Deep amber in color with the green glints of first-fill sherry, this has bosky notes and meat—mutton and venison—plus graphite, bitter chocolate, and wet rock before layers of dried stone fruits and date. This is the most savory and Bovril-like of the new range. The palate is feral and earthy; think mushroom with game pie, and rowan berries. Deep, but with more dimensions than the previous 16 year old which, in comparison, seems like a blunt instrument. £180/500 ml
Mackillop’s Choice (distilled at Mortlach) 1991, 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $290
Full gold. Weighty, but not oppressed by wood. Full, rich rancio aroma, which brings to mind an ancient cognac. It is rich and powerful, but has great finesse and perfect balance: cooked fruit, some spice, a lot of waxiness, licorice…and then the distillery’s signature meatiness. The palate starts sweetly with ripe old autumn fruits, and soft tannins. This has everything you want from a mature whisky, and from Mortlach, with added elegance. Highly recommended. £198
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Mortlach), 11 year old,k 1993 vintage, 60.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
Full-flavored, confident, and very dynamic. Bright fruit, teasing toffee, complex spices, cereal grain, and underlying light leather notes are all tightly integrated. Think an 11 year old whisky can’t be mature or complex? Think again! A Speyside powerhouse! (Available in the Chicago area.)
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Mortlach), 36 year old, 1970 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $250.00
Deep amber, mahogany color. Very mature and well-balanced. Notes of maple syrup on pancakes, roasted chestnuts, dates, pot still rum, burnished leather, maduro tobacco, and subtle Moroccan spice. Soft, stately finish. Older whiskies often show an exotic side to their personalities as they mellow out with age, especially if the wood influence doesn’t dominate. This is a very nice example of the genre.
With worm tubs and a fiendishly complex partial-triple distillation, Mortlach has adhered to an old style of making whisky — and older, richer, darker flavors. Big and bold, it is at its best in ex-sherry casks. The nose is meaty (think gravy/beef stock) with fig, raisin, and molasses. In the mouth it’s concentrated, with good grip and a savory sweetness. A cult malt. £41 (Not available in the U.S.)
Douglas Laing Extra Old Particular (distilled at Mortlach) 22 year old, 57.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $280
Deep amber. Generous sweet sherried nose; very ripe, with dried orchard fruits, chestnut puree, and indeed chestnut honey, then a little touch of meat and a pungency akin to Guyanan pot still rum. Sumptuous. As it opens there’s a fluxing mix of sticky toffee, game, pomegranate, and dried red fruits. The palate is deeply savory, with floor polish and cooked plums, finishing with fragrant pepper. The cask has a huge say in things, but the spirit copes. Excellent. £191
One of three Mortlachs introduced in 2018, this has much to live up to, as the classic Flora & Fauna Mortlach was also 16 years old. The whisky has been aged entirely in sherry casks. The nose offers malt, gingersnaps, baked apple, and a delicate savory note. Quite full-bodied, with toffee apples, gammon, and old leather on the palate. Cocoa powder and tinned peaches in the finish. Editors’ Choice
The introductory expression of the range shows a further example of the widening of the Mortlach style. Stewed and dried fruits mingle with light earth notes, wet Labrador, supple shoe leather, and varnish. A drop of water is all that’s needed to add a savory element and even some funky fruitiness reminiscent of cooking agave. The palate is big and chocolaty with some meat underneath. Hefty but elegant. The distillery character is not only intact, but enhanced. £55/500 ml
This is Rare Old at higher strength for folks who haunt Travel Retail outlets. The upping of strength also changes the dynamic, making things sweeter with mushed berries and Seville orange, but also deeper, with more overt meatiness, stewed tea, and the same varnished note. Dense, thick, stewed orchard fruits are on the palate alongside some acetone and, with water, burning rosemary and dry licorice. Similar, but with more heft. £75/500 ml
Adelphi (distilled at Mortlach) 26 year old, 58.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $295
Amber. Very meaty, with a touch of cordite, then dark fruits, wet earth, and autumn woods, cut with spicy licorice and Darjeeling tea. Water brings down this exuberance, adding iris and whole grain bread. The palate has typical, full-on Mortlach brawny muscle, with chestnut honey-glazed venison. Water bringing out sweetness, but without ever losing that glowering core. Lovers of the old 16 year old apply here.
Adelphi (distilled at Mortlach) 25 year old, 59.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $157
Rich amber in hue, sweet, and mellow with initial amontillado sherry notes that give way to Mortlach meatiness; here a lamb tagine with prune, apricot, and gravy juices. This elegance gives way to a fascinating palate mix of the sweet and the savory with citrus, sultana, and a rowanberry jab on the end mingling with just a bit of smoke. Everything mellowed by time and oak. Very good indeed. £99
Named in honor of the family that owned Mortlach for many years, this was matured in sherry wood, like its 16 year old sibling. Milk chocolate, nuts, and coffee on the nose, with developing meaty aromas. Soft and slightly waxy on the palate, with almonds, apricots, and allspice. Milk chocolate and spicy orange in the finish.
The youngest of the 2018 Mortlach trio, this is named after the distillery’s famous small spirit still. Maturation has taken place in sherry and bourbon casks. Baked apricots and ginger on the nose, with black pepper, lots of milk chocolate, and an herbal note. The palate is mildly savory, with more milk chocolate, vanilla, orchard fruits, and cinnamon. Lingering chocolate ginger in the finish.
Berry Brothers & Rudd (distilled at Mortlach) 1989 21 year old, 48%
Single Malt Scotch | $94.00
Immediately identifiable as Mortlach, with a pleasant, feral mélange of meat mingled with milk chocolate and gorse. There is elegant sweetness here, but expressed as a mix of the bittersweet caramelized juices stuck to the bottom of a roasting pan, with honey. The palate, unsurprisingly, is big, and medium dry, but here as well there’s some sweetness in the form of black fruits. Mortlach, but in a slightly subtler guise than usual. £60
Mackillop's Choice (distilled at Mortlach), 22 year old, 1982 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $100.00
Toffee and nougat, with a lacing of cotton candy. It then turns richly nutty-almost chewy-with notes of dried apricot, sultana, and a touch of red currant. Firm, dry, oak resin finish. A well-structured whisky, indicative of the Mortlach pedigree.
Wild Scotsman (distilled at Mortlach), 1994 vintage, 13 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
This whisky shows the true potential of Mortlach -- and at a youthful age, too! Quite fragrant and very complex on the nose and palate. Chewy toffee with almonds, vanilla fudge, ripe barley, and nougat, with underlying pit fruits, dried spice, and a hint of leather on the finish. Very fulfilling.
Wemyss Malts Stem Ginger Preserve (distilled at Mortlach) 1995, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $133
This is Mortlach in musing mode. An aroma that initially brings to mind a woolen mill, then opens into sweet spice, light syrup, with the sense of the distillery’s weight always present. A rippling kind of muscularity with some rapeseed oil. With water the palate starts lighter and more fruity than you’d expect, then comes rooty weight with, yes, a distinctly gingery slant. Water shows more beeswax/honeycomb. Substantial and spicy. £85
Scott's Selection (distilled at Mortlach) 1961, 39 year old, 40.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $175.00
Straw gold color. Very mature aromas of oak and citrus, with a hint of smoke, dry vanilla, floral and spice notes. Flavors are very mature and fairly dry throughout, mirroring the aroma’s dominant oaky vanilla notes, with citrus, and subtle smoke. Long, lingering finish.
The richest of the quartet. Super-dense with a note of burnished brass, then light leather and cashew alongside sandalwood. The waxiness and tropical fruit typical of old whiskies is in the background before it moves into lanolin. The palate starts sweetly, with added liqueur cherries, earth, and smoke but for me, after the complex nose it fails to deliver, especially since it is so scarily priced. £600/500 ml
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Mortlach), cask #8173, 1994 vintage, 13 year old, 58.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $95.00
Richly layered. A veritable fruit basket, in addition to nutty toffee, caramel, cocoa powder, and toasted coconut notes, all balanced nicely by oak on the finish. Nice maturity for a relatively young whisky. (Bottled for Maxwell Street Trading Co.)
Matured in a bourbon cask. Thick and creamy, with mouth-coating vanilla, ripe barley, toasted marshmallow, vanilla wafer, key lime pie, golden delicious apple, lemongrass, and hay. The vanilla sweetness lingers to the finish, mixing with dried herbs and hay. I was expecting more from a carefully chosen Mortlach, given its pedigree, but this is still nice. (240 bottles) £250
Mackillop’s Choice (distilled at Mortlach), 1989 vintage, 21 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
Certainly not the best Mortlach I’ve tasted, but it’s a solid effort and at a good price for a 21 year old. Nicely balanced — Lorne Mackillop’s hallmark — and somewhat reserved, too (for a Mortlach), with intriguing lime, kiwi, caramel, floral notes (on the nose), nutty toffee (especially on the palate), soaked barley, and charcoal, with a rather syrupy, mouth-clinging texture toward the finish. Worth a look.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Mortlach) 15 year old, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
Another catch-up from G&M, this time from the ‘Beast of Dufftown.’ Immediate substance and solidity, which is what you want from Mortlach, but there’s also thick-cut marmalade and cumin. Only with water, however, does the classic meatiness emerge—like a lamb tangine with apricot. A cleaner, slightly lighter side to the Flora & Fauna 16 year old, but with heft and a burnt licorice sweetness. A great introduction to a classic distillery.
Douglas Laing Provenance (distilled at Mortlach) 8 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $66
Very pale straw. The color indicates that there’s been no real cask activity. A little closed on the nose to start; clean, quite green and leafy (young ferns). The flavor however, makes up for this, with good mid-palate sweetness and some dark fruits beginning to assemble themselves in the middle. Of interest to completists. £45
Duncan Taylor Dimensions Range (distilled at Mortlach) 1989, 55.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $201
There’s a Roman dish involving lamb cooked in milk, and this is it in alcohol form. A slightly peculiar lactic note rises and falls above the rich meatiness of the spirit. There’s a hit of pencil shavings, but with water it becomes cheesy. So much more straightforward on the tongue with good vinous weight, like an old Vin Jaune. It finishes with earthy tones. It’s just…odd. £125