want you, and everyone, to drink whisky that’s worth it. So if you’re saving $40 or $60 but buying something that doesn’t really work, you’re wasting money. Drink less, drink better. You’ll be happier and live longer.
Then a store selected Mortlach comes along. And it’s younger than any other Mortlach I’ve had. And I owe my friend /u/devoz a favour, so I split a bottle of it.
Well… was I wrong? Is this an exception? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $100 CAD
Distilled: Nov 12, 1998
Bottled: June 2012
Cask # 14454
Cask Type: Refill sherry hogshead
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Grassy, cinnamon, pineapple, orange
Similar to the above, a simpler nose going on. The sherry influence is here with more acid and spice. Being a good Mortlach it stands up to the sherry to have that good balance. Or maybe it’s a weaker sherry cask. More on that later.
Taste: Guava, white chocolate, cereal, caramel, orange, earth
More tropical, nice sweet, creamy element, and some earth and acid to balance it out. Less complex than others so far, but interesting.
Finish: Ginger, grassy, ham, tangerine, black pepper
Finally! After 10,000 years (or maybe 2 other Mortlachs) I get some ham! That’s what I love about Mortlach, and here it is!
Less great finish, some heat/earth that would have benefitted with time, but there’s ham so I’m hampy… I mean happy.
Conclusion: Holy damn, someone found a Mortlach that tastes good before 20 years. Stop the presses.
Joking aside, and me being happy I was proven wrong, this is a fun dram to have. Balanced all the way through, slightly simpler but still nice nose, and a taste that you’ll love if you like good quality sweets.
Also, it’s not a vegan Mortlach, so there are bonus marks. I preferred having this over some of the others. It cements in my mind what I enjoy in Mortlach, and gives me a good idea of what to look for moving forward.
Mortlach 20 1997 Chieftain’s Twin Lion’s Society is up last, and frankly I’m pretty sure it was a mistake.
The question is, a good mistake (like sparkling wine, chocolate chips, your way younger sister) or a bad mistake (Angering Genghis Khan, not buying Google, your not as young brother).
I’m getting ahead of myself. What is this Mortlach? Why it’s a 20-year-old First Fill Sherry Cask that was brought out by Chieftain’s for the Twin Lion’s Society. I don’t know who that was, but let’s get to the whisky: Twenty years in a first-fill cask. Sure, I’ll bitch about too low of a time in a cask of any time. Finishes rarely make things pop for me.
But first-fill casks impart a ton of flavour. Two decades is a lot of flavour.
So back to my original question: Was this something someone forgot for an additional 5 to 8 years and then ended up in Taiwan? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Cask Type: First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butt
Cask Number 5246
Number of bottles: 631
Colour: 2.5YR 2/6
Nose: Anise, cherry, grass, pineapple, ginger, cocoa
Okay, so some things to parse out: Spice, cherry, and cocoa from the sherry cask. Strong flavours, at that.
But the Mortlach rises from the sherry ashes with that tropical aspect popping up. So I’m impressed.
Taste: Strawberry syrup, ginger, lime, papaya, butter
Sherry bomb. Lots of sugar, fruit. None of the dram is here. It’s a strong, strong sherried dram with some of that tropical, but more sherry heavy.
Finish: Dry apple, orange, ginger, lemon-lime soda, peanut, plum, cola
Lovely spice heavy, strong sweet but balanced finish. It’s simpler but the sheer amount of flavours really shows off an interesting, odd dram.
Conclusion: A spice heavy sherry bomb that needs time to really show off. The first few sips I was ready to write this off as a bad mistake. And then I had more, and more. I enjoy sherry bombs. You don’t get them as nice as this anymore.
Should they ever attempt this again? No. God no. They fluked out, hard. A year or more would have completely erased any of the whisky elements here. The taste is already all sherry. The nose is almost there. The finish isn’t, and that’s the best part.
All in all… is the Twin Lion’s accepting new members?
Scotch review #1183-6, Speyside reviews #335-8, Whisky Network reviews #1820-4