Whisky Advocate

Mortlach: more news…and the price

March 4th, 2014

Author - Ian BuxtonDiageo have announced further details and pricing for the forthcoming release of four new Mortlach expressions. First revealed here in early December, the new range – which sadly means the demise of the much-loved Flora & Fauna 16 Years Old expression – comprises Rare Old (43.4%, no age statement); Special Strength (49%, non-age, non-chill filtered, Travel Retail exclusive); 18 Year Old and 25 Year Old (both 43.4%).

Rare Old

Rare and Old

Coming alongside a major expansion of the distillery, this is a big play for Diageo. Dr. Nick Morgan, the company’s head of whisky outreach, described the launch as “positioning Mortlach as the luxury malt to redefine the category. We didn’t just hang it with luxury trappings. It has great single malt credentials.” Quite what The Macallan will make of that remains to be seen but, as I warned last time, new Mortlach comes with a wealth warning; prices are very definitely going to rise sharply.

European consumers will get the new whiskies in smaller 500 ml bottles.  Morgan stated that this was “to make a little go further, as supply is constricted” but also suggested the new pack designs worked better in this bottle size. Be prepared for some fiscal easing: currently the Flora & Fauna bottle runs to around £70 in the UK (savvy merchants having moved their prices up as soon as supplies of these bottles were withdrawn).

Special Strength

Special Strength

The new ‘entry-level’ Rare & Old (it’s a NAS expression, but let’s not open that particular bottle here and now) in 500 ml is priced around £55 (£77 for the equivalent of a Euro-standard 700 ml bottle).  Special Strength will be £75 (£105); the 18 Years Old £180 (£252); and the 25 Years Old a thumping £600 (or £840 for a standard bottle).  U.S. consumers will get a 750 ml bottle, as the half-liter size is illegal there, so expect a shock at the check-out (actual U.S. prices have not been set yet).

The launch will be a global one, with priority given to high-end bars and specialist retailers in “core metro markets.” That means London, New York, Paris, Chicago, Shanghai, Moscow, San Francisco, and so on.

18 Year Old

18 Year Old

The highly distinctive packaging, said to be two years in development, was created by New York-based Laurent Hainaut of the Raison Pure design house, who claim on their website to offer “a platform for design excellence and social progress.” Clearly design excellence comes at a price, and with retail stickers such as these they will hardly be mistaken for socialists or philanthropists! The packs pay homage to the distillery’s founding father Alexander Cowie, and are heavily influenced by the great engineering achievements of Victorian Scotland, including icons such as the Forth Bridge and the mighty foundries and steelworks of Glasgow and the west of Scotland. (Note the metal framing on the 18 and 25 year old bottles.)

As for the distillery expansion itself, ground works have started to ready the site and construction will begin as soon as the final planning permissions have been received from the local authorities. It’s hoped that building will start very soon as the planning process is stated to be in its final stage.

25 Year Old

25 Year Old

The new Mortlach expressions themselves will enter global markets in late June and July this year, beginning with the UK and Germany, followed by Asia, and the U.S. later in the year. I await the launch with some interest: I cannot remember Diageo ever taking this amount of time and care to brief the whisky press over any previous release. These are big, meaty whiskies and the company is evidently playing for big steaks (pun intended, please forgive me!).

18 Responses to “Mortlach: more news…and the price”

  1. Luke says:

    Ah! Ian! This is disheartening… :(

  2. Dan Z. says:

    Thanks Ian, there is a lot of hilarity in this piece. Have to hand it to the Diageo marketing people: they are really laying it on thick recently.

  3. Matthew says:

    Well, I guess the inflated prices have to go somewhere: Bottle designers and the PR/Marketing department finally getting their cut from something other than the Walker/Smirnoff lines! But seriously, if they introduce the Mort 18 at a price that competes with Mac 18, I’m gonna take down my shingle.

  4. Nate says:

    Whiskycast is reporting a price of 250 GBP for the 25YO here: http://whiskycast.com/diageo-unveils-pricing-bottles-for-mortlach-single-malt/ have I missed something?

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Ian wrote it as Nick Morgan told it to him; I confirmed those prices with Nick yesterday. I don’t know where Mark got his information.

      • Nate says:

        Thanks, Lew!

        • Lew Bryson says:

          No problem, Nate! And of course; keep in mind that U.S. prices have NOT been set yet, and that they’ll be for 750 ml bottles, not 500 ml ones. I know Ian said that above, but a lot of the discussion I’m seeing about this on the ‘Net is overlooking those two very important points. Doesn’t hurt to reinforce them. Cheers!

  5. Andrew says:

    So, I presume the Mortlach 16 Flora and Fauna will now become highly sought after?

    • Luke says:

      Andrew, I wasn’t massively impressed by the last batch of Mortlach F&F

      “Highly sought after”? I suspect not, but Independent Bottlings should come into great demand as Diageo, almost inevitably, curtails supply (outside of contractual obligations).

  6. Ian Buxton says:

    On the contrary, I expect (rather depressingly) that F&F bottles have just become collectable. Already one leading UK specialist has marked the price up from £46 (my recollection) before the announcement to £70 today, with a 2 bottle limit. I can’t see it stopping there either, much though I might deplore all of this.

  7. Louis says:

    Good luck getting over $400 for the 18 year old here in the US. And this is a distillery with zero brand recognition.

  8. B.J. Reed says:

    Thanks goodness I already have lots of Mortlach – It is a wonderful whisky and figured eventually Diagio would figure it out.

  9. Mark says:

    So is this pricing a pre-emptive war on flippers?

  10. J Schneider says:

    3 weeks ago (late May 2014), I found one bottle of F&F for £95 in Edinburgh. Ouch.

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