K&L California “Mortlach Strikes a New Path” – Scotch Whisky News

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Mortlach Strikes a New Path

Exciting new things are afoot at the Speyside distiller Mortlach. A re-envisioning of the brand has brought forth three new releases that are already taking the whisky world by storm. Mortlach, affectionately called the “Beast of Dufftown,” has forged its identity by crafting big and burly single malts with tons of personality, and this new line up does not disappoint. The most classic of the malts in their new set is definitely the 16 Year Old “Distiller’s Dram” aged in a combination of refill and first fill sherry barrels of both European and American oak. It’s beautifully balanced, and rich with cocoa, dried fruit, leather, and caramel. The signature meaty richness of Mortlach fills every nook and cranny of your palate. At just $100, it’s a knockout and an incredible value. The 12 Year Old “Wee Witchie” displays the most spirited character of the distillery by nature of being the youngest. It’s aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks with the natural fruit, marmalade, and meatiness of the new make spirit on full display. For $50 bucks, it is your new daily drinker single malt and deserves a spot in any liquor cabinet. The 20 Year Old “Cowie’s Blue Seal,” exclusively aged in American oak ex-sherry casks, is perfection. For sherry lovers, it’s a clean and robust malt showing off the beastly nature of the distillery, but the careful selection of quality casks for long term aging. Get one for the collection and one to drink now.

While these should eventually be freely available going forward, the initial launch is limited, so you won’t want to miss out on this opportunity and have to wait around for the California market to get reloaded.

Mortlach 12 Year Old “The Wee Witchie” Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) (ships like a 1.5 L bottle due to shape) ($49.99)

Finally, a proper distillery bottling of Mortlach. Named for the unusually small 6th still that helps creates Mortlach’s unique 2.81 distilled spirit, the new 12 Year Old replaces the “Rare Old” Mortlach which did not have an age statement. A mixture of ex-bourbon and sherry matured whiskies all aged at least 12 years, this begins to show the incredible depth and potential of this special Speyside distillery. While not as dense and powerful as the older versions, we’re beginning to see why this distillery has been dubbed “The Beast of Dufftown.” Richness and texture are Mortlach’s hallmarks and the 12 Year Old is no slouch in that department. Deep dried fruits and fresh toasted vanilla only hint at the savory beast that might blossom in later years. A welcome addition to the Diageo portfolio.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2019

It’s incredibly refreshing to see some new distillery releases from Mortlach that come in at excellent prices. The 12 year “Wee Witchie,” named for their tiny “extra” still, is robust in flavor, but incredibly smooth and approachable. The meaty character of Mortlach is readily apparent, yet without any trace of the phenolic character the distillery typically shows. This is supple and extravagant daily drinking at its best. Lots of pretty dried fruits and pleasant woody tones carry throughout the nose, palate, and finish.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 02, 2019

The new distillery releases of Mortlach are the perfect counter balance to the complete disaster that the previous offerings represent. Each is a wonderful expression of the distillery, somewhat different in style than the next and absolutely reasonably priced. The 12 Year Old captures the essence of Mortlach without pushing the limits too far. This is the perfect expression to introduce someone the Beast of Dufftown. A blend of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks offer tons of classic Mortlach character without totally overtaking the complex maltiness of the spirit. The nose has rich vanilla bean, nougat, caramel and cocoa. The palate brings in some spice and baked orchard fruits with the sherry framing the spicy malt perfectly. A great value at $50.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2019

Mortlach is known for producing some beefy, big whiskeys, and though the 12 Year Old is certainly not lacking in power, there is an elegance and lift to it I haven’t seen from Mortlach in the past. A rich mouthfeel thanks to the use of French and American oak brings lingering notes of citrus, light spice, and subtle toast. There is no obvious peatiness, only perhaps a very subtle hint of smoke from the barrel char. The distillery style shows through on the finish, which packs some power, savory game notes, and hints of leather. Overall a great offering from Mortlach at a pretty unbeatable price.

Mortlach 16 Year-Old “Distiller’s Dram” Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) (ships like a 1.5 L bottle due to shape) ($99.99)

91 points Whisky Advocate: “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 its concentrated, with good grip and a savory sweetness. A cult malt. (DB, Fall 2011)”

K&L Notes: The excellent new 16 Year Old bottled by the Mortlach distillery is a truly welcome expression from “The Beast of Dufftown.” The 16 Year Old replaces the much loved Flora & Fauna expression that was never exported to the US and the often maligned 18 Year Old expression that failed to gain a following due to its exceedingly high price. Tons of dense sherry flavors, deep dried berry, and roasted nuts balance perfectly against the bold savory malt character that Mortlach is known for. We’ve long craved an affordable older age-stated bottling from this exemplary Speyside distillery, and now we finally have it. The 16 Year Old is distilled 2.81 times in Mortlach’s unique 6-still set up and aged in a mixture of first sherry and refill butts.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2019

The 16 Year Old is the slam dunk of the new Mortlach lineup. If you only try one bottling, this is the one. It’s exceptional. Robust sherry of the highest quality imparts a bit of rancio which plays perfectly with the natural meatiness of the spirit and a ton of dried sultanas and figs, lending a beautiful supple sweetness. The palate is extremely full, filling every nook and cranny and hitting every taste bud. The finish lingers on and on and is where you really see the quality of the clean sherry casks used.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 02, 2019

Easily unseating the old Flora & Fauna bottling as the benchmark expression of Mortlach, this distillery seems to sing under sherry and at this age it’s completely developed the dense character and meaty savoriness that we crave from the Beast of Dufftown. On first nosing expect deep dried fruit, dark chocolates, roasted meat juice, tangy clove stuffed pear. Deep and spicy on the palate with the oily texture one demands of the great malts of Mortlach. Hints of fresh herbs, candied tropical fruit and Old Bay spice. Truly a worthy example of this special distillery and well worth the $100 they’re asking.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2019

It’s almost unheard of to find a 16-year-old sherry cask whiskey of this caliber from such a well-respected producer at this price point. Spicy, dark, bold, and complex, this is Mortlach at its finest. This bottling is a little meatier and with more chocolate notes than the 12 Year Old because of the use of straight sherry cask. Dark, nearly dried fruits meld seamlessly with leather and tobacco notes. The smoke quotient is quite low here, but there is a roasted note coming through. This is complex, smooth, and a great middle ground between the lightness of the 12 Year Old and gaminess of the 20 Year Old.

Mortlach 20 Year Old “Cowie’s Blue Seal” Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) (ships like a 1.5 L bottle due to shape) ($199.99)

The elegant older sibling of the two younger bottlings, this wonderful old expression of the special Dufftown distillery is aged exclusively in sherry butts. Deep and complex with tons of richness, the 20 Year Old doesn’t have quite the bite of its younger siblings, but it easily outperforms the old 25 Year Old, which it replaces at a fraction of the price. We don’t see a whole lot of mature sherried Mortlach and there’s no doubt that the distillery is picking the very finest casks for this new expression. Considering where the market is going for older sherried distillery bottlings, the new 20 Year Old is a steal. Now if only we can get them to bottle this as a cask strength single barrel!

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2019

Much more bass tones than the 12 or 16 Year Old releases. This has that big meaty quality of Mortlach underpinned by a very savory wood profile. That base of bass flavors is topped by higher toned citrus, particularly orange peel and a bit of fresh lemon zip. Chocolate and mocha make up the middle and give way to another long and clean finish. If you’re already a fan of Mortlach, this is not to be missed.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 02, 2019

The Mortlach 20 Year Old is the most intellectual and brooding of the three new editions. I found it was pretty closed compared to the 16 on first nosing, but with some air and time, its refinement and elegance set it apart from the other two. 100% sherry cask leaves it sitting thick in the glass with a deep, nutty red hue. The nose after some air starts letting go deep savory aromatics and tons of exotic wood. More on the spice, with some dark chocolate again and some deep red fruits as well. Textured and elegant with tons of oils to coat the palate, the beefy qualities build as you continue through the glass. A fine example of what old Mortlach in sherry looks like and certainly a beautiful pour if you really want to sit and contemplate the meaning of life and whatnot.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2019

This is one of the truest expressions of a Mortlach whiskey, with subtle power, perfectly melded characteristics, and a rich, lingering palate. Carrying the most umami notes of the three expressions, the meatiness is well balanced by dark plummy fruits and Christmas spice. Blackberry and cacao lead and these flavors are backed by earth, leather, and a very subtle barrel char. Though this is a bit more of a splurge, its not too hard to justify from such a classic, highly-respected producer.

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