Mortlach Single Malt Whisky: The Beast of Dufftown Event Recap
Last week, Diageo Philippines invited the Whisky Society of Manila for an exclusive night of whisky tasting – most notably the special launch of the Mortlach whisky brand here in the country. About 40+ special guests were able to share our impressions of The Beasts of Dufftown for the very first time. But before we get into that I figure that it would be best to share with you some background on this mighty whisky company and their liquid.
The History – For over 190 years Mortlach has been making whisky in Dufftown, the whisky capital!
In 1823 Dufftown, Scotland allowed for the first legal distillery to be made in the town and this distillery was Mortlach. With the new distillery, the town started to build up its infrastructure. Railways, bridges, and more started to be developed around the area making the sales of whisky easier. In 1853, one of the biggest engineers behind the expansion of the area, George Cowie, joins Mortlach as a partner. Utilizing his engineering experience Cowie creates a systematic and exact way to produce whisky.
The first London sales of Mortlach whisky hit in 1867, bringing the company into a bigger playing field. Many started to consider Mortlach the whisky of choice because it offered more flavor than any of its competitors. As time goes on the distillery expands. Its original four stills were expanded by two. These new stills were larger and gave the distillery even more capability to produce its fine liquids. At the same time George Cowie passes away, leaving Alexander Cowie in charge.
In the early 1990’s George Cowie’s son, Alexander, becomes the chairman of North Scotland Malt Distillers Association. The association represented over 40 distilleries at the time. This position gave not only Alexander Cowie a big say in the industry, but Mortlach as a whole. Mortlach was sold in the 1920s to John Walker & Sons of Kilmarnock. This started a new chapter of the company and eventually in the 1920s they joined with the Distillers Company Limited then in 1930 they were under the control of Scottish Malt Distillers.
As the 1900s continue on the distillery is upgraded a couple of times to keep up with the demand of whisky from around the world. Now, Mortlach delivers fine quality whisky with a unique taste to customers around the world.
The Beasts of Dufftown whisky comes in four different flavors. These flavors each have their own unique character and tradition. Mortlach calls each bottle an expression. All of the Mortlach bottles are very similar in design. They are clear with an air of fancifulness. The amber whisky can clearly be seen, giving it the visual appearance of a true whisky. Here are the four different expressions of the great distillery from Mortlach’s perspective.
Rare Old Mortlach
This single malt, scotch whisky is both a complex and bold taste. It mixes dryness and sweetness in a way that most wouldn’t think possible. To the nose, the Rare Old is fruity with notes of floral added in. To the palate, the taste is rich and energetic.
Special Strength Mortlach
This is what many would consider the warming and friendly whisky from Mortlach. Mortlach claims that it is a grand mixture of vanilla and oak. The scent of this fine whisky is roasted. It has a long and deep finish, just like you would expect from a special strength blend.
18 Years Old Mortlach
This is Morthlach’s robust whisky. It has heavy meaty notes that flow into malty sweetness and then into a citrus taste. The aroma of this whisky is fruity, Mortlach compares it to that of fresh green apples. The core of the aroma is candied and sweet though. Every 18 year old whisky deserves a finishing like this one, its wood smoked or dried lavender.
25 Years Old Mortlach
Special strength and the 18 Years Old have nothing on the 25 Years Old. This whisky is all in with full strength. The power and elegance that are delivered when you drink this whisky give off the taste of fruits but then move into the Sugary richness. The taste is finished off with liquorice root. Like with the 18 Years Old, the 25 Years Old is elegant but it is also mature. Ripe fruits come to your nose as well as smoked nuts and venison.
The night started out as guests eagerly arrived and promptly filled Diageo’s BGC headquarters at the W Fifth Building. As you can see here, appropriately located dead center of their office is an elegant bar stocked up with their entire line of spirits.
The whisky of the night was Mortlach but guests were able to freely taste any label of their choice and we weren’t only limited to whisky as they had a wide selection of other spirits. I warmed up with one of my favorites, the Oban 14 since it has been a while.
Throughout the night I was also able to help myself to the Lagavulin 16, Cardhu 12, Glenkinchie 12 and Caol Ila 12 before they opened up the Mortlach.
Now here’s what you came here for, our impressions of this fine Mortlach whisky.
Before they cracked open the Mortlachs, we had to be properly introduced to the brand as Diageo Reserve’s Brand Ambassador Rian Asiddao gave the crowd a brief lesson on it’s history and resurgence into the market. It turns out that Mortlach is a key component to the Johnnie Walker line and that may be the secret to what makes them such great blends.
First up is the Mortlach Rare Old. I think this is probably around the 10-12 year range and off the nose I was able to get toffee, herbs and fruitiness. The palate however is highly complex as I got a wide array of notes ranging from creamy cinnamon (if there is such as thing), vanilla, and some kind of fruit jam. The finish is definitely spicy and dry. So far so good and what you’d expect and more from a sherry finished Speyside single malt.
As the night drew to a close, our crowd was definitely pleased with the bottomless selection that Diageo had offered so far but you could sense that many came to try the Mortlach 18. A 30 minute intermission led to some guests departing early because they thought that the night was over or perhaps they’ve already reached their limits. I decided to stick around and chat for a bit and eventually – somehow someway, someone was able to convince the good people of Diageo to open up a bottle of 18 and of course they didn’t disappoint. The best things do come to those who wait and they’ve saved the best for last.
The Mortlach 18 Year Old Single Malt
What I enjoy most about whisky is being able to try something new for the first time – whether it be a single malt or blend, I’m always excited. But on these rare occasions that I do get to try something extraordinary for the very first time it becomes more than just a treat. It’s like a reminder to appreciate life’s small joys.
The nose immediately starts with green apples then becomes rich and nutty. The palate to me is the best part as I got a very long bit of everything and it caught me off guard unexpectedly. I can remember the last time a whisky hit me in every direction was when I tried the Yamazaki 18 last year. Unique would be an understatement because this creamy, multi-layered and complex character is very much close to my ideal perfect whisky. The finish is especially long as well – you can take your time enjoying this one without having to take quick sips. Also for me no water is necessary because it’s great just the way it is.
Huge thank you’s to Lori Linsey and the Diageo Reserve Philippines team for inviting me and the Whisky Society of Manila members to this wonderful tasting. For those that missed out, hopefully there will be more of these type of events in the near future.