When you’re having a bad day, it’s typically a sign to take a moment, step back, breathe in, and reassess. All of this is summed up in my whisky friend group as “Mortlach o’Clock”. A point of frustration so great that the only thing that could knock you out of it is a strong as nails Mortlach that we all split.
Of course this is said in jest. Frustration occurs in life. You get annoyed at not progressing how you thought you would. Thus the old joke of drinking away your problems exists. I don’t recommend that as someone who has had to do accounting work after some pops at lunch with the boss.
Books needed a bit of cleaning up after that lunch.
Suffice to say Mortlach has gone from a distillery I didn’t see often, to one I was trying more of, to one I had never had a good younger release of, to one that is a staple either in my samples or on my shelf to have after one of those tough days, all after taking a break and ensuring my stress was balanced before drinking.
Today we’re looking at three different such Mortlachs. Two of them are ones that my past self wouldn’t have gone near: A Mortlach under 18 years old. One is what I became used to when trying more and more Mortlachs.
Let’s see if it’s all stress destroying or if I had some fun, shall we?
Mortlach 15 1995 Chieftain’s is not something I would have normally grabbed. Is it due to a low abv? No, not at all. It’s at cask strength. Was it finished in a silly fashion, denoting an inactive barrel and a quick fix? Nope, aged in a Sherry Butt. Released at a poor time? No, comes from 2011, before things went completely nuts.
I used to avoid young Mortlach like Covid. I had a few of them (mostly OBs and not true young Mortlach single casks typically). I was convinced the whisky needed 23 years, then 21 years, then 19 years, then 18 years… Well, you see where this is going.
Luckily I have friends who won’t just take straight comments like “avoid young Mortlach” as sacrosanct and I ended up drinking more.
Let’s see if that pattern continues, shall we?
Vintage: November 1995
Bottled: February 2011
Cask Type: Sherry Butt
Cask Number 7281
Number of bottles: 625
Colour: 2.5Y 8/8
Nose: Waxy, cake, pineapple syrup, cocoa, orange, caramel, heather
Basically think about the smells you get when baking and all the ingredients are still out, and it’s here. Waxiness wanes after a bit, more of the fruit pop up.
I’ve spoken before about Mortlach having a meaty or a grassy note. It’s one or the other that I’ve found. This is leaning closer to the grassiness versus the meatiness. Feel free to have calm discussions about being vegan in the comments, I’m sure they won’t go off the rails.
Taste: Grassy, coconut, brown sugar, mineral, mango pudding
And then it goes on a tropical vacation. I was correct about assuming the grassiness, and that grows more. Interesting spirit notes of the coconut and brown sugar, and this lovely sugar backbone. Which would make a terrible backbone in a person, so remember that if you take ideas from Mary Shelley books.
Finish: Roast beef, butter, mint, pear liqueur, pepper sauce
The whisky takes a stopover at a BBQ place for some burnt ends. Which is the main reason you leave an airport in the South on a layover. Well that and the music, the lovely people (assuming you’re the “white” colour) and the culture.
Where was I? Oh, yes, it’s meaty at the end, making this one of the Mortlachs where I noticed a lot of grassiness and then meatiness. Perhaps that’s a sign we can all get along (I doubt it).
Conclusion: Three distinct flavour profiles that share a bit between them, however end up being like A+ siblings who don’t talk to one another and work so hard to get a moment of love from their parents in some vain hope to feel human. You start with a good day of baking, then you get a tropical vacation, finally a BBQ place.
It’s interesting, if manic (like the A+ students funny enough). I was a bit harsh when I first had this: I was going to say the nose wasn’t quite complex enough, the different flavours don’t share quite enough to them, and other nit picks.
Frankly this did something slightly different than what I’m used to in Mortlach and was a fun dram to have. It’d be a definite pickup, though I fear what the auctions are asking these days.
Mortlach 27 1991 Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary is closer to what I used to hunt down in Mortlach. Proper age, cask strength, and an age statement. The vast majority of Mortlach I had was this.
Now from one look at averages/statistics you could argue I’ve screwed up the perfection of a bell curve and thus deserve nothing more than to have to take all of the stats classes I have taken before (a fate worse than Calculus, if you will). Recently I’ve decided to drink nicer things and thus screwed it more.
So let’s revisit my old bias of Mortlach: Is Mortlach really that great with age on it? Today we have a special release from Signatory that was picked to go along with their anniversary celebration. Aged in a refill sherry butt, all in a singe cask, age stated (27-years-old), and at cask strength.
I think my bias in this case may be fair. But was it right? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 790.
Vintage: May 14, 1991
Bottled: June 11, 2018
Cask Type: Refill Sherry Butt
Cask Number 4239
Number of bottles: 542
Colour: 2.5YR 3/6
Nose: Homemade cranberry sauce, mineral, papaya, nectarine, cantaloupe
Huge nose. Can smell from a few counties away. Pretty sure my friends from out of town knew when I cracked the sample.
Strong spice, lovely acidity, big earth/mineral note, and a ton of different fruit. Varying levels of sweetness and acidity. Immediately inviting. Unless you hate fruit and love scurvy, then I suggest learning how to carve and getting a parrot for your future as a pirate.
Taste: Walnut, butterscotch, raspberry turnover, cloves, whole wheat muffins, Brown Betty (the dessert, not the terrible nickname)
Well developed cereal, cooked sugar, tart, spice, and lots of brown sugar, all of which is balanced by a strong walnut flavour. Nothing wrong with this at all.
To speak to the above where I mentioned two types of Mortlach, this again reminds me more of the “vegan” ones that don’t have any meaty notes. Granted last time I said that and it went meaty, so perhaps I’ve learned nothing from last time.
Finish: Sultanas, ginger, pumpernickel, thyme, mint, cherries jubilee
Long, lovely, and rich finish. More strong notes of yeast and well developed cereal, heat from the ginger, floral/herbal notes, and a strong cherries and brown sugar/caramelized note.
Conclusion: Every single flavour is as loud as emails from anyone over the age of 70. Basically the most flavourful dram I’ve had in years. Yes, in comparison to other drams it only skirts the extremes of complexity. However it does so while being so well developed, without having off notes, and each has their turn in the spotlight.
Balanced, strong, and wow inducing. Consistent from start to finish. I would frankly says that it’s worth it if you have the money, either for a dram or a bottle. It’s rare to find something that meets the hype and this does that.
Mortlach The Cigar Malt 14 2006 Chieftain’s is another one of those “whiskies everyone is sure what it is” but doesn’t say it on the label. So if you’re looking for “The Cigar Malt” and there’s no “Mortlach” don’t come back here and freak out. Or do. Really there’s no ramifications of being a bag of dicks on the internet, unless you’re not white and male.
Also I don’t like Tobacco. I know I’ve said that before, and there’re lots of different tobaccos, and perhaps all the cigars and cigarillos and cigarettes and probably smoked cigarfish haven’t been my thing. It’s ok. Just because I like whisky (which goes well with cigars) doesn’t mean I have to like cigars.
So no, I didn’t try this with a cigar. I hope you’ll forgive me. I did this like a 14-year-old Mortlach, as if you were someone drinking it in one of the hundred places where you can’t smoke a cigar while partaking.
Cask strength, first fill sherry, age stated, and single cask? Sounds like my wheelhouse. Let’s see if I should be on the aft deck instead, shall we?
Price: £ 175
Vintage: May 2006
Bottled: November 2020
Cask type First Fill Sherry Butt
Cask number 6175
Number of bottles 651
Colour: 2.5YR 3/6
Nose: Plum, mint, orange, chocolate chips
Nice amount of fruit. There’s an orange/chocolate mix that I’m not the biggest fan of, however I can’t really dock it there. Sure, I hate orange, and that’s well known, as multiple times I walked into a Florida tourist trap and I blame the orange rather than the nuance issues resulting from a civil war that never ended.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, love the non Orange, however the whole thing works if I throw aside my bias. Hope those don’t come up again! (You know where this is going).
Taste: Orange, cardamon, cocoa, wildflower honey, brown sugar
Wow that’s a lot of Orange (told you). More cocoa, some floral/sweet notes, some just sweet notes, and orange is all over all of it like white on rice. Or the US on a country with oil.
Finish: Orange, cardamon, cloves, cocoa, mineral
Seriously other than a bit of mineral and some stronger spice notes, the finish is more orange, less sweet, and done. That’s it. It’s all Navel. The odd Blood. Some Jaffa Jaffa. Do you get it? It’s orange!
That said, orange works with everything here. So I’m torn.
Conclusion: Oranges everywhere. My biases are showing hard on this one.
If you’re me, and somehow you’ve used the ability to come back in time and read your own writing, first off let’s plan on getting some psychological help because… just wow dude. Go kill baby Hitler.
Where was I? Okay, you’re like me. Or actually me (and wasting your powers). You don’t like oranges. You have a real issue with too much orange. This ain’t for you. Period. Yes it works, just not for you.
Everyone else? This is another good Mortlach. It’s not great, as it basically hits similar notes, but there’s some honest good work that went into aging this. It’s only slightly over the top with sherry, which these days is pretty good. Someone grabbed it quickly enough to stop it from totally going into the “high proof sherry zone”, which Rod Sterling famously also never entered.
Try before you buy. It’ll either be exactly what you enjoy because you’re out of OJ or you’ll be like me.
Scotch review #1430-2, Speyside review #404-6, Whisky Network review #2117-9